Ronald Koeman warned his Netherlands players that Euro 2020 qualification rivals Northern Ireland are “fighting machines” and will “get you by the throat” if given the chance.Netherlands are third in Group C, three points behind second-placed Northern Ireland but with a game in hand ahead of the sides’ clash on Thursday.Victory at Feyenoord Stadium would move Koeman’s side level with Michael O’Neill’s side as well as leaders Germany on 12 points. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare Messi a man for all Champions League seasons – but will this really be Barcelona’s? Are Chelsea this season’s Ajax? Super-subs Batshuayi & Pulisic show Blues can dare to dream Time for another transfer? Giroud’s Chelsea spell set to end like his Arsenal career But the former Southampton and Everton boss warned that beating Northern Ireland – who won four consecutive qualifying matches before their 2-0 defeat at home to Germany in September – would not come easily.”They are fighting machines,” Koeman told reporters of their opponents.”Perhaps they haven’t got the structure or quality technically but it’s very direct, direct confrontations. They are a team that can make the games difficult for any opponent and we have to see how we can find the solutions. If they can get at you, they will, and they will get you by the throat. You’ve got to be prepared for that.”It can be that home and away there is a difference in their game. I think they had the idea to perhaps try to finish Germany off and, for an hour, they were able to live with them and had the better opportunities.”But from the moment they went 1-0 down, you can see the spaces increase and the Germans took advantage.” Defeat in Rotterdam would leave Netherlands six points behind Northern Ireland and Koeman admitted his side are under pressure to deliver a result before winning again in Belfast in November.The Oranje lost 3-2 at home to Germany in their most recent qualifier on home turf in March, but Koeman backed the likes of Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk and Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong to cope with the high-stakes scenario.”We still have to qualify,” said Koeman. “Now we play both games against Northern Ireland for our ticket. It starts [on Thursday] and if we don’t get the result we want, it will be very painful.”There is always pressure for Holland. We think that we’ve always got to play everywhere, and we’ve got the quality for that. I think that this team is very hungry.”Not many players have played in the big tournaments and everyone wants to be there but there is always the development of a team.”These two games against Northern Ireland are really important. There is pressure but the players are used to that – they play for big clubs and they’ve got to win so it’s no different to that.”
Minister Field will discuss a range of issues, including the UK’s continued support for Sri Lanka achieving meaningful and lasting reconciliation in the interests of all Sri Lankans. UK Minister for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field is to visit Sri Lanka to push for more progress on the post war reconciliation issue.The British High Commission said that during his visit on 5 – 6 October Field will meet Minister of Foreign Affairs Tilak Marapana, Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya, Minister of Public Administration and Management and Law and Order Ranjith Madduma Bandara, and Minister of Sports and Provincial Councils and Local Government Faiszer Musthapha. “My visit this year coincides with that of the England cricket team – a great celebration of our two countries shared love for the sport and everything that it represents. Sport is just one of the links between the people of the UK and Sri Lanka that we can all celebrate.The UK is and always has been a close friend and supporter of Sri Lanka. During my visit I will be encouraging the government of Sri Lanka to fulfil the commitments it has made on reconciliation to the advantage of people in all Sri Lanka’s communities.”Celebrating the links between Sri Lanka and the UK in the area of business, he will visit the London Stock Exchange Group’s quickly growing Colombo operation, which employs several hundred Sri Lankan IT and finance experts. (Colombo Gazette) He will also meet Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan, members of civil society and Commissioners of the Office on Missing Persons.