Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Ireland outclassed in Amsterdam and end miserable Euros campaign with another loss

Wout Weghorst’s goal settled the contest in the Johan Cruyff Arena.

Netherlands 1

Republic of Ireland 0

WOUT, WOUT brief candle, and the Irish manager who promised tomorrow, tomorrow, and tomorrow has now run out of them. 

Weghorst’s early goal sealed victory and Dutch qualification for the Euros, while Ireland are left with six defeats in eight games and their worst qualification campaign since their winless effort at making it to Euro ’72. This team at least had the benefit of being served up fodder in the form of Gibraltar. 

This was truthfully a game Ireland should have lost by more, but a combination of last-ditch defending, Gavin Bazunu, and some witless Dutch finishing meant Ireland could dream of a last-gasp equaliser and a trademark, undeserved 1-1 draw on the road. But no, Stephen Kenny was denied even that. This will be the final competitive game of his chastening tenure, and having radically overhauled the playing pool, it will fall to somebody else to cohere them into something greater than their individual parts. 

Ireland started reasonably well, passing the ball with a degree of confidence, and they were the first to test a goalkeeper, when Alan Browne’s snapshot was caught by Bart Verbruggen. But alas, these positive feelings quickly evaporated, and they did so beneath only a lukewarm heat. 

Ireland pressed man-to-man but alas it didn’t take long for the Dutch to arrange the chess pieces in their favour. Xavi Simons, whom Ireland found utterly elusive, wandered away from play to remove Liam Scales from the equation. The Dutch went direct to Weghorst, to whom Collins got caught too tight all night. He spun and shucked off Collins – via a jersey pull not spotted – and didn’t so much accelerate away as lumber clear, but there was nobody to catch up to him: Ryan Manning had collided with Collins and knocked them both to the ground. Weghorst therefore had time to reach the penalty box, pause for breath, pick his spot, and smash a shot into the roof of the net, beyond Bazunu. 

This was characteristic of Kenny’s Ireland, as flashes of promise collapsed by brittle foundations. There have been times in this qualifying campaign in which opponents have felt they could talk the Irish backline into coming apart at the seams. 

Ireland refuse to squat in their own penalty area and cede possession – Kenny memorably referred to such a scenario as accepting a “slow death” – but their set-up tonight was hardly any better: they looked more adventurous when they didn’t have the ball, and were slow and ponderous once they did have it. Evan Ferguson had another long, tortured night of the soul, hardly getting a touch in the Dutch penalty area, hooked on the 53-minute mark. 

Simons wreaked havoc, dropping off Scales and into the acres of space in front of him, from where he ran the game. Only Bazunu’s alacrity off his line stopped Cody Gakpo from doubling the lead after a delightful triptych of link-up involving Simons, Weghorst and then him, while Bazunu later pushed a stinging Reijnders shot over the crossbar. 

The game looked a total mismatch, Ireland callow and outclassed. These continued beatings has damaged if not entirely eliminated confidence, and it showed as the first half wheezed to an end. Ireland simply could not play themselves around the orange shirts in front of them. The half ended with a series of grim set-pieces: Ireland would try to pass the ball into midfield, then they would be turned over, and then they scrambled desperately backwards, trying to douse the fire. 

Ireland were fortunate to be only a goal down at half-time and utterly blessed not to be further behind with a couple of minutes of the restart. Again Collins lunged for a ball he couldn’t win on the halfway line, and again Ireland were countered against, but Gakpo generously blocked Simons’ shot from crossing the line. But the pressure kept building, with Dumfries’ influence growing – in images redolent of the game in Dublin – and his cut-back for Weghorst was batted away by Bazunu. Moments later Ireland were saved by their ‘keeper again, when he clawed Reijnders’ long-ranger onto the post.

The Dutch dominance was total, and the Irish fans’ were unimpressed when Ferguson made way for Jamie McGrath. But it was the half-time sub, Adam Idah who jolted everyone in green when he ran clear onto Manning’s pass, and saw his shot flick off Van Dijk, squirm under Verbruggen’s legs and over the line.  Verbruggen was spared his calamity, however, as Idah was flagged offside before he could celebrate. 

wout-weghorst-celebrates-scoring-his-sides-first-goal Weghorst celebrates his winning goal. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

But normal service was quickly resumed, and the Dutch continued to contrive to miss easy chances. Dumfries couldn’t connect with a Gakpo cross when any touch would have meant a goal, while Collins made a brilliant last-ditch block to deny Reijnders in the six-yard box after Weghorst elected to pass rather than shoot on sight. 

Ireland forced a couple of corners late on that were cheered as if they were goals, but they were subsisting on meagre rations. Mikey Johnston made his customary impact, winning a late free-kick that ended in another Dutch counter-attack, with Malen’s shot blocked by Bazunu. 

Bazunu trooped forward for one last free-kick in the fifth minute of stoppage time, but it was cooly cleared by Van Dijk, at which point the referee called a halt. 

Collins had to be helped off the field by the Irish physios, injured in the final play. The rest of the Irish squad trooped across to applaud their fans, with Kenny dawdling in front of them for a couple of moments longer than the rest. 

The Dutch are going to the Euros, whereas Ireland appear to be going nowhere. 



Netherlands: Bart Verbruggen; Denzel Dumfries; Stefan de Vrij, Virgil van Dijk (captain), Daley Blind; Jerdy Schouten (Teun Koopmeiners, 90′), Tijjani Reijnders (Marten de Roon, 90′); Quilindschy Hartman; Xavi Simons (Donyell Malen, 80′), Wout Weghorst, Cody Gakpo (Joey Veerman, 69′)

Republic of Ireland: Gavin Bazunu; Matt Doherty (captain) (Mikey Johnston, 77′); Dara O’Shea (Troy Parrott, 90′),  Nathan Collins, Liam Scales; Ryan Manning; Josh Cullen, Alan Browne, Jason Knight (Jayson Molumby. 77′); Callum Robinson (Adam Idah, HT), Evan Ferguson (Jamie McGrath, 54′)

Referee: Marco Di Bello (ITA)

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel