Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
Well, it had to happen sometime – Michael O’Neill has worked wonders with Northern Ireland and the lure of club management after eight years out of it has proved too strong. Taking on Stoke City is certainly one of the more challenging jobs out there, but for now at least he’s pulling double duty as the Netherlands come to Windsor Park.
Euro 2020 qualifying Group C looked rosy enough until the Dutch defeated Northern Ireland in Rotterdam last month with three late goals. Automatic qualification may now be beyond them, but a play-off berth looks likely.
This is far from a dead rubber, though. Northern Ireland are potential kingmakers in the pool as they later travel to Germany for their last group game. It looks like a straight battle between the 2014 World Cup winners and the Netherlands here.
Northern Ireland always knew this pool would be tough. Having their last four games home and away against the Germans and Dutch was a tall order. Ronald Koeman can confirm the Netherlands’ qualification for a first major tournament in six years with victory.
Not even home advantage – namely playing in front of a partisan Belfast crowd – looks enough for Northern Ireland to stop a resurgent Dutch team on previous evidence. How O’Neill got them punching above the weight is something we may only appreciate after he’s gone.
Northern Ireland vs Netherlands Prediction: Northern Ireland 1-3 Netherlands
Last month’s encounter in the Netherlands looks like a good indicator for this return Euro qualifier. Northern Ireland were spirited and even took the lead, but legs tired in the final 10-15 minutes. The defeat was a kick in the teeth for O’Neill, but it’s not a stretch to imagine them scoring against a Dutch defence that may have quality in the centre yet also some of the least convincing full-backs in a long time. After shipping five goals in their last two competitive internationals, Northern Ireland are far from watertight themselves. Koeman has the forward players to exploit openings, particularly late on, again on his roster. We thus go for a scoreline prediction of 1-3 at Windsor Park.
Our recommended tip: Netherlands and Memphis Depay in a win/score double
Talk about in-form. Ex-Manchester United winger Memphis Depay has blossomed since leaving Old Trafford. The Lyon attacker scored twice for the Netherlands against Northern Ireland last month and that started a purple patch of seven goals in his last five games for club and country. Memphis also has six in seven international appearances this calendar year. Northern Ireland couldn’t contain him in the reverse fixture, so there’s little reason to think things will be any different given his current hot streak in front of goal. It’s well worth combining a Netherlands victory and Memphis to net in a 6/4 win/score double with Paddy Power.
There have only been two matches between Northern Ireland and the Dutch since 1977. Both were in the Netherlands and during the reign of O’Neill. A friendly on the eve of Euro 2012 saw the Dutch hit Northern Ireland for six without reply and then there was last month’s 3-1 result in Rotterdam. Northern Ireland have twice held the Netherlands to draws, but you have to go back to World Cup qualifiers from 1976 and 1965 for those. That latter date was also the same year of the sole Northern Irish victory over the Dutch. A 54-year wait to scalp them again looks highly unlikely to happen here with the Netherlands on the cusp of confirming their qualification for Euro 2020.
Top 3 Euro Qualifiers Bookies
Players to watch: Josh Magennis & Memphis Depay
Northern Ireland: Josh Magennis
O’Neill has Hull City target man Josh Magennis in decent form with three in his last four appearances for club and country. Discipline can be an issue with the Northern Ireland centre forward who has two red cards in the Championship already this season. On his day, however, Magennis has the physical presence to cause chaos at set-pieces and indeed scored in the reverse fixture in the Netherlands. Whether starting or coming on from the bench, he’s one to watch for the hosts here.
Netherlands: Memphis Depay
It has to be the aforementioned Memphis who is key to Dutch hopes. Over the last two years, he has scored 11 in 18 international outings for the Netherlands. Playing for Ligue 1 side Lyon has allowed Memphis to flourish away from the intensive spotlight that was on his every move with Man Utd. His scintillating current form, including that brace on home soil against Northern Ireland last month, means he will take some stopping. A more mature Memphis could even excel at a higher level if he wants to step up from French football in future. While he delivers for club and country, he is a definite danger in a game like this.