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Saturday 26 May 2018

Danish boss Hareide hails Ireland's 'fighting spirit'

Denmark manager Age Hareide
Denmark manager Age Hareide

Denmark's players have to pass a statue of Hamlet when they leave their team hotel to get to their training ground in Helsingor, a short drive north of Copenhagen, and a town better-known to the luvvies as Elsinore, home of that Prince of Denmark.

There's certainly been enough drama in their football world in the last few years: flops on the international stage, a huge controversy involving the women's national team only last month, poor crowds for the early home World Cup qualifiers.

Something was broken in their football and they are trying to fix it, a fancy new slogan (Part Of Something Bigger) adopted as the motto of the national team and the people behind them.

Some of their moves are very 'Danish'. When the squad went to the cinema earlier this week on a team-building exercise, they didn't go to see Look Who's Oinking in the local EnormoPlex: instead they watched a home-produced art-house flick, part-financed by Denmark player Simon Kjaer.

Their players speak about going to games or training on bicycles. The squad go into schools to hand out books in literacy programmes. Their openness to the media, including this reporter, the sole foreign interloper at yesterday's press briefing, is a world away from the ring of steel that surrounds the Ireland team.

Despite the complete lack of bouncers, security men and hired goons in high-vis jackets at their hotel yesterday, the Danish squad survived the day, free from terrorist attack.

Denmark boss Age Hareide is more than happy to speak to The Herald, having been reminded that his previous visit to Ireland, in charge of Brondby (against Shelbourne) and Rosenborg (Bohemians) ended in victory, while he recalls successful battles with the Republic as a player,

"When I played for Norway against Ireland in the '80s you had a fantastic side: Lawrenson, Brady, Stapleton, really fantastic footballers and to me, your players were brought up where football was like 'tea and toast' for them, it was just everyday, that makes them stronger, they believe in themselves," he says.

Pione Sisto has been mention by Denmark manager Age Hareide as one to watch tomorrow night.
Pione Sisto has been mention by Denmark manager Age Hareide as one to watch tomorrow night.

"They always had a fighting spirit, when I played Ireland there was always a battle, but with a good sense of humour, it's in your blood, to play football and be very proud to play for the country. I like that, it's part of football, and you know the national team means a lot to them."

But it means a lot to the Danes too, this World Cup. "It has been 'down' here for a few years, you know? The Danes are a very emotional people, they are proud of their national team, when we do well," he says.

"For a few years it was a bit down but they believe in the side again, we had full houses against Romania and Poland and we will have a full house tomorrow, hopefully it's a good game."

Hareide predicts a physical battle, having done his homework on Ireland.

But he also feels that his side can cause problems, especially if the Republic put all their focus on Christian Eriksen.

"We have players all over Europe, Pione Sisto has done well for Celta Vigo, is the top player for assists in the Spanish league which is a big league," he said.

"We have Nicolai Jorgensen who was the top goalscorer in Holland last year, Andreas Cornelius plays in Italy, Thomas Delaney in the German league and doing well for his club even though they (Werder Bremen) are not doing so well," he reveals. "So we might surprise the Irish with a few lads other than Erisken, they are young, enthusiastic and they work hard, if you look at the statistics in qualification we were the sixth-best team for chances created.

"So we know we can produce chances, even against Ireland who are very good defensively, we will see if it's good enough on the day.

"I know that Ireland will be difficult to break down, they are a side that many nations try to break down and it's not easy."

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