Denmark prepare for ‘our biggest match since last year’s World Cup’
Swiss manager says the group is very competitive, and one mistake can make the difference
Denmark coach Age Hareide: “We haven’t lost in Copenhagen for three years, and I know we are capable of beating Switzerland.” Photograph: Getty Images
As much as the Norwegian on Friday tried to downplay the significance of the three points, their failure to beat Georgia last month shortens the period of recovery to three remaining qualifiers.
Two of those are against their main rivals for the pair of direct tickets to next year’s European Championship finals. They conclude with a double-header next month, the home banker against Gibraltar followed by a trip to face familiar foes Ireland on November 18th.
Somewhere along the route, be it on Saturday in Copenhagen or Tuesday’s meeting of Switzerland and the Republic of Ireland in Geneva, one of the three contenders will break away. Only Denmark have some catching up to do.
Presuming bottom seeds Gibraltar are taken care of, they still need to win one of the matches against Switzerland or Ireland to avoid relying on the Uefa Nations League to qualify.
There’s a sense Hareide, given his success in Dublin over the past two years, particularly the 5-1 World Cup play-off triumph, wouldn’t be too vexed at having to prevail in the final game. However, they can ease the anxiety levels by making home advantage count.
“This is our biggest match since last year’s World Cup,” claimed Hareide, whose team battled back from 3-0 down to earn a draw in the reverse fixture in March.
“We haven’t lost in Copenhagen for three years, and I know we are capable of beating Switzerland. There are still many games left between the nations in the group to pick up or drop points. We can live with a draw if it happens.”
Switzerland, like Ireland and Denmark, are unbeaten, yet have still half of the campaign to play. Were it not for late concessions against both, the pool’s top seeds would by now have taken a stranglehold at the summit.
They remain without Xherdan Shaqiri, this time due to injury rather than the voluntary absence for last month’s qualifiers. Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel branded the Liverpool attacker as “childish” for making himself unavailable.
“This group is very competitive between Denmark, Ireland and us,” said Swiss coach Vladimir Petkovic. “One mistake can make the difference. We played well for 80 minutes against Denmark in the last meeting before switching off. That cannot happen again.
“Our objective is to retain possession rather than sit back. Otherwise, we’ll invite Denmark on to us, just like Ireland did in June. As we know they got a late equaliser.”
Veteran Stephan Lichtsteiner is in contention for a starting place after Petkovic surprisingly granted his former captain a recall at the age of 36.
DENMARK: K Schmeichel; H Dalsgaard, S Kjaer, A Christensen, J Stryger-Larsen; P Hoejbjerg, T Delaney; Y Poulsen, C Eriksen, K Dolberg; M Braithwaite.
SWITZERLAND: Y Sommer; N Elvedi, P Schar, M Akanji; G Xhaka; S Lichtsteiner, D Zakaria, R Freuler, R Rodriguez; B Embolo, H Seferovic.
Referee: Aleksei Kulbakov (BLR).