Weblog: The football punter
Dynamic Denmark look good things in Dublin
Eleven months after romping to a 5-1 win in Dublin in a World Cup playoff Age Hareide’s side are back for a Nations League B Group Four square-off.
Christian Eriksen, the hat-trick hero of that five-star performance last autumn, is out injured and that is unquestionably a blow for the Danes.
But they’ve got more than enough class in their ranks, boast form figures to be seriously proud of and look to be taking on an Ireland team who don’t appear to be at ease with themselves.
Ireland were simply awful at Wales in their Nations League opener last month, crashing 4-1 in Cardiff on a night to forget.
Martin O’Neill immediately made tweaks for the subsequent friendly in Poland and was rewarded with a 1-1 scoreline.
They weren’t particularly great in Wroclaw but O’Neill’s 3-5-2 formation did at least plug alarming holes in both defence and central midfield and presumably that’s a formation which will be replicated against Denmark.
But confidence has to be through the floor at the end of a year which has just yielded a solitary win.
Much will be made of Eriksen’s absence but Ireland also have to do without their skipper Seamus Coleman and the fear is that James McClean may be shoehorned into the left wing-back role where he won’t be seen in his best light.
That’s not satisfactory and Ireland followers are running out of patience with the likes of Jeff Hendrick and Shane Long, a man without a goal this season and an international goal in two years.
Denmark were enjoying an excellent 2018 until post-World Cup when an image rights dispute prompted strike action. Hence their only defeat in ten was against Slovakia, who beat a side of C-teamers picked by John Jenson.
The dispute was resolved, a few days later, Hareide was in charge against Wales, the first team was recalled and they delivered a hands-and-heels 2-0 success.
Eriksen scored both goals and the Spurs forward is going to be a hard man to replace, although Ajax’s Kasper Dolberg, a player refusing to realise his potential, has bagged three in his last four for his club and could step in.
This is a Denmark side who were unbeaten in 90 minutes at the World Cup (albeit going no further than the last 16) despite facing both finalists.
Denmark boast the better squad and should have enough. The worry is a lack of goals.
Their four World Cup warm-up games produced just five goals, their four games in the finals just three. Throw in the absence of Eriksen and they become that little bit blunter again.
Defensively, though, a unit marshalled by Simon Kjaer and Mathias Jorgensen (Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen struggles to get a look-in) is rock solid and if one goal does win it, Denmark are far the likelier to get it.