Weblog: The football punter

Ireland look set for a nerve-jangling night

World Cup playoff second leg
Sky Sports Football, 7.45pm Tuesday

Ireland showed nerves of steel in their final World Cup qualifying group games and their mental toughness could be tested to the full in their World Cup playoff second leg against Denmark, which could go to extra-time and penalties.

Clear-cut chances were a rarity in Saturday's goalless first leg in Copenhagen, which was dominated by the Danes for long spells.

The home side had 72 per cent of the possession but often played into Ireland's hands by failing to use the full width of the pitch.

Centre-forwards Andreas Cornelius and Nicolai Jorgensen had a tough time against rock-solid centre-backs Shane Duffy and Ciaran Clark and Ireland looked satisfied with the outcome.

However, Martin O'Neill's side did little in an attacking sense and they might regret their failure to push harder for a precious away goal.

Ireland's fans might expect their team to be more ambitious at the Aviva Stadium but O'Neill knows the result is all-important and he won't be concerned about getting marks for artistic impression.

Keeping another clean sheet will be one of his top priorities and that could mean a repeat of the rigid shape and safety-first football seen in Denmark.

The main difference this time could be the attitude of Danish manager Age Hareide, who will be less inclined to take risks.

Hareide's team are likely to enjoy the lion's share of possession and they might have a better balance about them if Leipzig attacker Yussuf Poulsen is used from the start.

Poulsen was lively after coming off the bench in Copenhagen and his pace and movement may ask more questions of the Irish back four than Cornelius's physicality did in the first leg.

Selecting a more mobile attack could also help Christian Eriksen, who had a below-par first leg.

The Spurs man saw plenty of the ball but was frequently thwarted by the lack of movement ahead of him.

Eriksen has sometimes found it easier to find space in away games where he attracts less attention from the opposition.

He has scored on each of Denmark's last three road trips and is an 8-1 chance to net the opener in Dublin.

Ireland are sure to have a plan to shackle Eriksen but by focusing so much on the defensive side they may struggle to make an impact up front.

During the group stage, Ireland would often make the difference with a well-worked set-piece but those tactics might not gain much traction against a physically strong Danish rearguard.

It could be another case of the teams cancelling each other out, leading to a lengthy, nerve-jangling night for everyone involved.

No goalscorer

1pt 11-2 Betway

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Match in Focus

13:00 TODAY BBC1

Colombia v Japan

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Discounting 2002 when they had home advantage, Japan have played 13 matches at the World Cup finals and won just twice
Expert verdict
There has been chaos in the Japanese ranks with a late change of manager not helping their World Cup plans and they don't look ready to take on classy Colombia. The South Americans were quarter-finalists four years ago and anything like that kind of form should be too hot for Japan.