A defiant Stephen Kenny is refusing to consider his position despite Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for Euro 2024 being dashed by the Netherlands.
Three days after a 2-0 defeat to Group B leaders France in Paris pushed them to the point of no return, Ireland lost 2-1 to the Dutch in Dublin and effectively slipped out of contention for a top-two spot.
Kenny, who had been adamant in his preparation for the game he still expected to be in charge of the doubleheader against Greece and Gibraltar next month, whatever happened on Sunday night, remained just as resolute after the heartbreaking defeat. .
FT | It all ends in defeat at the Aviva Stadium. pic.twitter.com/Kj8pV1n2HF
— Irish Football (@IrelandFootball) September 10, 2023
Asked about his future, he said: “Look, from my point of view, I’m not thinking about it right now. I’m just very disappointed that we can’t finish in the top two of the group. I’m just very, very disappointed in this, and it’s painful that we can’t, you know?
“I think France is the best team in the world, a level higher. Holland are probably not at France’s level, but still… Argentina beat them at the World Cup on penalties.
“They have a lot of world class players, but when you take the lead like we did, you are capable of winning. But overall we didn’t defend well enough to do that.”
Kenny’s men could hardly have started better when, having already caused panic among the Dutch defence, Virgil van Dijk awarded them a fourth-minute penalty for handball.
Adam Idah, who had only scored one international goal before – that against Gibraltar in June – took the penalty with the confidence of a man with a far more impressive record, and the locals in the 49,807 crowd dared to believe.
However, a defensive error allowed Denzel Dumfries to shoot on target and when he went down under goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, Cody Gakpo was equally decisive from 12 yards.
Ireland performed as well as they had before the break, prompting Ronald Koeman to bring on Wout Weghorst and Tijani Reynders before the restart, and it was Weghorst who scored what proved to be the winner inside 11 minutes when he converted from a Dumfries knock-down. .
Asked about the pressure on his shoulders, Kenny said: “It’s pressure, pressure from ourselves because we were desperately trying to get into the October window, still very much in the hunt.
“We were desperate to do it, so there was so much pressure within us, so we’re disappointed with it, very disappointed with it.
“From our point of view, we need to prepare for Greece in October and Gibraltar, which is just a few weeks away, and Holland, so we need to finish the group strong and see if we get the knockout stages. [via the Nations League] then in March. We’re not sure about that.”
Koeman admitted he was far from happy with the break but was pleased with the way his players responded to his message at half-time.
He said: “The start was really bad. We expected high pressure from the Irish team, but we lost a lot of balls in our possession and did not control the game.
“After 20-25 minutes everyone calmed down a bit and the decision at half-time to change the system to play with four was a good decision.
“After the break we controlled the game. Only in the last 10 minutes, maybe they brought the same pressure, but they didn’t create a single chance to score, and in the last part of the game we defended well, and finally I think it’s a fair result.”