Ronald Koeman criticises Northern Ireland’s ‘terrible’ playing style

Netherlands scored three late goals to overcome Northern Ireland, whose tactics left Ronald Koeman unimpressed.

Ronald Koeman took a swipe at Northern Ireland’s playing style after guiding a fast-finishing Netherlands to a come-from-behind 3-1 win in Euro 2020 qualifying in Rotterdam on Thursday.

Memphis Depay scored either side of an effort from Luuk de Jong in a chaotic final 10 minutes to overturn Josh Magennis’ shock 75th-minute opener, the substitute nodding the visitors ahead with their sole attempt on target.

The hard-earned victory took Netherlands top of Group C and left third-placed Northern Ireland, who were limited to 23 per cent of possession, with a tough task going into their final two games.

It had been a backs-to-the-wall performance from Michael O’Neill’s men until the late collapse, as they defended deep and employed time-wasting tactics.

“It is outrageous, the football they play, but it is allowed and they get the most out of their qualities,” Koeman told NOS.

“I respect that, but it is terrible to watch.”

Northern Ireland counterpart O’Neill argued the gulf in quality between the squads forced him to adopt a negative approach.

“They bring on players like [Donyell] Malen and [Donny] van de Beek, who has been courted by clubs all over Europe, and we brought on two lads who play in League One,” he said.

“Hopefully people recognise that. It was a fantastic performance but ultimately one that was disappointing in the end.”

The away side gained a foothold in the contest by preventing midfield fulcrum Frenkie de Jong from dictating play high up the pitch, though he set up Depay’s second in stoppage time.

“Paddy [McNair] was given a job to get on top of Frenkie de Jong. For me, he’s one of the best, certainly one of the best young midfielders in the world. And will probably become the best midfield player in the world in the not too distant future,” said O’Neill.

“I thought we did fantastically well because we made him play his own half a lot, and that’s what we wanted him to do. We wanted him to play in his own half, he tends to go deep.

“We thought we could have forced a little error out of him because he does take chances as well. We’ve seen that in some of his club games where he’s perhaps taken a little bit more out of the ball if necessary.

“I felt that Paddy could possibly have the physical presence to deal with that. Very much our gameplan centered around trying to keep De Jong quiet.”

Netherlands and Northern Ireland meet again at Windsor Park in November, before the latter travel to Germany for their final qualifying fixture.

Oranje have dates with Belarus and Estonia either side of their visit to Belfast on November 16.

 

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