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Saturday 18 November 2017

Another display like that and road to Russia will end at Aviva

Ireland's Harry Arter challenges Denmark's Yussuf Poulsen during their World Cup play-off first leg at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen
Ireland's Harry Arter challenges Denmark's Yussuf Poulsen during their World Cup play-off first leg at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen

In Copenhagen on Saturday night, Ireland's players - especially Robbie Brady - seemed as if they were more afraid of losing the game than they were hungry to win it.

And to get past Denmark tomorrow night, and get to the World Cup finals, this team needs to lose the fear factor that we seem to have and take a different approach to the game.

If Ireland sit back again, we will cause our own problems and maybe lose the game, if we are on the front foot and have a go, and it doesn't work out, at least we can say we gave it a go in the second leg.

I was doing some TV work for the game and had to analyse the highlights, which wasn't that easy because of the sort of game it was, it wasn't a game to live in the memory. It was a case of job done for Martin O'Neill but we need something different in Dublin tomorrow to overcome Denmark.

Improve

After half an hour you usually have a good sense of what your opposition is like and you could tell Denmark weren't up to much, if Ireland had had a go at them the Danes would have crumbled at some stage.

It was a relatively good result but the performance wasn't so good and to qualify, we will have to improve a lot.

I heard Harry Arter saying that if Ireland were offered this opportunity, knowing they'll get to the World Cup if they beat Denmark at home, they'd have bitten your hand off and it was a job done, in an ugly way, but we need to park the first leg and look to tomorrow. And if we play the same way again, we will be very close to going out.

It's like the Wales game, if you let Wales play they will beat you but if you press them, you can pressure them into the mistake which won us the game in Cardiff, and Denmark aren't as good as Wales.

If we'd had a go at them, it would have created more space for them to attack and you could have ended up with a score draw, which clearly would have been better for Ireland and left us in the driving seat.

But Denmark are not a side to be feared, apart from Christian Eriksen, who flits in and out of the game, they don't have a lot of technical ability in the team, the main route to goal for them was our biggest strength as they pumped balls up and Shane Duffy and Ciaran Clark dealt with them.

We showed them too much respect and should have tested them more, we should have used our wingers. The two wide players with Ireland played too deep, all the time. You talk about defenders playing the long ball, that's fine but the the defenders need to take responsibility for defending and push the midfield and forwards forward to give us a chance of winning the second balls.

I would go with the same starting XI, even though David Meyler is available and he has done well, but I'd play Shane Long. I don't think their centre halves are mobile enough to cope with Shane, they are big strong lads and it would be hard for Daryl Murphy to win many headers against them but I could see Shane stretching them.

I would go with the same midfield. They have a shape about them but the midfield need to play further up the field. If do you play McClean and O'Dowda they have to get on the attack more, instead of them sitting in as extra defenders, really.

Strengths

But Shane Long in the team would give some real added energy and if he can get their centre-halves facing their own goal he can get their centre halves with their backs to goal, that invites our midfield forward, Shane can help make that happen and for all the attributes that Daryl Murphy has, running in behind centre halves is not one of his strengths, so this game tomorrow is made for Shane.

The same team, with Shane in from the start, can press Denmark higher than the team did on Saturday. In the first game we were letting their centre half, Simon Kjaer, walk out of defence and pick his passes, and he is a good passer of the ball, but he shouldn't be allowed to pick out his passes like that, he should have someone stopping him.

We don't need a magical No. 10, unless we pick someone and play him further up the field, which won't happen. Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady are both good passers of the ball, it's giving them the opportunity, they can pass the ball, the two wide players can do it, when we get into Denmark's half we have to pass the ball and if we can get more players into the box there's no issue with creativity, it's about forcing mistakes.

The defenders in the Irish side have to be more commanding, push the other players forward, otherwise it's a waste of time and possession, it's about you as a defender being braver. You say to yourself, I am going to clear this ball but it's up to that midfielder to go and do his job.

And there is more to come from Robbie Brady. It's the same scenario with Jeff Hendrick, they are good, creative players but if you are asking them to sit back and shield our back four, constantly, then they are never going to get up into positions to have a go, have that bit to freedom to make things happen.

The two lads have lots of energy but for them to play, they have to be 10-15 yards further up the field. I know they are doing the job the manager wants them to do but you need to be hungry to win, like in the Italy game at the Euros.

We need the same again tomorrow night.

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