5 key talking points as Northern Ireland take on Holland

5 key talking points as Northern Ireland take on Holland

Northern Ireland face Holland in Rotterdam tomorrow night in a crunch Euro 2020 qualifier.

Here, we take a look at five key talking points ahead of the game.

Familiar faces

Virgil Van Dijk and Steven Davis, seen here challenging Zlatan Ibrahimovic, were team-mates at Southampton (Nick Potts/PA)
Virgil Van Dijk and Steven Davis, seen here challenging Zlatan Ibrahimovic, were team-mates at Southampton (Nick Potts/PA)

A Dutch squad featuring the likes of Matthijs De Ligt, Frenkie De Jong and Daley Blind needs little introduction but for Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis there will be reunions with his former Southampton manager Ronald Koeman and Saints team-mate Virgil Van Dijk. Koeman has been effusive in his praise of Davis in the build-up to the match, but will be hoping the 34-year-old proves no match for Holland’s star-studded midfield.

Head to head

After Holland’s victory in Germany last month, both Koeman and Michael O’Neill are treating this as match the first of a head-to-head contest between the two nations for a ticket to Euro 2020. The pressure of expectation weighs more heavily on Holland’s shoulders, something Northern Ireland must find a way to exploit. “Now we play both games against Northern Ireland for our ticket,” Koeman said. “It starts tomorrow and if we don’t get the result we want, it will be very painful.”

Lewis missing

O’Neill was braced for bad news regarding the availability of Norwich full-back Jamal Lewis after he suffered ligament damage in his elbow last week, but instead it was a knee injury suffered at the weekend which ultimately ruled him out of Thursday’s match. Whatever the cause, the news is a major blow for Northern Ireland given how important the left-back has become to O’Neill’s system since he made his debut last year. As the manager said himself last week, he might just be the hardest player in the side to replace.

McGovern’s moment

Michael McGovern has got a long-awaited chance at Norwich (Joe Giddens/PA)
Michael McGovern has got a long-awaited chance at Norwich (Joe Giddens/PA)

Bailey Peacock-Farrell is expected to start Thursday’s game having made himself Michael O’Neill’s number one choice since the start of the Nations League last year. But with the 22-year-old struggling to even get on the bench this season following his move to Burnley, O’Neill has spoken of his concern about a lack of match action. That was the case for all three goalkeepers in the squad during the last international window but as the group reconvened this week, Michael McGovern arrived on the back of making his long-awaited Premier League debut for Norwich. A 5-1 home defeat to Aston Villa was not the ideal way to mark his first start, but he did save a penalty and O’Neill will surely keep a close eye on what happens over the coming weeks.

Ricksen remembered

Fernando Ricksen will be remembered before kick-off on Thursday (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Fernando Ricksen will be remembered before kick-off on Thursday (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Former Holland and Rangers favourite Fernando Ricksen will be remembered with a minute’s applause alongside Dutch international Humphrey Mijnals prior to kick-off. Ricksen, popular with both sets of fans having won 12 Holland caps during a Rangers spell which yielded two league titles and two Scottish cups, died at the age of 43 last month following a battle with a motor neurone disease.


More in this Section

Haringey boss pulled ‘frightened’ players off pitch amid alleged racist abuseHaringey boss pulled ‘frightened’ players off pitch amid alleged racist abuse

Guardiola praises makeshift City defence for clean sheet in 2-0 win at PalaceGuardiola praises makeshift City defence for clean sheet in 2-0 win at Palace

Ballintubber win fifth Mayo senior title with three late pointsBallintubber win fifth Mayo senior title with three late points

East Kerry gain revenge on Dingle with Clifford brothers on fireEast Kerry gain revenge on Dingle with Clifford brothers on fire


Lifestyle

'When a role became available in The River Lee following the refurbishment, I jumped at the chance!'You've Been Served: Sinead McDonald of The River Lee on life as a Brand Manager

It’s the personal stories from Bruce Springsteen that turn his new ‘Western Stars’ documentary into something special, the director tells Esther McCarthy.Bruce Springsteen's Western Stars documentary more than just a music film

Apart from the several variations in its spelling in Irish and English, Inishtubbrid, Co Clare is also recognised by three other names: Wall’s Island; O’Grady’s Island and Inishtubber which surely puts it up there as the island with most names — not counting say Inisvickillane, Co Kerry which has about 33 variations to that spelling.The Islands of Ireland: In search of tranquility

More and more communities and volunteers are taking on environmental tasks around the country. In Clonmel, Co Tipperary, for example, people have united to get rid of Himalayan balsam, an invasive plant, from the banks of the River Suir.‘Bashing’ invasive plants

More From The Irish Examiner