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

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - 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.

Free-kick spe­cial­ist Troy Parrott

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.