NORTHERN IRELAND MANAGER Michael O’Neill said the 6-0 defeat by the Netherlands was a ‘mismatch’ from the kick-off.
Robin van Persie and Ibrahim Afellay both netted twice as goals from Wesley Sneijder and Ron Vlaar sealed the victory. O’Neill, who played a young, injury-stricken Northern Ireland side in Amsterdam on Saturday, said his side was ill-prepared going into the game and the scoreline was a fair reflection on the gap between the teams.
“The gulf in class was evident between the two teams,” O’Neill told reporters. ”We had a mismatch in terms of preparation. We have players who haven’t played for five or six weeks since their season finished and Holland have been together for three weeks preparing for a major tournament.
“It was difficult for us being a bit off the pace against a team who were right on top of their game. We took a bit of a spanking, no doubt about that, but we’ll lick our wounds and deal with that.
“My selection problems are obvious. We have 10 players out and they’re 10 of our more senior players. When you come into an arena like this, with 52,000 people, against a team of Holland’s class you would like to have as many of your big guns as possible.”
With the country’s top players unavailable for selection during the post-season, and many susceptible to withdrawals due to club commitments, there has been criticism from some quarters as to the scheduling of the friendly. And while O’Neill sympathises with the nay-sayers, he maintains the date of the fixture had no reflection on the scoreline.
“Losing key players is frustrating for any manager but the main lesson for us is to be a bit more sensible in the scheduling of our fixtures,” O’Neill said. ”Sometimes you can’t help this from happening, it’s not as though we just allowed it happen, we worked diligently for three days on how we felt we could nullify them but when you get Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie, Ibrahim Afellay and Wesley Sneijder on top of their game, Holland can be very hard to contain.
“It looks like they have got their preparation exactly right and they look like a team going in to the tournament capable of winning it. A lot better teams than us have struggled to contain Holland,” he added.