Tuesday 16 July 2019

David Kelly: 'Danish ham up a slice of humble pie in praise of familiar foe'

Denmark's coach Age Hareide (C) addresses a press conference with goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (L) and Simon Kjaer on the eve of the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier Group D football match between Denmark and the Republic of Ireland in Copenhagen. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Denmark's coach Age Hareide (C) addresses a press conference with goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (L) and Simon Kjaer on the eve of the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier Group D football match between Denmark and the Republic of Ireland in Copenhagen. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
David Kelly

David Kelly

As the FAI come to terms with the possibility of a widespread wiping of historic material, the Danes seemed to be afflicted with a similar memory loss last night as they quite spectacularly love-bombed their now familiar foes.

Manager Age Hareide derided Martin O'Neill's side in recent times, Thomas Delany memorably referred to the stoic task of the challenge as akin to "opening a tin of beans with your hands", while a roll-call of players, from Christian Erikksen to Nicklas Bendtner, sighed openly at the offensive lack of offensive Irish intent.

And yet last night the Danes presented a remarkable reverse of their previous form, from huffy to fluffy, garlanding the visiting Irish with faint praise while also vehemently denying any historic grievance.

"I haven't seen the comments and I know what I said myself," demurred Hareide, whose side, apart from a World Cup penalty shoot-out defeat to Croatia, remain unbeaten for two-and-a-half years.

"I don't think any Danish player will have disrespect for any Irish player.

"They are professional players playing at the highest level in England, most of them, and when you do that you are good players."

Leicester City netminder Kasper Schmeichel was similarly adept at adroitly side-stepping the past.

"I don't know of any verbal sniping, it's news to me. I would never say anything disrespectful towards fellow professionals.

"If you saw my comments after we played Ireland in Dublin they were more than respectful. We have the utmost respect for any team we play.

"Football is a game where there is no right or wrong way of playing. Everyone has their style, we have ours, Ireland have theirs.

"And theirs is no more correct than ours so I don't know the comments but I can't imagine there being any disrespect at all."

Hareide confirms the now predictable trope of condescension of the belligerent Irish, although he was moved to note the obvious enterprise that was shown against Georgia in Mick McCarthy's second outing of his second coming.

"We saw the differences in the set-up of the way they wanted to play against Georgia. Even in the Gibraltar game - although that was difficult, it was hard to play.

"We concentrate on us. We don't think so much about the opposition and what they will do.

"We know what to expect because we have played them a lot over the past two years. They are a strong, physical side and well organised.

"If they want to try and press us a little bit higher, that's OK. We have to be prepared for that as well."

Hareide reckons this group won't really take shape until October but insists it will be a three-way tussle, believing the high-scoring draw in Switzerland in their opening game was a good outcome.

He is also confident that Eriksen, who saw his Champions League hopes dashed by Liverpool and now, perhaps, his dream move to real Madrid foiled by Eden Hazard, will be mentally ready to play.

"I think the best way to recover is to have a good game. If you have a good game after a disappointment, you tend to get over it in a quicker way, so I think that is important for him.

"I don't speak to the players about their club situations.

"We have a good relationship with the players and it would be a 'mix-up' if I try to talk about that. I have to concentrate on the national team.

"Christian loves to play football and I think his focus is on that.

"He also loves to play for Denmark and that is the main thing for me."

Irish Independent

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