Ronald Koeman and Frenkie de Jong were thrilled as Netherlands clinched Euro 2020 qualification by drawing away to Northern Ireland.
Ronald Koeman said it was a “fantastic” achievement by Netherlands to secure a place at Euro 2020.
A goalless draw with Northern Ireland in Belfast clinched a top-two finish in Group C qualifying for Netherlands, no matter how unspectacular their performance was at Windsor Park on Saturday.
Koeman was a key player in the Netherlands team that won Euro 88 in West Germany, but now he is pulling the strings from the touchline as head coach.
On a testing night, the one-time stylish centre-back admitted he settled for a stalemate before the end, which is why he introduced substitute defender Nathan Ake late on in place of striker Ryan Babel.
It did the job, as Netherlands reached their first tournament since the 2014 World Cup, having failed to qualify for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.
“As a team, we always want more and better, but we have achieved a great result by qualifying for the European Championship,” Koeman told Dutch broadcaster NOS.
“We’ve done it in a group with great opponents like Germany and a tricky opponent like Northern Ireland. I also just want to say that it is fantastic that we have qualified.”
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Netherlands were unconvincing, and with Memphis Depay absent through injury they struggled to make an impression in attack.
Babel was perhaps their biggest threat, but that was only because Steven Berghuis did not look up to the task. Steven Davis missing a penalty for Northern Ireland was a blessed relief to the visitors.
Yet like his captain Virgil van Dijk, who expressed similar sentiments, Koeman was chiefly concerned about getting the job done.
The draw sufficed, and Koeman, who took on the Netherlands job in February 2018, said: “I am happy and proud of the team. I also think you can now forget how tonight’s game went.”
He admitted Netherlands “should have done more attacking-wise”, but it did not appear to trouble him unduly. There is time to look for solutions now the Dutch are sure of their place at the 24-team tournament.
Midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who moved from Ajax to Barcelona in the close season, is relishing his first senior finals with Netherlands.
“We haven’t played a final tournament for a while, so everyone is happy,” De Jong told NOS. “We have taken a photo together and we are certainly happy that we made it. I don’t think we should be too critical, but I feel we should have won here.”
De Jong added: “We did too little with the ball; attacking-wise we could have done more. But we’re going to the European Championship and that is the most important thing.”