Åge Hareide: Denmark will take the game to Ireland again

‘They just want us to make a mistake. I haven’t got the patience to play like that’

The end game is rapidly approaching for Ireland and Denmark, and on Tuesday night a World Cup qualification campaign which began 14 months ago is set to reach a booming crescendo at the Aviva Stadium.

For both sides the task is pretty straightforward. In order to book their place in Russia next summer Ireland need to outscore the Danes, whereas the visitors only need to match their hosts in order to qualify on the away goals rule.

A repeat of Saturday night’s laborious goalless draw - in which the Denmark huffed and puffed but failed to blow the Irish door down - is the only result which could take the game to extra time, and bring penalties into play.

Denmark dominated possession and territory for the majority of the first leg draw in Copenhagen but ultimately had nothing to show for their efforts - and their manager Åge Hareide is looking for his side to increase the tempo in Dublin, in order to finally breach the Irish defence.


“They [IRELAND]are very good at defending, they keep the team very, very tight,” he said. “They don’t increase the space - they make it as narrow as possible. They’re good at that, and that’s part of the game.

“All credit to Ireland for that, but when we have ball possession close to 70 per cent. That’s our game, we have to work on that and take the game to Ireland, and try to get it through on the flanks or through the centre.

“There are different passes and different angles we can set up, get more people in front of the ball and that will make us more dangerous. We had the opportunities to score in Copenhagen and I’m sure we will have them again.”

But while Hareide is looking for his side to play with greater zest he can’t envisage a change in tactics from Ireland and Martin O’Neill - whose hopes would likely be shattered by conceding the first goal.

“They play better away from home and score more goals away from home. I saw the game they played with Serbia, they lost 1-0. They drew against Wales 0-0 (at home), they won away to Wales 1-0, and they drew 2-2 in Serbia.

“They were the key matches in qualification, and I think they will play the same way. I don’t expect them to go higher than they did in Copenhagen. They just want us to make a mistake. That’s okay. I haven’t got the patience to play like that.”


One player who struggled to assert his influence in Copenhagen was Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen - but Hareide has sympathy for his star man, who found space hard to come by as Ireland sat deep and packed the midfield.

He said: “It’s always easier to stop people from playing than creating. That is why these creative players are more and more important in football, to create space and take on people. . .

“But it can be more difficult if teams lock it down. That’s natural, there’s nothing wrong with that. But we have to try and find space and get Christian on the ball.”

Hareide has reported a clean bill of health ahead of Tuesday's return leg and is expected to name a largely unchanged side, with Yussuf Poulsen in line to start ahead of either Nicolai Jorgensen or Andreas Cornelius.

And while he will be sending his side out to attack at the Aviva - he insists there has been no extra work on penalties during Danish practice - the 64-year-old is well aware that a single goal might be more than sufficient to send his side to the World Cup.

He said: “It will be more difficult to get back in the game if Ireland score first, they are good at defending and it will probably make them more eager to defend so that is difficult.

“But we know that even if they score first, one goal will get us there. It’s a fantastic opportunity that we don’t have to win to come to the World Cup and we have to take that.”

Hareide played alongside O’Neill at Norwich City - but is he surprised that the Ireland manager’s current tactics differ to the more expressive style he adopted as a player?

“I think with Martin, he finds a way,” he said. “I know Martin as an attacking outside right at Nottingham Forest and centre midfield when I played with him. He wanted to see a lot of the ball and play all the time.

“These games also have their own lives and Martin experienced good qualification last time in the European Championship. They played in France and did well. He will stick to that task and that way of playing.

“He is a good manager and he wants to win. So do I.”

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden is a former sports journalist with The Irish Times