NORTHERN IRELAND face a devilishly difficult trip to the Netherlands in their latest Euro 2020 qualifying contest. Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) sets the scene.
Netherlands v Northern Ireland | Thursday 10th October 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill believes his side can capitalise on the weight of expectation surrounding the rejuvenated Netherlands on Thursday in Rotterdam. The hosts are hoping to qualify for their first major international competition since 2014 and trail Norn Iron by three points (with a game in-hand) as we reach the business end of qualification.
Having kicked off their Group C campaign with a perfect W4-D0-L0 return over Estonia and Belarus, the Green & White Army were sitting pretty at the top of the pool. However, September’s 2-0 defeat to Germany in Belfast has allowed the two neighbouring heavyweights back into the mix. The Irish must now avoid defeat here to remain in the hunt.
Quotes of 20/1 on Northern Ireland achieving top honours at De Kuip highlight the task ahead for O’Neill’s charges. The visitors have bagged five wins from six in 2019 but those triumphs against Estonia (x2), Belarus (x2) and in a friendly with Luxembourg came via the narrowest of margins with offensive output probably proving to be Norn Iron’s downfall.
Sure, the Green & White Army gave Germany a stern examination in the opening exchanges at Windsor Park last month but ultimately, the guests are lacking top-class quality in the final-third. None of Norn Iron’s midfield or forward options ply their trade in Europe’s five major leagues and only two players boast more than six international goals in the squad.
Irish won’t be humiliated
Since 2014 O’Neill’s troops have toiled against the continent’s leading lights. Northern Ireland have been beaten in all eight encounters against nations ranked in FIFA’s top 20 -Germany, Switzerland, Croatia, Chile and Uruguay – netting a solitary strike (a stoppage-time consolation effort) in that 12 hours of action.
Nevertheless, there’s enough encouragement to believe the plucky underdogs can avoid a battering in Rotterdam. The Irish have shipped three goals or more in only three of their last 56 outings since October 2013 with a huge 70% of those matches featuring Under 2.5 Goals.
With that in mind, I’m happy to take the even-money offer from Boylesports on a Netherlands win and Under 3.5 Goals here.
The Dutch are vastly improved over the past 18 months since Ronald Koeman took charge. The Oranje are chasing their first major tournament qualification since 2013 after missing out on Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup and head here having dispatched Germany 4-2 in their own back yard in early September.
Goals haven’t been hard to find with Holland racking up two goals or more in six of their last eight outings, whilst defensive displays have also shown signs of progress. Exclude meetings with heavyweights Germany, Portugal, England, France and Italy, and the Netherlands have won without conceding in five of their seven games since June 2017.
The underlying numbers suggest the hosts can secure victory without conceding but 8/11 quotes on the Win To Nil make little appeal, to me. Taking the home triumph alongside Under 3.5 Goals allows for a consolation strike, taking in winning correct scores of 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, or 2-1 on Thursday night and therefore appeals more at even-money.
Netherlands v Northern Ireland – Netherlands to win and Under 3.5 Goals (1/1 Boylesports)