I meant no disrespect to NI - Dutch boss Ronald Koeman backtracks on criticism

Koeman rows back on criticism of Northern Ireland

Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman says he did not intend to disrespect Northern Ireland when he criticised them after last month's Euro 2020 qualifier.

Koeman said NI were "outrageous" and "terrible to watch" after defeating Michael O'Neill's men 3-1 in Rotterdam.

NI host the Dutch at Windsor Park on Saturday before the final Group C game away to Germany on Tuesday.

"Yes, a little bit," Koeman said when asked if he was apologising for his comments about Northern Ireland.

"If they [Northern Ireland] found it disrespectful, I didn't mean for them [my words] to be disrespectful.

"If they like to take it as extra motivation, good luck."

While Koeman stressed that he was not remarking on Northern Ireland's style of play, he admitted that to having been left irritated by what he felt was time-wasting by the Green and White Army.

"I was not talking about the way they played," said the former Southampton and Everton manager.

"I have a lot of respect, with the quality of the players - they gave so much against us. They were really difficult to beat.

"But my irritation after the game - maybe if I used the wrong words about that - was about wasting time from minute one in the game and the referee didn't do anything against that.

"If I used the wrong word, maybe I can feel sorry about that."

Memphis Depay scored twice as the Dutch came from behind to beat Northern Ireland 3-1 in Rotterdam
Memphis Depay scored twice as the Dutch came from behind to beat Northern Ireland 3-1 in Rotterdam

When asked to respond to O'Neill, who pointed out that the ball was in play in Rotterdam for 57 minutes - more than in some of the Netherlands' other games - Koeman said Northern Ireland's players used set-pieces to run down the clock.

"For the free-kicks, corner kicks and throw-ins, they took all the time for that and that's OK.

"But I expect the referee to punish that, and not by yellow-carding the goalkeeper after 75 minutes."

O'Neill appointment at Stoke has no bearing on Windsor Park clash - Koeman

Koeman, who has guided the Dutch to the brink of Euro 2020 qualification after replacing Dick Advocaat in February 2018, poured cold water over any suggestion that O'Neill's recent appointment as Stoke City boss will play into his team's hands.

"No, I don't think so," said the 56-year-old, who may be without Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum at Windsor Park.

"In the short time, what he did to take over Stoke, there's no influence on the game tomorrow.

"For the long-term, it's really difficult to do two jobs but it's his decision.

"We expected a difficult game in Rotterdam. We expect a more attacking team tomorrow and we need to be prepared for that."

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