Wednesday 18 September 2019

Ireland target a ruthless edge in last-eight clash with Dutch

Free-kick specialist Troy Parrott. Photo: Malcolm Couzens/Sportsfile
Free-kick specialist Troy Parrott. Photo: Malcolm Couzens/Sportsfile

John Fallon

Ireland's under 17s were on the move yesterday, switching base to St George's Park, but they don't intend changing much else when facing the Netherlands in tomorrow's European Championship quarter-final.

Colin O'Brien's side have reached the last eight of the tournament for the second successive season by winning two of their three group games.

However, tomorrow's test against the Dutch at Chesterfield's Proact Stadium (7.0) will be their most demanding of the season.

Having secured their passage into the knockout phase on Friday afternoon by defeating Bosnia & Herzegovina 2-0, O'Brien and his staff got to assess the Dutch in the flesh later that evening.

They were already assured of qualifying from their group, thanks to impressive wins over Germany (3-0) and Spain (2-0), but the Irish delegation saw up close many of their fringe players shine in a 2-0 victory over Serbia.

Like Ireland, it was the eighth triumph over their nine-game competitive campaign. While they have yet to concede at the finals in England, Hungary nudged the Dutch out of top spot in the elite stage qualifiers by beating them. The player Ireland need most to mind is Chelsea's Daishawn Redan, the striker whose goals helped his club beat Arsenal in the recent FA Youth Cup final.

"The Dutch have a certain way of playing through all of their underage international teams," noted O'Brien. "We will know that they like to attack, using the quality of their wingers, but we've improved as the tournament has gone on and will prepare correctly for this challenge."

Ireland are awaiting news on the fitness of left-back Luca Connell, who had to be substituted during Friday's game with an ankle injury and left the stadium wearing a protective boot.

O'Brien didn't have the luxury of being able to rest players in that final series of group matches and he's unlikely to stray too far from the 13 players that started the three games.

The Dutch have already highlighted the threat posed by Adam Idah and Troy Parrott up front as their main task in trying to bring Ireland's run to a halt. The set-piece speciality Parrott supplies, evidenced by his pinpoint free-kick to open the scoring against the Bosnians, will be difficult to curb.

"Every time I get a free-kick in around the box, I always believe that I'll score," said the Tottenham striker, full of confidence from bagging goals in two successive games.

"I practice those all the time and it would be nice to get another opportunity against the Dutch."

If the chances come, then Ireland cannot afford to be as wasteful as they were against Belgium. That 2-0 loss represented their only defeat of the campaign but they missed a couple of sitters to equalise.

"All of the groups at this tournament have been tight," explained O'Brien. "You don't get many chances to score against the top nations, so it's about taking them."

Were they to upset the odds by dumping the Dutch out, then Ireland will feel they've every possibility of replicating the feat of Brian Kerr's team at the same tournament 20 years ago.

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