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Denmark boss offers words of comfort to under-pressure O'Neill

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Aage Hareide has stepped down as Denmark manager. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Aage Hareide has stepped down as Denmark manager. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Aage Hareide has stepped down as Denmark manager. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The opening words from Denmark manager Age Hareide offered an insight into the mood around Aarhus ahead of tonight's UEFA Nations League tie.

"There is not much to say really," he shrugged. "The group is finished. We are top of the group."

Confidence is high in Danish football again, with September's dispute that led to a Futsal side playing a friendly match in Slovakia now a distant memory.

The three goals conceded in that fixture have been erased from the mind. The local talking point in the pre-match press conference is that the Danes have the meanest defence in international football; they have conceded just three goals in the 12 matches where the real Denmark showed up. It's a source of pride.

A year ago, Martin O'Neill and Hareide (below) were involved in some testy exchanges around the World Cup play-off.

If the sides were perceived as equals going into that tie, a theory that was shattered by the eventual result, the tone has shifted now and Hareide found himself sympathising with his former Norwich team-mate. He suggested that Ireland might need to go back to basics.

"Sometimes you get into a series of bad results and it's hard to get out in many ways," said Hareide.

"I saw that (Shane) Duffy said the players have to take responsibility. We know that sometimes football is very funny. Sometimes things will go against you for a long period.

"When you're a coach, you desperately want to change it and get things going the right way. What I think is that if you have a bad run, think of what you did in the good run when you were doing things right.

"Sometimes football is hard on the managers and sometimes it's hard because the luck is against you in many ways.

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"I know he is working very, very hard to try to change the luck and that's why we have to be on our tiptoes."

Of course, part of the tension a year ago was drawn from the fact that Hareide depicted Ireland as a primitive enough operation that are easy to read but difficult to beat.

It's safe to assume that his view broadly remains the same. He acknowledged that set pieces are the main threat presented by the away side. O'Neill did agree with that point during the week too.

Hareide was only discussing these issues because visiting media were asking about them. With nothing at stake, the natives are trying to sell this match as an opportunity to show off their strength in depth.

Suspensions for Kasper Schmeichel and Thomas Delaney mean he will have to make at least two changes from the side that prevailed in Wales, but the shuffling of the pack will go further than that.

Deputise

Eintracht Frankfurt goalkeeper Frederik Ronnow will deputise for Schmeichel while Hareide has plenty of options in the centre of the park and up front where he has seven available attackers.

Christian Eriksen will start, but Hareide said that the Spurs playmaker's contribution will be curtailed due to his recent injury issues.

"Christian will play from the start," said Hareide. "The intention is that he's going to play. In this case, we have to sort of nurse him as much as possible. That means he probably won't be staying on for 90 minutes.

"We have the chance to change players. We need to know who is capable of doing a job if we get suspensions or injuries in the next campaign.

"So far it's been fantastic from the boys. We are pleased and satisfied by being in this position.

"But football will always be remembered for the last result and that's why the game (tonight) is very important for us.

"A side will grow with good results and a side will lose the balance with bad results. In the last two years, we haven't lost (they exited the World Cup on penalties) and we have only conceded two goals in open play in 2018, and it's due to the players because they work so hard."


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