Northern Ireland v Netherlands: Forward thinking with Wijnaldum

Gini Wijnaldum: Has seven goals in his last 11 internationals
Gini Wijnaldum: Has seven goals in his last 11 internationals

Andy Schooler previews Saturday's Euro 2020 qualifier between Northern Ireland and Netherlands in which Gini Wijnaldum looks overpriced to find the target.

"Gini Wijnaldum has been employed in a more attacking role by Koeman than he is by Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and that’s reflected in his goal tally of seven in 11 competitive games under his international boss. Away from home he has four in his last three, scoring at least once in each."

Back Wijnaldum to score at any time @ 9/2

Northern Ireland v Netherlands
Saturday, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports Football & Main Event

Following last month's agonising defeat to the Netherlands in Rotterdam, Northern Ireland are in a hole in their Euro 2020 qualifying group.

They've arguably performed above expectation, having won four of their six games to sit on 12 points. The problem is both the Dutch and Germany have 15 and they are the two teams the Irish are still to face.

Even if both games are won, it might not be enough to qualify for next summer's finals. In short, it's probably time for fans to start crossing their fingers that results elsewhere go their way and they claim a play-off place.

First up this week is a home game against the Dutch, who won last month's encounter 3-1. That far from tells the whole story though. The Irish led 1-0 after 79 minutes only for their hosts to equalise and then score twice in added time to claim a crucial win.

In theory, the men in green should be able to take much away from that game - despite conceding 77% of possession, they were able to thwart their opponents for long periods and were very close to hanging on for a point.

Manager concerns

The problem for their potential backers is the lead up to this game has been dominated by the news that manager Michael O'Neill is to leave his post after the Euro 2020 campaign is over.

Of course, that may not be until June, but he's already started his new job with Championship strugglers Stoke and you have to wonder what effect it will have had on the camp.

I believe those who say none are wrong, although clearly it is impossible to quantify what the impact has been.

At least O'Neill appears to have a fully-fit squad to choose from, defenders Craig Cathcart and Michael Smith having overcome knocks since the squad was announced.

The same cannot be said of his opposite number Ronald Koeman.

Depay an injury worry

He's without Brighton midfielder Davy Propper, plus Steven Bergwijn and Donyell Malen, while key man Memphis Depay is also a doubt with a hamstring injury.

The Dutch will qualify with a draw, although Koeman has stressed the need for victory - if the Oranje finish second in their group they risk dropping into the third pot of seeds for the finals draw on November 30.

With the likes of Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and in-form Ajax men Donny van de Beek and Quincy Promes still available, the Dutch should be able to claim that victory, although don't expect things to be easy.

Northern Ireland simply don't roll over for anyone - their last competitive loss by more than two goals was in 2011 - and even Germany found it tough going at Windsor Park earlier in the season. They won 2-0 but one of their goals came late on.

Dutch odds-on

In the match betting, the Netherlands look short enough at 1.4640/85, while the win the hosts require is at 8.615/2. It will tempt some but not me. The draw is offered at 5.04/1.

I'd expect a narrow away win - you can get the Dutch to win by one at 3.412/5 via the handicap markets. However, the issue there is that Northern Ireland's need for a result means they will have to keep attacking if they are 1-0 down and that could easily lead to late goals.

Late-goal action looks more than likely given that issue and the fact that both teams have come on strong in the latter stages of games.

Late goals on the cards

Six of Northern Ireland's eight goals in qualifying have come in the 75th minute or later, while 25 of the Netherlands' last 33 have arrived in the 55th or later.

For those looking to get involved around those stats, even money is available with the Sportsbook about the second half having most goals but it could also make sense to bet in-play on the over 2.5 goals line.

Over 2.5 starts at 1.910/11 but if we get a similar game to the one in Rotterdam last month, that will soon rise to odds-against. Alternatively you could lay under 2.5 goals.

Gini offers goal value

However, my best bet for the game is one I tried (and narrowly failed with) in the reverse fixture.

Gini Wijnaldum has been employed in a more attacking role by Koeman than he is by Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and that's reflected in his goal tally of seven in 11 competitive games under his international boss. Away from home he has four in his last three, scoring at least once in each.

Despite this, Wijnaldum is offered at 9/2 to score at any time and that simply looks too big.

Admittedly there's been a concern about his fitness too this week - he missed training due to illness on Tuesday - but he's had several days to recover and Koeman will be keen for one of his key men to play, even if he's not operating at 100%. His importance will rise if Depay is ruled out.

With the Dutch again set to dominate the ball (Germany had 74% of it in Belfast), Wijnaldum's runs from in behind the striker could be the way of unlocking the door.

In short, the price looks too big and should be backed.

Opta fact

Netherlands forward Memphis Depay has been directly involved in 12 goals in five games during this qualifying campaign (six goals and six assists), at least five more than any team-mate.

Click here for more previews of this week's Euro 2020 qualifiers

Andy Schooler's P/L 2019/20

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