Author: Lee Duffy
A month on from the memorable night in Cardiff that secured a playoff spot, a two-legged tie with Denmark is all that stands in the way of the Republic of Ireland and their first appearance at a World Cup finals in 16 years.
Ireland visit Denmark for the first time since 2007, where Steve Staunton’s side recorded an impressive 4-0 victory. The Danes have strengthened significantly since then, and will pose a much bigger threat to Martin O’Neill’s men. A well-organised side managed by Age Hareide, Denmark only finished 2nd to Poland in their qualifying group. They now have a whole host of household names in their squad, with one of those players needing Ireland’s complete and undivided attention.
Whilst Kasper Schmeichel will be tough to beat on the night, Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen is the man who the Irish will have to nullify in order to stay in control of the tie. With 8 goals in 10 qualifiers this campaign, Eriksen has emerged as a massive goal threat for the Danes. Former Arsenal striker Nikolas Bendtner has found some form for his current club Rosenborg in recent weeks, just in time to lead his nation to next summer’s festival of football.
The threats in the Irish ranks should not be underestimated either. Darren Randolph has starred for Middlesbrough this season, with Shane Duffy and Stephen Ward in superb form for Brighton and Burnley respectively. At the other end of the pitch, James McClean has found a starting berth at West Brom hard to come by in recent weeks but is sure to be one of the first names on the Irish team sheet come Saturday.
Danish injury crisis:
Denmark are facing an injury-crisis heading into Saturday’s game, with skipper Simon Kjaer looking certain to miss the first leg at least. Nicolai Jorgensen, who played in all but three of Denmark’s 10 group games, is also a big concern. He fractured his wrist while in action for Feyenoord in the Dutch league at the weekend, and while he was able to play on, his wrist is now in a cast and it would be a big leap for him to feature on Saturday.
Brentford full-back Henrik Dalsgaard, who would almost certainly have started at right back, is definitely out of the Danish squad through injury while his club-mate Andreas Bjelland is not expected to be fit.
Irish team news:
Suspensions are the worry for the Republic of Ireland camp. David Meyler will miss Saturday’s game through suspension, while 10 players are at risk of missing the second leg if they are yellow carded in Copenhagen. James McClean, Shane Duffy, Stephen Ward, Ciaran Clark, Glenn Whelan, Darren Randolph and Daryl Murphy are just some of the players who are a booking away from a suspension.
On the injury front, Sean Maguire, James McCarthy and Richard Keogh have returned to their clubs after being ruled out through injury. Jeff Hendrick and Stephen Ward both sat out training on Monday and Tuesday due to niggling injuries, but both remain in contention to start on Saturday evening.
Keane urges focus on players who are fit:
Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane has called the concentration on those who are absent as “pointless”. “It’s all part of the game, I don’t really waste in my own mindset too much time and energy on players who aren’t here.
“With the setbacks we’ve had with injuries and suspensions, the lads have come in and done a good job. We’ve regrouped and gone again.
“It’s almost pointless talking about the lads who aren’t there and not available; just focus on the lads who are here. I’m pretty sure the lads who start and come off the bench will not let the country down”.
Up to 6,000 of the green army are expected to travel to Copenhagen for Saturday’s clash, with just over 2,000 securing tickets. Those who will be lucky enough to be in the Parken stadium on the night will be sure to make themselves heard.
Denmark vs Republic of Ireland- Saturday, November 11th, 7pm, Rte2