THE BOOKMAKERS HAVE made Denmark the favourites to progress to the 2018 World Cup ahead of tomorrow night’s play-off second leg at the Aviva stadium, and the air of confidence exuded by Age Hareide at today’s pre-match press conference suggests he would agree with those odds.
While his opposite number Martin O’Neill admitted that Ireland have been practicing penalties with spot kicks set to take place at the end of 120 minutes if the game finishes scoreless, the Denmark boss has clearly thought less about this potential outcome.
Asked about his side’s penalty preparation ahead of the big game, he simply replied: “Nothing.”
When later asked to elaborate on the matter on whether his side were not practising penalties because he was superstitious or as Hareide felt he wouldn’t need them, he replied: “Both. I’m always superstitious and we don’t need them.”
While more is expected of Ireland in the second leg after an ultra-defensive performance in Copenhagen, Hareide feels the match will pan out in a similar manner to Saturday’s game and doesn’t expect the Boys in Green to be any more attack-minded than they were previously.
If you look at the stats from qualification, nothing seems to go in that (forward) direction. (Ireland) played better away from home than at home and scored more goals away from home.
“I have seen the matches they played here against Serbia — they lost 1-0 — they drew against Wales 0-0 and then won away to Wales 1-0 and had a 2-2 in Serbia. They were the key matches for them in qualification.
“I think they’ll play in the same way. I don’t expect them to go higher than they did in Copenhagen, they just want us to make a mistake. That’s okay.
“I haven’t got the patience to play like that. We will try to attack Ireland and try to get a goal, and then we’ll take it from there.”
Key player Christian Eriksen had minimal influence in the first leg, but Hareide said he expects more not just from the Tottenham star but the whole team.
If you play a team which is very good at defending, it’s always this way in football,” he added. “It’s always easier to stop people from playing than create yourself. That is why these creative players are more and more important in football.
“They get space, they can take on people and that’s why they are so valuable for a team to get them going. But it can be difficult sometimes if a team tries to lock down.
“That’s natural, there’s nothing wrong with that, but we have to try to find space and get Christian on the ball tomorrow as well.”
Denmark were dominant on the ball in Copenhagen and Hareide had the stats to hand — they had 587 passes with an 87% success rate, while Ireland produced 206 passes with a 60% success rate.
The Danes are anticipating a similarly cagey game at the Aviva, and expect to enjoy the majority of the possession once more.
“We just have to try (to play) at a higher speed with fewer touches on the ball — that’s the way you open them,” Hareide said. “But they are very good at defending.
“They keep the team very, very tight — they don’t increase the space, they make it as narrow as possible and they are very good at that. That’s part of the game, so all credit to Ireland for that.
“But when we have ball possession close to 70%, we have to work on that. That’s our game, we have to work on that to take the game to Ireland and try to get through either on the flanks or central.
“The different passes, the different angles we can set up with more people in front of the ball, that makes us even more dangerous.
“We had the possibility to score in Copenhagen and I’m sure we’re going to get it again.”
Subscribe to The42 podcasts here: