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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Ronald Koeman moves on from Everton to focus on 'difficult challenge' with Netherlands

Dutchman was fired by the Premier League club in October and is now tasked with reversing the fortunes of a national team that has failed to qualify for the past two major tournaments

Ronald Koeman oversees training for the Netherlands ahead of Friday's friendly match against England. Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images
Ronald Koeman oversees training for the Netherlands ahead of Friday's friendly match against England. Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images

Ronald Koeman says he is over the disappointment of being sacked by Everton and is anticipating a "great game" against England on Friday in what will be his first match as Netherlands manager.

Koeman, 54, lost his job at Premier League side Everton in October after his £140 million (Dh720m) spending spree backfired spectacularly.

In February, Koeman took over the Dutch national team post, replacing Dick Advocaat, who had been one in a raft of unsuccessful appointments since Louis van Gaal stepped down after finishing third in the 2014 World Cup

The size of the task facing Koeman is a massive one as the Netherlands, who were World Cup finalists in 2010, have failed to reach either Euro 2016 or this year's World Cup.

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"We are here," Koeman told British newspaper Daily Mail. "It is a new challenge. It is one I couldn't say no to.

"It is an honour to be the Holland coach and I am looking forward with all I have to trying to get the country moving forward again.

"I want to take us to the next big tournament in 2020. That is the aim.

"It is a big and difficult challenge. Everybody knows this. We have not qualified for the last two big tournaments and, OK, it is going to take time."

Koeman, who failed to persuade Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben to revoke his decision to retire from international football, faces an England side that will be going to the World Cup.

England are also a team Koeman will forever be associated with because of his professional foul on David Platt in the 1994 World Cup qualifier for which he escaped with just a booking.

He scored a few minutes later to rub salt into the wounds and the Dutch went on to win 2-0, which was to prove decisive in them going to the finals as group runners-up instead of England.

"It is going to be a great game," said Koeman of Friday's friendly.

Koeman, who was capped 78 times between 1982-94, scoring 14 goals, said he had had enough time to rediscover his managerial vim since the shattering disappointment of losing the Everton job.

"After Everton, where everyone knew it was really difficult towards the end, I needed time to focus again," said Koeman. "I needed to recover. I have had a good time to relax. I work because I want to work.

"Even after that decision (his sacking), I was still crazy about football.

"I wanted to be involved as a coach, I wanted to be with the national team and this was the right time to try the challenge - for me and the national team."