Georginio Wijnaldum braced for Northern Ireland return as Ronald Koeman slams opponents

Press Association Sport 09:15 13/10/2019
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Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum will be braced for a tough night when the Netherlands visit Windsor Park next month after Northern Ireland threatened to pull off a shock win in Rotterdam on Thursday.

Josh Magennis headed Michael O’Neill’s side in front in the 75th minute before Memphis Depay levelled five minutes later, and the Dutch needed stoppage time to secure a 3-1 win though Luuk De Jong and Depay again.

The two sides meet again next month in Belfast, with Northern Ireland needing victory to keep their slim chances of automatic qualification for Euro 2020 alive.

“It’s not a given,” Wijnaldum said. “We know it is going to be a difficult night and even more so now we have played them here.”

After being polite about Northern Ireland’s tactics in his post-match press conference, Dutch coach Ronald Koeman saved some more scathing remarks for Dutch television.

He told NOS: “It is outrageous, the football they play, but it is allowed and they get the most out of their qualities. I respect that, but it is terrible to watch.”

However, it nearly worked and Wijnaldum knows Holland will need to have better answers next month.

“It was uncomfortable but it’s because they made it difficult for us with the style they were playing,” he said.

“They were really direct, playing the long ball and winning the second ball.

“They dropped real deep and tried to make it almost impossible for us to play the football we like to play. And they did it really well.”

Victory for Northern Ireland next month would see O’Neill’s men head to Frankfurt for their final qualifier against Germany still in with a chance.

Though the play-offs look like a better bet now, Leicester defender Jonny Evans said Thursday’s performance gives them belief.

“It shows we can compete with these teams and we can be proud of certain aspects of our game,” Evans said.

“The manager always looks at things to improve after the game but the most important thing is that we have come a long way tactically.

“The manager always has us well organised and disciplined. It was a different type of game we had to play and I thought we carried out that plan very well.”

Before those final two qualifiers comes Monday’s friendly against the Czech Republic in Prague.

O’Neill will make several changes, with Michael McGovern expected to start in goal.

The Norwich keeper came into the international window having recently made his Premier League debut at the age of 35, something he called a “special achievement”.

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Robert Moreno disappointed by Spain draw as Sergio Ramos goes past Iker Casillas

Press Association Sport 09:12 13/10/2019
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Spain head coach Robert Moreno was disappointed with his side’s performance as they were held to a 1-1 Euro 2020 Group F qualifying draw by Norway.

Josh King scored a stoppage-time penalty as Norway fought back after Saul Niguez had given the away side the lead two minutes after the break.

The result, combined with Sweden’s 4-0 victory over Malta, meant Spain’s wait to qualify for next summer’s finals continued as they hold a five-point lead at the top of the table.

Spain head to second-placed Sweden on Tuesday with a point needed to make it through and, in quotes reported by AS, Moreno said: “It wasn’t the game we wanted.

“I don’t have the feeling that they’ve caused us much danger beyond the penalty.

“When a team has nothing to lose these things can happen. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth because it was at the end of the game.

“The message now is that with a draw against Sweden we will qualify, and that’s what we are going try and do.”

Spain captain Sergio Ramos helped keep Norway at bay until the last-minute leveller ruined a clean sheet as he made history by becoming Spain’s most-capped player, passing Iker Casillas with his 168th international appearance.

Real Madrid defender Ramos was booked with 11 minutes remaining meaning he will miss Tuesday’s match.

On Ramos, Moreno added: “Ramos’ record is incredible, and still he has the desire to continue competing and wanting to keep winning titles.

“I want to congratulate him publicly and hopefully he can give us plenty of joy for a long time to come.”

Ramos admitted he was disappointed to only collect a point after breaking the national record but hopes Spain can learn and move on from their mistakes.

He said: “I have a bittersweet taste. I would have liked to beat the record with a victory.

“In the end, being a legend or not is marked by people. Being active, it is difficult to name someone with that word. I enjoy every day. The numbers are there. It will be seen in the future.

“I thank everyone for the support I have felt, from my family, colleagues, coaches…I have enjoyed a wonderful career with Spain. I will be eternally grateful. I still want to win with Spain.

“It was not one of the best games, but we added a point.

“From the results that are not so good, we must learn. Not everything has been positive. That helps us to grow as a team. You have to be optimistic. The last matches have been very good.”

King was delighted with his late equaliser leaving Norway still in contention four points further back in fourth.

King told www.fotball.no: “You have to have balls to take that penalty. It was lovely that it went in.

“The crowd helped us today. They gave us an extra push for the last 10 minutes. We put up a good fight in the first half and raised ourselves the last 15 to 20 minutes in the second half.

“We have everything to play for Romania. We need to focus on ourselves. There are three games left and we have to try to score nine points.”

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Roberto Mancini praises Italy as they book spot at Euro 2020

Press Association Sport 09:07 13/10/2019
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Roberto Mancini praised Italy’s second-half improvement as they booked their place in the Euro 2020 finals with a 2-0 victory over Greece.

The Azzurri knew three points would be enough having won their first six matches but they did not make the breakthrough at the Stadio Olimpico until Jorginho’s penalty in the 63rd minute.

Federico Bernardeschi netted a second from outside the box with 12 minutes to go to make it a job ultimately well done.

Mancini said on gazzetta.it: “All the matches are difficult, Greece did not want to play. In the first half we forced too much play, then in the second half it was much better.

“We’ve always been in a position to work well with everyone from day one. We created a team in a short time. I made the players believe in their qualities, the players are there for me. It’s a team of character that fights and plays, and in the second half we saw it.”

Chelsea midfielder Jorginho added: “It is a fantastic result for what we have experienced. We have worked hard and we deserved to reach this goal. We are really happy.”

The Stadio Olimpico will open next summer’s tournament on June 12, and Jorginho said: “We’re a good group, we’re all going the same way. It’s nice to work like this. I’m sure (the fans) will give us a hand also in June. We will do everything to make our fans enjoy the games by winning.”

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