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O'Neill: pressure all on Dutch

 

Light training: Northern Ireland’s Tom Flanagan, George Saville and Corry Evans limber up under the Rotterdam floodlights last night
Light training: Northern Ireland’s Tom Flanagan, George Saville and Corry Evans limber up under the Rotterdam floodlights last night

By Paul Ferguson

Fired-up boss Michael O'Neill has called on his players to ignore the reputation of the Dutch superstars and pile all the pressure on highly fancied Holland to claim a huge scalp in Rotterdam tonight (7.45pm).

Northern Ireland need at least a draw at De Kuip Stadium to set up a shootout for Euro 2020 finals qualification with the same opponents back in Belfast next month, on Saturday, November 16.

If Northern Ireland and the Dutch split victories in Rotterdam and Belfast, then O'Neill's men go into a head-to-head with Germany three days later with the odds heavily stacked against them after the Germans' 2-0 win in Belfast last month.

The Dutch, who have won their last 14 games at the De Kuip stadium, are packed with star quality with Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk, Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong, Juventus' rising star Matthijs de Ligt, Ajax's Quincy Promes and Lyon striker Memphis Depay in Ronald Koeman's team.

"We can't get too focussed on the names and reputations of the Dutch players, they're just players at the end of the day," reasoned O'Neill, who will be without injured Jamal Lewis and Conor Washington.

"When you are a bigger nation the pressure is always on you anyway. We have our own expectations. If you had asked around Europe, when the draw was made, who the two teams to qualify from this group would be, I don't think too many people would have picked us.

"The fact we are here competing is testament to this group of players. We qualified for Euro 2016 in France, we were very unfortunate not to qualify for the 2018 World Cup Russia and we have to make this game uncomfortable for the Netherlands."

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