Republic of Ireland lost 2-1 to the Netherlands in their Euro 2024 Group B qualifier as their slim qualification hopes went up in smoke.
Ireland got off to a dream start when, with just two minutes gone, Dutch skipper Virgil van Dijk was penalised for handling James McClean’s corner and Adam Idah fired home from the penalty spot.
However, the visitors were back in it after 19 minutes when Cody Gakpo split the Irish defence to find Denzel Dumfries’ run and he was brought down by keeper Gavin Bazunu, who was booked for his troubles, as he attempted to round him.
Gakpo took responsibility from the spot and fired low to Bazunu’s left to level.
The Netherlands took the lead 11 minutes after the restart when Frenkie De Jong picked out Dumfries’ run with a precise pass over the top and when he turned the ball across goal, half-time substitute Wout Weghorst was on hand to stab home.
For Republic manager Stephen Kenny, a fourth defeat in five Group B games and just a single win means a trip to Germany next summer through Group B is almost impossible with France having collected a maximum 15 points and the Dutch and Greece both sitting on nine.
Republic of Ireland: Bazunu (6), Collins (6), Duffy (4), Egan (6), Browne (7), Doherty (6), Cullen (7), McClean (5), Ogbene (6), Idah (7), Knight (7)
Subs: Manning (6), Armstrong (6), Smallbone (6), McGrath (6), Ebosele (6)
Netherlands: Flekken (6), Dumfries (8), Blind (7), Ake (7), Van Dijk (6), De Ligt (7), Wieffer (7), De Jong (8), Simons (7), Gakpo (7), Malen (7)
Subs: Weghorst (7), Reijnders (6), Koopmeiners (6), Lang (6)
Player of the match: Denzel Dumfries
Dutch delight as Ireland fall flat again…
Appointed in April 2020, Kenny, who received a mixed response from a crowd of 49,807 when his named was announced ahead of kick-off at the Aviva Stadium, set his sights on building a new-look side for this campaign but to be so far off the pace with three games left to play represents failure in that mission and his future looks bleak.
However, his team played with real endeavour for large parts, albeit without the quality to hurt the opposition.
- Stephen Kenny made two changes from the 2-0 defeat in France, both out wide. The experienced duo of Matt Doherty and James McClean, who have won 137 caps between them, were handed starts.
- Donyell Malen, Matthijs de Ligt and Mats Wieffer were the three changes made by Ronald Koeman following Netherlands’ routine win over Greece.
The Netherlands were fortunate to escape a second-minute mix-up at the back when Alan Browne forced an error and Idah, who had only the keeper to beat had he turned swiftly, instead fed Chiedozie Ogbene whose shot was blocked.
However, from the resulting corner, Van Dijk mistimed his jump and saw James McClean’s cross hit his arm, prompting referee Irfan Peljto to point to the spot, and Idah duly obliged by confidently sending keeper Mark Flekken the wrong way to get Ireland off to a dream start.
The lead was only short lived. Gakpo’s expertly-threaded pass split the Irish defence and allowed Dumfries to round exposed keeper Bazunu, who brought him down in his efforts to rescue the situation. Bazunu was unable keep out Gakpo’s skidding attempt despite correctly diving to his left.
Such was Ronald Koeman’s displeasure with what he had seen in the first half, he replaced Daley Blind and Mats Wieffer with Weghorst and Tijjani Reijnders before the restart, and the changes gave his side a better shape.
The excellent Frenkie De Jong fashioned the breakthrough 11 minutes into the second half.
The Barcelona midfielder’s lofted ball over the top was perfectly weighted for Dumfries to turn it across goal and allow Weghorst to stab past Bazunu.
Ireland’s sense of deflation was palpable and although they battled to the final whistle, they were unable to trouble their opponents as the visitors eased their way across the finish line.
Can Ireland qualify for Euro 2024 through the Nations League?
Three spots are allocated to teams based on their Nations League performances, where Leagues A, B, and C are allocated one place each with the winner of each play-off, consisting of a semi-final and final, secure safe passage to the upcoming Euros.
Ireland did only finish third in Group B1, finishing behind Scotland and Ukraine, however, they still may nab one of the four play-off spots as many of the teams in their pot will have already qualified automatically for the finals.
If Ireland are one of those teams allocated a play-off spot, the draw takes place in November 2023, with the play-off semi-finals and finals being played between March 21 and 26, 2024.
Morrison: Another disappointing night
Former Republic of Ireland international Clinton Morrison on Sky Sports News:
“It’s disappointing. In the first half, there was lots of optimism with the way they started and the early goal through Adam Idah.
“This was a must-win for the Republic of Ireland if they wanted to have a slim chance of qualifying for the Euros.
“The Netherlands penalty in the first half. If they [Ireland] had gone in at 1-0, they would’ve had a great chance.
“But the Netherlands made some big chances and went on to win the game. They deserved it after that second half.
“It’s frustrating because the first half was really positive. But the second half was flat and that’s when you need the fans behind you.
“But it’s difficult if you’re not giving the fans anything to get behind you for. Another disappointing night for Ireland.”
Republic of Ireland’s next game is a Euro 2024 Qualifier against Greece at the Aviva Stadium on October 13 – kick-off 7.45pm.
Netherlands’ next outing is against France in a Euro 2024 Qualifier in Amsterdam on October 13 – kick-off 7.45pm.