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'At the moment, if Martin fell in muck he’d still smell of Old Spice. I think we’re going to qualify'

Ex-Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews believes Ireland will come through next month’s World Cup play-off with Denmark.

O'Neill and Keane at last week's draw in Zurich.
O'Neill and Keane at last week's draw in Zurich.
Image: Andy Mueller/INPHO

Updated Oct 24th 2017, 5:00 PM

IT WILL BY no means be an easy tie, but Denmark was probably the best draw Ireland could have hoped for.

And that is certainly the view of Keith Andrews, who is hugely-optimistic about their chances of qualifying for next summer’s World Cup finals in Russia.

A week ago, the Boys in Green were paired with the Danes for a two-legged play-off in November — meaning they avoided the other seeded sides Italy, Croatia and Switzerland in doing so.

Football pundit Andrews — capped 35 times for Ireland between 2008 and 2012 — was extremely satisfied with the outcome as he feels it gives Martin O’Neill’s men the best chance possible to book a place in Russia.

“I think it’s a magnificent draw for us, especially when it got down to Italy or Denmark in the last two,” Andrews said yesterday. “The order I wanted was Denmark first, then Switzerland, Croatia and Italy.

“The Italians just have that knack — regardless of how they played throughout the campaign — of getting through. People will say we beat them at the Euros last year but that was a totally different kettle of fish. They just know what to do.

“I don’t think Denmark wanted us or are happy with the draw. There were easier draws for them. They’d be fully aware of what we’re about and what we’re capable of.

“At the moment, if Martin fell in muck he’d still smell of Old Spice. He’s got that at the moment so I wasn’t surprised at the draw we got.

That’s three favourable play-off draws in a row – Estonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and now Denmark. The Gods are with us and hopefully it lasts into the play-offs.”

inpho_01280894 Andrews pictured with Endrice Avenbuan, Hugo Devine and Cian Doyle.

While the style of play has been questioned at times, it is hard to argue with the results the current management team have produced in their four years in charge, and Andrews is adamant that luck is on O’Neill’s side too.

“I think we’re going to qualify,” he added. “The tie might go all the way but I just fancy us to make it. That’s the way I felt even before the game in Cardiff.

“I can’t analyse Martin tactically because he sends a team out to play a certain way. How they get results, I honestly don’t know at times. It’s down to the players in some cases or Martin’s Midas touch in others.

“I think we’re going through this nice little stage in our history where we’ll be qualifying for the Euros, World Cup and the Euros again. That’s without our greatest squad but they have that bit between their teeth.

“If they can raise their performance levels by another five or 10%, I genuinely fancy us.”

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Denmark: Denmark v Poland - World Cup 2018 Qualifier Eriksen is undoubtedly Denmark's main man. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

With eight goals and three assists during the qualification campaign, Christian Eriksen stands out as the opponent the Irish players will have to give most attention to.

The Tottenham playmaker is indispensable to Age Hareide’s side and Andrews has gone as far as comparing him to another ex-Spurs man — Gareth Bale — in terms of his importance to the national team.

“He’s such a good player,” Andrews said of Eriksen. “I worked on Tottenham’s game against Real Madrid last week and, though Spurs weren’t at their best, Eriksen belongs at that level.

“He’s a step above anything else that’s in the Ireland and Denmark teams. In this campaign alone, he’s created so many goals and scored plenty for a Denmark team that have a few strengths.

He will be their key man. We need to stop him being anywhere near his best. It will be a tough night for whoever is in our midfield.

“David Meyler will be available for the second leg and hopefully James McCarthy is back by then too.

“I’d liken Eriksen to Bale in his effectiveness for his country. We kept Bale fairly quiet in the March game apart from the one shot that went past the post in the second half.”

Former Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews was speaking at the launch of the 2017/2018 Subway® Schoolboy Football Association of Ireland Championships. This is year two of the Subway® brand’s three year sponsorship of the inter-league competitions at U12, U13, U15 and U16 age-levels, which are contested provincially before concluding with the national semi-finals and final

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