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Talking Tactics: Key battles as Irish take on dizzying Dutch
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Dan Fitch
Xavi Simons impressed against Greece on Thursday
Xavi Simons impressed against Greece on Thursday

With the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2024 qualification hopes hanging by a thread, they now face the daunting task of hosting the Netherlands. 

Stephen Kenny's side lost 2-0 away in France on Thursday, leaving them with just three points from their first four games in Group B. 

The Dutch moved up to second place with a 3-0 victory over Greece that puts them in a strong position to secure an automatic qualification spot. 

Ahead of the clash on Sunday, we take a look at the tactical battles that could decide the contest. 

Wing-back war

Both of these teams played a 3-4-3 formation on Thursday but though their systems are similar, the Netherlands have a clear advantage when it comes to quality. 

On the right, the Dutch will field Inter Milan's Denzel Dumfries, who assisted all three goals in the victory over Greece. He offers both pace and an end product.

Wrexham's James McClean could be tasked with dealing with the 27-year-old, after replacing the injured Enda Stevens against France. 

On the other flank, Daley Blind does not provide the same sort of physical threat but he can put in quality deliveries, so Preston's Alan Browne will need to keep him in check. 

Weghorst threat

Wout Weghorst found the net against Greece
Wout Weghorst found the net against Greece

Wout Weghorst's headed goal against the Greeks was his first since scoring for Manchester United back in March, so he might not seem the most obvious threat. 

Yet as his former Red Devils manager Erik ten Hag recognised, the striker is a hard worker and adept at making space for others. 

At 6ft 6in, he is always going to pose problems aerially and the Irish central defenders Shane Duffy, Nathan Collins and John Egan will have to pay him close attention. 

Weghorst's physical stature can see defenders so drawn to him that they can ignore other dangerous opponents, particularly at set-pieces. 

Wing wizards

Playing off Weghorst against Greece were Liverpool's Cody Gakpo and Xavi Simons, who is currently on loan at RB Leipzig from Paris Saint-Germain. 

With the wing-backs sticking to the flanks, these wide attackers have license to drift infield into dangerous areas. 

Simons has started brightly for his new club, scoring two goals and assisting three from three Bundesliga appearances. 

He came close to scoring a spectacular solo effort against Greece, when he dribbled inside from the flank and unleashed a thunderous shot. 

The pockets of space that he and Gakpo move into make them difficult to mark. 

Ireland's wing-backs, central defenders and midfielders Josh Cullen and Jayson Molumby will all need to be vigilant. 

Irish attack

Will Keane is the latest attacker to join the length Irish injury list
Will Keane is the latest attacker to join the length Irish injury list

Ireland have some big issues in attack, with Evan Ferguson, Michael Obafemi, Troy Parrott, Callum Robinson and Mikey Johnston all injured. 

They have been joined on the treatment table by Will Keane, who had to go off against France shortly after coming on as a substitute. 

Kenny has such a paucity of options available to him that it is almost unrealistic to expect his attack to provide much potency. 

Yet with the Dutch likely to control possession, whoever plays can provide a valuable service in closing down central defenders such as Nathan Ake, who poses a danger on the ball.


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