Sunday 19 November 2017

End justifies the means as players look to decider

Denmark 0 Ireland 0

Ireland's Shane Duffy. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland's Shane Duffy. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

In the aftermath of a bore draw, it was Denmark midfielder Thomas Delaney who offered the most revealing take on his side's view of Saturday's Parken Stadium test.

"It was like opening a can of baked beans with your bare hands," said the 26-year-old, shining a light on just how frustrating it can be to face a sturdy Irish side which knows when to eschew ambition for attrition.

Denmark's Nicolai Joergensen in action with Ireland's Callum O'Dowda. Photo: Getty Images
Denmark's Nicolai Joergensen in action with Ireland's Callum O'Dowda. Photo: Getty Images

Certainly a protein-heavy meal would function as adequate preparation for the type of game that pans out when two direct sides come into contact.

Denmark showed more desire to vary their play - having a performer like Christian Eriksen in the ranks means they have to do so - but there were two teams culpable for the lack of entertainment value for any neutrals tuning in from around Europe.

Age Hareide's men were also energised by long throw and set-piece opportunities, with the selection of Andreas Cornelius on the right side an indicator they had brawn in mind. Similar to Ireland, they also seemed extremely conscious of the risk of silly bookings and there was a shortage of crunching 50/50 challenges.

Even James McClean was checking himself on occasion.

Denmark's Christian Eriksen brings the ball under control. Photo: Reuters
Denmark's Christian Eriksen brings the ball under control. Photo: Reuters

It made for a dull spectacle, with a bumpy pitch adding another layer of difficulty and neutralising any attempts to string passes together.

Within minutes it was clear this tie would ultimately be decided in Dublin, as Denmark lacked the savvy to give themselves a commanding advantage.

Ireland were reluctant to commit bodies and properly seek an away goal and they seemed relatively content afterwards - and unapologetic about their methods.

"It doesn't matter how we get through as long as we get through," said Shane Duffy matter of factly.

Denmark’s Jens Stryger Larsen battles for the ball with Ireland’s Cyrus Christie. Photo: Reuters
Denmark’s Jens Stryger Larsen battles for the ball with Ireland’s Cyrus Christie. Photo: Reuters

And that was the bottom-line view expressed by any Ireland player who emerged to speak after the contest.

"I think it was a real bloody tough game," said his centre-half partner Ciaran Clark.

"But we managed to stay organised and focused. We're happy with that."

A third clean sheet on the trot for an unchanged Irish back four was one of the main positives and they retained a strong shape that will have to be maintained in the decider.

Darren Randolph still had a couple of vital saves to make; one arising from a diagonal ball that exposed surprise inclusion Callum O'Dowda and another from an Eriksen shot from distance that he parried away unconvincingly.

Denmark's Kasper Schmeichel and Ireland's James McClean shake hands after the game. Photo: Getty Images
Denmark's Kasper Schmeichel and Ireland's James McClean shake hands after the game. Photo: Getty Images

His late stop from sub Yussuf Poulsen arose from the one opportunity when a Danish cross into the area resulted in an effort on target.

Save for a first-half solo run and shot from Cyrus Christie that was pushed away to safety by Kasper Schmeichel, a montage of Irish attacking moments would revolve around the frisson of excitement when endeavour in the Danish half forced a throw-in.

However, that will all be irrelevant if the result goes the right way tomorrow. This was simply about staying alive.

"I think we wanted to stay in the tie coming over here," said Randolph.

"We didn't want the tie to be over after the first game. We're still in it and we're at home next.

"You can't go away and try and win the game in the first 10 minutes, or the first-half. I mean, you have to keep yourself in the tie and give yourself a chance, which is what we've got. We go back to Dublin on Tuesday and go again. It's win or bust."

Duffy said a first look at Denmark had given him confidence about Ireland's ability to successfully shut them out again, although the locals were adamant that a more positive Irish approach would leave space that the Scandinavians can exploit.

Of course, that is based on the premise that Ireland will actually go for it, which is up for debate. With one goal enough to progress to a World Cup, another cagey affair is an extremely plausible scenario.

And if it goes all the way, then Randolph will become a central figure.

Anyone for penalties?

"We'll deal with that if it comes," said the 30-year-old, who plans to do some homework.

"You will do. It's only normal. You look at it before a normal game, so you're going to do the same if there's a chance of it going to penalties.

"You'd be silly not to have a look or some sort of idea. That'll obviously be in our plans and preparation for Tuesday."

The Wicklow man even said he'd volunteer to take a penalty himself if it came to it.

That would bring a level of drama which would quickly consign Saturday to the dustbin of history.

Irish Independent

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