Friday 23 August 2019

Kasper the not so ghostly goalkeeper believes Danish destiny is in safe hands

Kasper Schmeichel during a Denmark press conference. Photo: Sportsfile
Kasper Schmeichel during a Denmark press conference. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Denmark's light laughter needs little translation.

For a nation known for its dark, brooding TV drama, levity lifts the media room at the corner of Copenhagen's Parken Stadium.

Kasper Schmeichel interjects when a local, once more, raises the potential of Christian Eriksen being man-marked.

Casting a wry glance towards his team-mate along the dais, the Leicester man chirrups in his native tongue: "If it was my choice, I'd do it myself!"

His broad shoulders shuffle in amusement; Eriksen throws a matinee smile and avuncular Age Hareide, a manager who has seen it all and forgotten more, smiles sagely.

Schmeichel, unlike his broody old man, has freely admitted to his boyhood admiration for Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane, such that he suggests the visitors will unfurl a starting XI honed in his inspirational image.

A team of Roy Keanes would certainly know how to stem the influence of Eriksen, by means fair or foul.

"I have been man-marked a few times," the Spurs star shrugs. "I don't know if Ireland will do it. I don't mind if they do as there is more space for other players with their quality and we could take advantage. It's Ireland's decision but it doesn't really matter to us."

They seem as assured in their skin as the Irish are in theirs; Hareide is asked if he fears the visitors' physicality, mindful of how Joe Allen was, shall we say, impolitely escorted from the fray in Cardiff, a crucial turning point in that final group game.

"Not really," he shrugs in polite but firm dismissal. "We are confident the referee will control that part of the game. We know Ireland are physical and they are not a dirty team.

"A challenge for the ball is allowed and we have handled many similar problems in our campaign so far."

Hareide, who pitied Northern Ireland following their handball howler a night earlier, joins Schmeichel in hoping that there is no repeat; Ireland fans will cringe in recognition of their own ref justice in 2009.

He also seems equally unperturbed by any attacking puzzles Ireland may impose. "They are an easy team to read but a difficult one to beat," is his enigmatic, back-handed compliment.

"The game-plan is easy. They don't change much game to game, they have the same style of play but they stick together, they have great spirit."

It's normally the stuff one hears from the sport's royalty, not from an outfit that managed to lose at home to Montenegro during qualifying. Particularly a side who can lump it as much as Ireland.

Their quiet confidence is such that they accept a draw as a forgiveable outcome this evening.

"As long as they don't score goals," argues Hareide quite reasonably, "0-0 would be okay and then 120 minutes to get an away goal."

Eriksen was one of the youngest players at the World Cup in 2012 and, after being at the Euros last year, he feels that another World Cup appearance could see Denmark fulfil their burgeoning potential, despite Ireland's attempts to frustrate them.

"I don't think anyone goes into a match frustrated, we will do our thing. They will have people behind ball, we want to play.

"We want to play and create chances but we might get fewer opportunities than we normally do so we need to take them.

"You think it's nice having a holiday but it is boring watching other teams play at a major championship. Your mind is somewhere else. We've tasted it twice before and I want to go there a third time."

For Schmeichel, it would be a maiden bow.

"I've never played in a major tournament and it is something I want to experience. It's not enjoyable sitting at home and certainly something we want to achieve."

The hope is that victory will be earned, not swayed by refereeing error.

"It's a shame that a refereeing decision can impact so much," says Schmeichel, referencing Windsor Park.

"We all saw it was quite obviously not a penalty. Hopefully we won't concede something like that, we would feel hard done by."

The Copenhagen faithful have had their fill of bleak drama.

Irish Independent

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