O'Neill: Ireland need to score twice to beat Denmark
Manager says side will have to overcome the problem that they lack a natural goalscorer
Ireland manager Martin O’Neill and assistant manager Roy Keane at the team’s training grounds. O’Neill said Denmark have the players to exploit space. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Martin O’Neill says his team will “try to be better” against Denmark this evening but the Ireland manager believes the hosts will have to score twice in the playoff second leg if they are to progress, something they have done just once in Dublin over the course of the current campaign.
O’Neill appears to accept his side will have to be more positive this time but he expects the shift in emphasis will come at a cost with Denmark far more likely to score themselves.
The hosts are handicapped, he says, by the lack of a natural goalscorer but it is a problem that, he says, they will simply have to overcome.
“Some of the games, we might have scored more goals in,” he acknowledges when asked about the fact that his players have managed just four goals between them at the Aviva over the course of this campaign, two of them against Moldova, “but we’re not prolific”.
“We have talent in our side but it would be lovely to have a prolific goalscorer that you can turn to. If you don’t have that you have to find other ways, and that’s what we’ve had to do. We’ve been trying to find ways to win matches for a couple of years without possessing that goalscorer. These players have been able to do that in the last couple of years. We have to find that one more time.
“I think the onus is always on the home team to try and break the other side down and score some goals and that will be the same for us tomorrow night. I think there might be a bit more room for both teams, though. The players will be trying to find some space, but hopefully we have learned one or two things from the other night.
The problem, he suggests, is that the Danes will not have been dispirited in the least by having been kept scoreless in the first leg and will look to capitalise on what he expects will be the more open nature of this game.
“Their manager said beforehand that if they came out with a 0-0, he wouldn’t be concerned about going away from home,” says O’Neill in reference to comments by his old friend Age Hareide.
“And I think you only have to look at the way Northern Ireland tried last night in the game, they never felt it was beyond them, they had some scary moments but they tried to take it to the Swiss and I think Denmark will feel they are capable of doing that.
“The Danes have the players to exploit space so we’ve got to try and open the Danes up but be very careful on the counter. We will try to be that bit more expansive if we can,” he continues, “and deal within the ball a wee bit better but we have to find the net tomorrow night and maybe a couple of times. I think we have to score a couple of goals. We will create some chances but we have to take them.”
Fractionally stronger position
Two years ago, Ireland did just that with the team coming into the home game against Bosnia and Herzegovina in only a fractionally stronger position then winning well. O’Neill believes that those who were involved then can draw on that experience, while the rest can aim to make a little “history of their own”.
“It would be lovely if they can,” he says. “But we are still a long way away from it.”
Potentially 180 minutes plus penalties, an eventuality he and the players were preparing for yesterday, although he does not sound remotely as though he believes things will reach that stage.
“I think you try to cover all eventualities [by practising penalties] but it only needs a second to score a goal. The minute that the goal is scored that eradicates a lot of things. It eradicates extra time and it eradicates penalty kicks so we’ll want to try to score a goal. But we may need a couple of goals because keeping out Denmark for two games will be tough.”