MX23RW : Sunday, October 13 20:11:33| >> :600:344663:344663:
Oct 10, 2019 at 7.45pm UK
Northern Ireland
Depay (80', 94'), de Jong (91')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Magennis (75')

Michael O'Neill heaps pressure on Holland to qualify for Euro 2020

Michael O'Neill heaps pressure on Holland to qualify for Euro 2020
© Reuters
The Oranje have missed two major tournaments in succession.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill wants to sow the seeds of doubt within Holland ahead of their crunch Euro 2020 qualifier in Rotterdam on Thursday night.

Both teams are talking up this match and the return fixture in Belfast next month as effectively being a play-off for a place in next summer's finals.

Holland may start the night three points behind in Group C having played a game less, but they are clear favourites given the calibre of Ronald Koeman's squad.

But following their failure to qualify for either Euro 2016 or the 2018 World Cup, another let-down would be unthinkable for this proud footballing nation – something O'Neill hopes to exploit.

"We'll make it as difficult as we can for the Netherlands and by doing that, hopefully create a little bit of doubt," he said.

"I think it would be a big thing for Holland if they went three tournaments without qualification, so there's a lot of expectation of this group of players.

"They're relatively young. I think Daley Blind is the most experienced player in the squad, so we have to create a situation where the game is difficult not only physically for Holland, but mentally as well."

To make that happen, Northern Ireland must find a way to breach a defence anchored by the UEFA Player of the Year Virgil Van Dijk, with Juventus wonderkid Matthijs De Ligt stood alongside him.

Sheffield United v Liverpool – Premier League – Bramall Lane
Northern Ireland must find a way past Virgil van Dijk on Thursday night (Richard Sellers/PA)

That is an imposing task for any team, but particularly Northern Ireland, whose main weakness in the squad comes in attack.

Liam Boyce has scored six goals for League One Burton this season but Josh Magennis has only one for Hull and Kyle Lafferty is yet to register in his two appearances to date with Norwegian side Sarpsborg. Linfield youngster Shayne Lavery adds pace but is entirely unproven at this level.

"We're not coming into this game with strikers in a particularly rich vein of form," O'Neill said.

"We need someone in terms of our front players who will rise to the occasion, but it might not be a striker who scores a goal that gives us an opportunity in the game."

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis knows Van Dijk well from their time together at Southampton, but knowing the 28-year-old's game inside-out and knowing how to beat him are two different things.

"I am not sure I have seen too many weaknesses having trained with him," the Rangers midfielder said.

"You obviously see the way he defends, he has the physical attributes to out-run most people and he is very strong as well.

"He tends to put the onus back on the attacking player and makes them make decisions and you don't see him going to ground. He always stands up, that is why he is a clever defender.

"Usually it is the attacking player who makes the wrong decision and he reads the game well. He is a top player and I can only see him getting better."

O'Neill has no doubts about the class of Van Dijk and his team-mates, but saw little point in dwelling on it.

"We can't get too focused on the names of the Dutch players, they're just players at the end of the day," he said.

Instead, the focus is on trying to finish a job that Northern Ireland started so impressively with victories home and away over Estonia and Belarus, giving themselves a chance in a group where few looked beyond Germany and Holland.

"When you're a small nation like us, you have everything to gain in this situation and that's the way we will approach the game tomorrow night," O'Neill said.

"We've found a way to get results away from home and that's what will be required again. Whether that's from a counter-attack, a set-piece or from possession, we're not bothered. We'll take it any way it comes."

body check tags ::

Click here for more stories about Michael O'Neill

Click here for more stories about Netherlands

Share this article now:
Instagram - Follow Sports Mole
Netherlands defender Matthijs de Ligt scores against England in the UEFA Nations League semi-final on June 6, 2019
Read Next:
Netherlands vs. Northern Ireland: The key talking points

Rugby World Cup
Euro Champ Qualifying
Shanghai Masters Final
6 6
4 1
International Friendlies
League One
Segunda Division
Eerste Divisie
Australian A-League
Chinese Super League
Women's Super League
2Manchester CityMan City85122791816
4Leicester CityLeicester8422147714
6Crystal Palace842288014
8West Ham UnitedWest Ham83321111012
9Tottenham HotspurSpurs83231412211
11Wolverhampton WanderersWolves82421111010
12Manchester UnitedMan Utd82339819
13Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd82337709
14Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton8233810-29
15Aston Villa8224131218
16Newcastle UnitedNewcastle8224513-88
19Norwich CityNorwich82061021-116

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Transfer Talk Daily
Match previews - twice weekly
Morning Briefing (7am UTC)
Ultra close-up image of Kevin De Bruyne [NOT FOR USE IN ARTICLES]Get the latest transfer news, match previews and news direct to your inbox!