'Hard-working' Irish are hard to break down, says Denmark boss Hareide
Some international managers are very hard to like.
The self-indulgent sneer which Louis van Gaal brought to Dublin with his (losing) Holland side in 2001 was adopted by the equally arrogant Dick Advocaat in his time with Russia and Holland. And Raymond Domenech was not a man you’d invite to a dinner party.
Age Hareide? The Norwegian-born coach of the Danish national side is made of different stuff, affable and approachable, happy to speak at length to the only Irish media representative at a press briefing at the Danish team’s HQ in Helsingor, better known as the setting for Hamlet.
“I always enjoyed going to Ireland, I was there many times, as a player with the national team and Man City, and I was there with my clubs so I know Dublin and know the Irish, they are good footballing people,” says Hareide, who in a previous life orchestrated wins in European competition against Shelbourne and Bohemians.
“When I played for Norway against Ireland in the '80s you had a fantastic side: Lawrenson, Brady, Stapleton, really fantastic footballers and to me, your players were brought up where football was like ‘tea and toast’ for them, it was an everyday thing, that makes them stronger.
“They believe in themselves, they always had a fighting spirit, when I played Ireland they were always a battle, but with a good sense of humour, it’s in your blood, to play football and be very proud to play for the country. I like that, it’s part of football.”
It almost sounds as if he’d like Ireland to win this play-off but the Norway native, who like Martin O’Neill is contracted to the national team until 2020 come what may, is serious about the task of lifting spirits.
“It has been ‘down’ here for a few years, you know? The Danes are a very emotional people, they are proud of their national team, when we do well. For a few years it was a bit down but the public believe in the side again, we had full houses against Romania and Poland and we will have a full house tomorrow,” says Hareide, almost certain to leave Nicklas Bendtner on the bench and start Nicolai Jorgensen up front. Denmark are also likely to start Brentford’s Andreas Bjelland in defence.
“I have watched the videos of Ireland many times, I have seen the Wales game and I also saw them against France at the Euros last year, France had problems breaking them down,” he added.
“That is the strongest point Ireland have, they are well-organised defensively and work hard together. Your discipline is excellent, we have to work on our own game, take the match to them.”