The Netherlands have sealed passage to next summer’s European championship after playing out a goalless draw with Northern Ireland in Belfast.
Ronald Koeman’s men needed a point to end a run of two consecutive major international tournaments missed and will be among those contending for the prize.
For the hosts it was a missed opportunity and with Germany winning this evening it means they miss out on automatically qualifying for the forthcoming pan-European games.
But it doesn’t mean their chances of meeting the Dutch next summer is over as Michael O’Neill’s team will now have to navigate through the play-offs to book their place.
Naturally, there were individual winners and losers. Here are three of each from this encounter.
Winner: Memphis Depay
By virtue of being absent. Oranje really missed Memphis Depay this evening – their main man since Ronald Koeman took charge – who recently sustained a thigh problem in action for Lyon, his goalscoring prowess aside there’s a sense this side is constructed around him.
Playing in a ‘false nine’ role Depay expectedly connects his teammates, Ryan Babel was tasked with that role this evening and to say he was underwhelming would be an understatement, the Galatasaray man does his best job coming from the left flank. Being the focal point is not getting the best out of him.
Loser: Ronald Koeman
Too conservative was the overriding reaction to Koeman’s starting lineup. Now, he could argue those he selected were capable of – or should be – picking up that all-important point that would see them book their passage to next summer’s European championship. And he’d be somewhat right, the gulf in talent is sizeable, but as we’ve come to know down the years football is not played on paper.
Northern Ireland were relatively comfortable and gave it as good as they got. Having started with a disjointed front-three, with Quincy Promes in any kind of stellar form, impacted on the Dutch who struggled to impose themselves. For supporters, with bigger tests on the horizon, the hope is Koeman – not immune from criticism despite the good work he’s done – injects some bravery into his veins as Oranje on the front foot is good as any international side out there.
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) November 16, 2019
Meanwhile in Mönchengladbach four-time world champions Germany bruised Belarus aside in a routine 4-0 victory. This result, with one matchday remaining, leaves Joachim Löw’s side in pole position to close out as group winners.
Germany, who host Northern Ireland next Tuesday, sit on 18 points – two more than Oranje – knowing a win seals bragging rights. Netherlands, meanwhile, welcome Estonia with an outside chance of usurping their neighbours.
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
Loser: Steve Davis
You couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity than a spotkick with less than 15 minutes of the first half to play. That chance fell into Northern Ireland’s oft-reliable skipper Steve Davis, who collected his 116th international cap tonight, after Joel Veltman was adjudged to have handled the ball.
It looked to be a soft call, but given the new guidelines you can see it from the referee, meaning the Ajax man in the space of two international matches for club and country had given away a cheap spotkick. Davis should have punished the visitors but his effort skyrocketed above Jasper Cillessen’s crossbar.
Winner: Frenkie de Jong
At times it felt Frenkie de Jong was two steps ahead of the opposition let alone his teammates. His importance to Oranje in terms of retaining possession as well as dictating the rhythm and tempo cannot be undersold.
De Jong’s role essentially is to provide the platform for those equally creative players ahead of him to take the game away from Northern Ireland which never really threatened to happen tonight. The metronomic midfielder can take comfort in that he was at least operating at his usual standards.
Loser: Marten de Roon
De Roon won his place back in Oranje’s starting XI after Georginio Wijnaldum failed a fitness test. He sat out their last game in Belarus with Koeman preferring Donny van de Beek alongside the aforementioned Liverpool midfielder and talisman Frenkie de Jong.
This just wasn’t his day, a booking in the 11th minute for a needless foul was followed by him being hooked off 25 minutes later, Davy Pröpper who has seldom looked out of place in an orange shirt would come on a do a better job in midfield. For De Roon’s sake he’d want to chalk this off as an off-day.