The Netherlands’ Wout Weghorst has fired them into the Euro 2024 Finals, while the Republic of Ireland ended their dismal campaign with a whine.
Hoffenheim’s Burnley forward on loan, who scored in Dublin last September, left Ireland facing a difficult task, did the same in Amsterdam, to earn a 1-0 win that was much more convincing than the scoreline indicated.
The Dutch finished second in Group B, behind France who beat Gibraltar with 14 goals without reply.
Stephen Kenny’s team, which has won just six out of 29 games under his command, could not even touch a superior opponent under the roof of the Johan Cruyff Arena, on a day when they hoped to slap the face of one of Europe’s most traditional heavyweights.
The faltering hopes that they could secure a place in the Nations League play-offs via Iceland’s defeat by Slovakia 4-2 on Thursday were officially dashed. Automatic qualification had already slipped their grasp.
Kenny’s contract expired after the friendly match against New Zealand on Tuesday at Aviva Stadium. His future will be decided when the Football Association of Ireland board receives the review results in November. However, few expect an extension.
Callum Robinson made a good first impression on Alan Browne in the fifth minute with a through-ball. Although Robinson’s shot was well struck, he aimed it directly at Bart Verbruggen, his goalkeeper.
Xavi Sims, the Dutch’s opposite number, was not as accurate. But they were able to score after just 12 minutes when Weghorst cleverly turned onto Stefan de Vrij’s half-pass and left Nathan Collins dead.
The striker ran upfield and smashed a shot into the ceiling of the goal.
The visitor’s attempts to get back in the game, despite having periods of possession of the ball and the tendency to give up the ball at vulnerable places were continually thwarted.
Ireland appeared increasingly stretched as Liverpool’s Cody Gakpo, aided by Xavi Sims, began to unveil his repertoire.
Virgil van Dijk’s home defence was watertight, as Ireland probed and failed to be rewarded. The Netherlands, however, did not take advantage of the superiority they had at the opposite end, with Gakpo, Tijjani Reijnders, both missing their targets from a distance.
Ireland was in chaos as the whistle approached. Gakpo, Simons, and others repeatedly carved them open. But they managed to make it through to half-time without any further injury, thanks to Bazunu’s save in the 44th minute from Reijnders.
The team was fortunate to not fall behind further within the first three minutes, when Simons’ goalbound shot was blocked by Gakpo.
Bazunu saved the day twice in a matter of seconds. First, he turned away Weghorst’s instinctive shot and then he turned Reijnders’ dipping attempt onto the post. This prompted Kenny’s replacement of Ferguson by midfielder Jamie McGrath.
Adam Idah, who had run on Ryan Manning’s pass and cut through Van Dijk to fire a shot that clipped his heels before squeezing through Verbruggen’s legs. The goalkeeper was spared the blushes of the crowd by the late offside flag.
In their quest for more goals, the Dutch overwhelmed the opponents. However, they lacked precision and were ultimately put under pressure by the ticking clock.