Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill is determined to put Holland on the back foot in their Euro 2020 qualifier at Windsor Park on Saturday night but knows his side must take whatever chances they can create.
Newly-appointed Stoke boss O’Neill will take charge of the Green and White Army for what is likely to be the final time at Windsor Park as they play their penultimate Group C contest, looking to gain revenge for the 3-1 defeat Holland inflicted in Rotterdam last month with the help of two stoppage-time goals.
A win would keep Northern Ireland in with an outside chance of achieving automatic qualification for next summer’s finals, and to achieve it O’Neill wants his players to draw on their performance against Germany in September.
That match may have ended in a 2-0 defeat after Serge Gnabry’s late goal, but Northern Ireland enjoyed plenty of the ball and but for some more clinical finishing might have pulled off a surprise.
“We have to get to that level,” O’Neill said. “In the first half there I thought we were phenomenal and I think we should have been ahead, perhaps two ahead.
“You can’t play well against Germany for 90 minutes, there is going to be a period when they come to the fore. The biggest thing was that when we went 1-0 behind we stayed in the game.
“We aim to make it as uncomfortable for the Dutch as possible. They have fantastic players, we know their reputations. We need to make the game with the intensity we showed against the Germans.
I look at England's group and wonder why we couldn't be in thatMichael O'Neill
“Even the top players in this kind of atmosphere can be tested.”
Northern Ireland’s best chance of reaching Euro 2020 is now through the play-offs in March. Though their place is not yet guaranteed it would take a number of upsets for them not to make it now.
But that they go into the final two games still in with a chance of advancing automatically is an achievement after a nightmare draw paired them with two powerhouses in Germany and Holland.
“We’ve got two pot one teams in our group,” O’Neill added. “I look at England’s group and wonder why we couldn’t be in that.
“Against these teams we won’t create half a dozen chances. When you create them you need to take them.”