Republic of Ireland vs Denmark - World Cup Play-Off Preview
13th Nov 2017
Will Martin O’Neill’s side book a place at next summer’s World Cup? Or will Denmark break Irish hearts at the Aviva Stadium?
Arguably, the Republic of Ireland have done the hard bit. Just about. Darren Randolph was named man of the match in the goalless first leg for good reason.
The Middlesbrough goalkeeper made four crucial saves to prevent Denmark from taking a first half lead, including an impressive double stop to keep out a stinging shot from Jens Stryger Larsen and Andreas Cornelius’ follow-up.
Another huge moment occurred not long after. Randolph managed to push out a long range effort from Christian Eriksen; the ball then fell to Pione Sisto who could only side-foot wide from just outside the six-yard box. Randolph was beaten, but thankfully so was the far post.
Ireland managed only two shots on target. That perhaps doesn’t indicate just how close the visitors came to nicking a 1-0 win. In the second half, Cyrus Christie used his pace to burst past Stryger Larsen inside the box, but Kasper Schmeichel was out quickly to block his shot. If Christie had gotten his head up, he would have seen James McClean making a late run on the far side. It was so nearly Wales all over again.
If Denmark grab an early goal, however, things could get difficult for the hosts.
Moments like this are often where qualifiers are won and lost, and the Republic will know they must be more clinical on Tuesday night. Defending isn’t a problem: Ireland have conceded just one goal across their last five meetings with Denmark, and they could keep a clean sheet in four successive internationals for the first time since November 2001.
If Denmark grab an early goal, however, things could get difficult for the hosts. The Danes will then be able concentrate on sitting back and soaking up Ireland’s pressure, knowing even a score draw will see them through on away goals.
The visitors are unbeaten in their last five away games, winning three and drawing two. In fact, they haven’t lost a single international this calendar year, last losing against Montenegro in October 2016. Denmark have won four and drawn four of their eight matches in 2017, conceding just four goals along the way. Ireland will have to push hard to break their opponents down, which could leave them exposed at the back.
Three of the last five encounters between the nations have been draws. Another 0-0 will result in extra-time and penalties, which is when the mentalities of either side will come under scrutiny. The Republic will be desperate to win the tie before the end of the 90 minutes.
Predicted Starting XI
David Meyler returns from suspension and will almost certainly replace Callum O’Dowda in the midfield of an otherwise unchanged line-up.