Northern Ireland’s Michael O’Neill hits back after Ronald Koeman attack

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill before Monday's friendly against the Czech Republic. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill before Monday's friendly against the Czech Republic. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
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Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has responded after Holland coach Ronald Koeman called his side’s style “outrageous” and “terrible to watch”.

Koeman strongly criticised Northern Ireland in comments given to Dutch TV station NOS in the wake of Holland’s come-from-behind 3-1 win in Rotterdam on Thursday night, secured with two stoppage-time goals.

“We didn’t go there to entertain Ronald Koeman, that wasn’t the purpose of what we did,” said O’Neill. “It’s irrelevant to me, you give respect to the opponent and how they play.

“If you’re picking players from Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool you can play a certain way.

“If we were so terrible why were we so difficult to beat? And clearly we were extremely difficult to beat.

“It’s disappointing that a manager of that class feels the need to say that. It’s not something we need to dwell on.”

O’Neill said he was yet to watch Thursday’s defeat back, which had left some raw emotions as Northern Ireland watched their Euro 2020 qualification hopes all but disappear in the space of 15 minutes.

A win would have left Northern Ireland needing a draw against the Dutch in Belfast next month while a draw would have kept them very much alive. But the defeat now means they have only the faintest of hopes of escaping Group C and are instead looking to the play-offs.

“I haven’t watched the game back,” O’Neill said ahead of Monday’s friendly against the Czech Republic in Prague. “Of course we’ll do that for November but it’s not relevant for this game.

“The nature of how we lost, not only the timing but the nature of the goal, it was a very fortunate goal for (Luuk) De Jong, to get a second opportunity and put the ball in the net when he mishit his first touch...it was very cruel.

“I don’t think we deserved it but we have to accept it, move on and make sure we do well in the game tomorrow to be ready for November.”