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Netherlands v Northern Ireland: Gini to grant goal wish

Netherlands v Northern Ireland
Thursday, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Having missed out on both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, it could be said the pressure is on the Netherlands heading into Thursday night’s game.

In a group led by Germany, the Dutch currently trail opponents Northern Ireland by three points, although they do have a game in hand.

This is the first of two meetings between the teams in the next month or so and as NI boss Michael O’Neill suggested earlier this week, if one team takes at least four points from the two games they will almost certainly be going to Euro 2020.

As well as Northern Ireland have done so far – their four matches against lower-ranked opponents all came at the start of the campaign and each was won – it’s hard to see them being the side to take those four required points.

Talent in abundance

The Netherlands have an abundance of riches when it comes to playing talent.

Defender Virgil van Dijk is one of the best players on the planet right now, while Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong certainly wasn’t far out of that bracket last season when he helped Ajax reach the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Such is their talent pool that another key member of that Ajax side, Donny van de Beek, struggles to get into Koeman’s XI and he could be kept out by Marten de Roon here.

Up front they have Memphis Depay, once a Manchester United flop but now banging in the goals for both club and country. More on him later.

Lewis loss a blow

On the flip side, Northern Ireland don’t even have that many players playing in the Premier League these days.
They’ve even lost one of those for this game – Norwich’s Jamal Lewis being forced out by injury.

I’m not sure the attacking full-back would have had that much of a chance to show off his marauding skills in Rotterdam, however.

Northern Ireland had just 26% of the ball at home to Germany last month. They did create some chances but Germany won the shot count 21-5 and the final score could easily have been bigger than 2-0.

Expect something similar here with a rearguard effort from the visitors. A goalless stalemate would suit them just fine but it will be hard to obtain.

Dutch too good by half

The draw can be backed at [8.2] with the home win just [1.19] in the outright market. Northern Ireland are out at [21] for what would be a stunning win.

The Dutch have scored 14 goals in their four qualifiers thus far, crushing both Estonia and Belarus 4-0. They’ve also won in Germany, while they beat the Germans and France on home soil in the Nations League last season.

The Belarus and Estonia games, plus the two in the Nations League, all saw the Dutch win both halves and that looks the way to get some added value from this match.

It’s on offer at 5/4 with the Sportsbook which looks better than the hosts to win to nil at [1.71].

Goals expected

With the home clean sheet odds-on and over 2.5 goals also pretty short at [1.58] (unders is [2.5]), the layers clearly expect the hosts to win by a decent margin.

With his in mind, it’s worth a look at the goalscorer markets too.

Depay tops the first and anytime scorer lists which is no great surprise.

Moved into the centre forward position by Koeman, the one-time winger has scored nine times in 16 games under the current manager.

He’s been a bright light in a disappointing start to the season for Lyon too, scoring six times in nine starts, and so there’s plenty to like about him netting in this one, even at [1.9].

Wijnaldum carries goal threat

However, greater value lies in backing Liverpool’s Gini Wijnaldum to find the net.

He usually plays further forward for his country than he does for his club and that’s reflected in his recent goal tally for the Oranje.

Wijnaldum has scored in five of his nine competitive games for the national team under Koeman, figures which immediately make a quote of [4.3] in the anytime market look big. It’s also 10/3 with the Sportsbook.

Those games included the meetings with Estonia and Belarus when he was deployed as an attacking midfielder in behind Depay.

Both Estonia and Belarus have admittedly been beaten by the Irish in this qualifying group but whereas the Dutch smashed both 4-0, Northern Ireland have really had to grind out their wins, winning three of the four games against those opponents by a single goal.

That’s another pointer that Netherlands are a class apart here and if they are indeed to win by a decent margin in this one, Wijnaldum looks to have a better chance than 10/3 of hitting the target.

Opta stat

No player has been involved in more goals in Euro 2020 qualifying so far than the Netherlands’ Memphis Depay (10 – 4 goals, 6 assists).

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Source: UK Soccer News