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Northern Ireland vs. Netherlands: The key talking points

Northern Ireland vs. Netherlands: The key talking points
© Reuters
Windsor Park clash could be Michael O'Neill's last in charge of the hosts.

Northern Ireland host Holland on Saturday night in what could be Michael O'Neill's final game in charge at Windsor Park.

Here the PA media agency takes a look at five key talking points ahead of the game.

A long farewell?

O'Neill waited a long time for the right opportunity in club football, but though Stoke's offer finally tempted him away the 50-year-old said he could not just leave Northern Ireland in the lurch. The deal with the Potters will see him take charge not only for the final two qualifiers but also the play-offs in March in the likely event that Northern Ireland secure a place. The players want O'Neill to lead the side into Euro 2020 should they qualify, but the man himself has sounded more circumspect, aware of the demands of juggling both roles for too long. Either way, current play-off permutations suggest Saturday will be his final game in Belfast, and the Green and White Army will surely express their thanks for the considerable achievements of the last eight years.

Play-offs beckon

The Northern Ireland players say they want to look no further than their final two Group C games but with automatic qualification high unlikely, attention will shift soon. As things stand, they would face a trip away to play Bosnia & Herzegovina, although that could change in the coming days as the final group games take place.

Hot reception for Koeman?

Holland manager Ronald Koeman may find himself an unpopular man with the Windsor Park faithful even before kick-off on Saturday. The former Southampton and Everton boss branded Northern Ireland's style "outrageous" and "terrible to watch" last month, provoking a forthright response from O'Neill, who was clear it was not his side's job to entertain their opposition. If the Northern Ireland manager is looking for a little extra motivation for his players, he might just slip it into his pre-match team talk.

Confidence boost

Northern Ireland v Germany – UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying – Group C – Windsor Park
Paddy McNair scored twice in the win over the Czech Republic (Liam McBurney/PA)

Northern Ireland's 3-1 defeat to the Dutch in Rotterdam, which saw Koeman's side equalise in the 80th minute and score twice in stoppage time, was a crushing blow for O'Neill's side. However, they showed strong character by going to the Czech Republic four days later and securing a 3-2 win, having gone 3-0 up in the first half against a side high off a shock win over England a few days earlier. That performance, both the dominance of the first half and the dogged resistance of the second, will have restored some confidence to O'Neill's men for their final Group C games.

Can anyone stop Depay?

Northern Ireland did a good job of keeping Memphis Depay quiet for 80 minutes at De Kuip last month, but the last 10 were enough for the Lyon man to change the game. He scored twice, the equaliser and then the largely academic third, taking him to seven goals in his last 10 internationals, and is the clear dangerman in the Dutch attack.

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Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill on October 10, 2019
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CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
ChinaChina22131247
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Today's Olympic highlights header

Sunday's key events


GOLF
· The men's golf reaches its conclusion, with plenty of players still in medal contention. Home favourite Hideki Matsuyama is one shot off Xander Schauffele's lead, while Great Britain's Paul Casey is another shot further back and Tommy Fleetwood is also in the mix (11.30pm-8am)

CYCLING - BMX
· Great Britain have already made history in the BMX events in Tokyo, something Charlotte Worthington and Declan Brooks will be looking to add to in the women's (2.10am) and men's (3.10am) freestyle finals

SWIMMING
· The final day of swimming action begins with the men's 50m freestyle final. Ben Proud could add to a medal-laden Games in the pool for Team GB so far, although he is up against USA's Caeleb Dressel, who is going for his fourth gold in Tokyo (2.30am)
· From sprint to endurance, Great Britain's second medal hope of the day comes through Daniel Jervis in the men's 1500m freestyle final (2.44am)
· Team GB will again be among the heavy favourites for gold in the last swimming event of the Games - the men's 4x100m medley relay final - having won the mixed event in a world record time on Saturday (3.36am)

BOXING
· Already guaranteed at least a bronze, Pat McCormack takes part in the men's welterweight semi-final against Ireland's Aidan Walsh with a spot in the gold medal final at stake (4.03am)
· Ben Whittaker is also in the semi-finals of the men's light heavyweight and will be looking to continue Team GB's success in the ring (4.51am)

TENNIS
· There will be a surprise on the top of the men's tennis podium after Novak Djokovic missed out on a medal altogether. Alexander Zverev takes on Karen Khachanov in the second match on Centre Court at the Ariake Tennis Park (7am-2pm)

SAILING
· Alison Young will be going for gold in the women's laser radial medal race (7.33am)

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS
· Team GB's Max Whitlock will look to defend his 2016 Olympic title in the men's pommel horse final (10.41am)

ATHLETICS
· The men's high jump final includes GB's Tom Gale, although his chances of a medal look bleak (11.10am)
· So often the blue-riband event of the Olympics, the men's 100m final takes place as the world's fastest bid to be crowned Usain Bolt's successor. Three Brits have made it into the semi-finals (11.15am-11.32am), and the final looks wide open after an underwhelming display by favourite Trayvon Bromell on Saturday (1.50pm)

HOCKEY
· Great Britain face India in the men's quarter-final (1pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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Russian Premier League
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Swedish Allsvenskan
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Belarusian Premier League
2.Bundesliga
Major League Soccer
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Copa Diego Maradona
Uruguayan Primera Division
Liga MX
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