Wout Weghorst fired the Netherlands into the Euro 2024 finals as the Republic of Ireland’s dismal campaign ended with a whimper.
Burnley’s on-loan Hoffenheim frontman, whose winner in Dublin in September left Ireland with a mountain to climb, repeated the trick in Amsterdam to secure a 1-0 victory which was far more comprehensive than the scoreline suggested.
As a result, the Dutch secured second place in Group B behind France, who put 14 without reply past Gibraltar.
Stephen Kenny’s men, who have now won only six of the 29 competitive games they have played under his charge, barely laid a glove on a far superior side on a night when they had hoped to bloody the nose of one of Europe’s traditional big guns.
Their feint hopes of securing a play-off berth via the Nations League were formally dashed on Thursday night by Slovakia’s 4-2 victory over Iceland with automatic qualification having slipped from their grasp long before.
How the Netherlands qualified as Ireland bowed out
Callum Robinson was handed a first competitive start for the Republic of Ireland since June 2022 as they attempted to end their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign on a high in the Netherlands.
The Cardiff frontman was included in one of four changes to the side that beat Gibraltar 4-0 last time out as he, Nathan Collins, Dara O’Shea and Alan Browne replaced the injured Chiedozie Ogbene as well as Shane Duffy, Jamie McGrath and Mikey Johnston, who were all named on the bench.
Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman made four changes to the team which started last month’s 1-0 win in Greece in the midst of an injury crisis with Stefan de Vrij, Daley Blind, Jerdy Schouten and Cody Gakpo replacing Lutsharel Geertruida, Nathan Ake, Mats Wieffer and Steven Bergwijn.
Playing under the closed roof at the Johan Cruyff Arena following persistent rain in Amsterdam, the Dutch dominated possession in the early stages and took the lead with just 12 minutes gone.
Defender Stefan de Vrij played the ball into striker Wout Weghorst’s feet on halfway and he cleverly turned Nathan Collins before racing in on goal and smashing a right-foot drive past the helpless Gavin Bazunu.
Gakpo and Tijjani Reijnders both missed the target with long-range attempts and Bazunu had to save from the latter as the home side attempted to increase their advantage, but they went in at the break leading by the game’s only goal.
Bazunu saved from Weghorst and Reijnders in quick succession as Koeman’s men looked to kill off the game, and it seemed only a matter of time before they did so.
Ireland substitute Adam Idah thought he had levelled with the help of a 59th-minute howler from Dutch keeper Bart Verbruggen, but an offside flag spared the Brighton man’s blushes.
Dutch substitute Donyell Malen might have made it 2-0 with two minutes remaining, but could not find a way past Bazunu and his side had to settle for a 1-0 victory which nevertheless secured their passage to the finals.