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Wednesday 19 December 2018

Hareide: 'Ireland's slide is a warning for us'

WARNING: Age Hareide. Pic: PA
WARNING: Age Hareide. Pic: PA

They have the Nations League group won with a game to spare, have the best defensive record in Europe this year and have lost a meaningful home game just once in the last four years.

Denmark are entitled, then, to feel smug as they welcome a battered and bruised Ireland side to Aarhus tonight, Danish boss Age Hareide intent on inflicting more misery on his old team-mate (and one-time landlord) Martin O'Neill as he has opted not to rest key man Christian Eriksen for the Nations League tie.

And Hareide has pointed to the slide into ignominy by Ireland, from the highs of their Euro 2016 showing to the current goal-free zone, as a warning to his own team of how they need to keep up their high standards.

"Football is sometimes very strange. Wales were in the semi-final of the European Championships in France a couple of years ago, Ireland were in the last quarter-finals and made it very, very hard for the World Cup winners France to beat them," said Hareide, being rather nice to Ireland as the side 'only' made the last 16, not the last eight, at the Euros.

"That is a good example for our side to keep our performances going because results change the minds of the players, so you have to be very, very careful at international level.

"You have only a few games and year and things can change very quickly and things can change for the worse or the better. That is why we have to keep our feet on the ground, keep working, keep getting results because they will judge us only after that.

"A side will grow with good results and a side will lose the balance with bad results. In the last two years, we haven't lost and we have only conceded two goals in open play in 2018, and it's due to the players because they work so hard."

Danish football is in a good place now, the side still basking in the glow of a decent showing at the World Cup finals and a blemish-free Nations League campaign.

It's not all perfect, though: the Danes had a difficult time after the World Cup with that dispute between the players and the FA over image rights and travel/hotel issues which saw the team boycott a friendly with Slovakia.

Also, tonight's game is not being played in Copenhagen as the Danish FA are in dispute with the stadium's owners over fees, and even with a small capacity (19,000), the place won't be full.

As of this morning the Danes had sold just 11,000 tickets (1,000 of them to Irish supporters). The queues in Aarhus yesterday were not at the stadium's box office for tickets but instead for the funfair beside the ground.

Odd, then, that they can't sell out a game to close off what's been a good 2018, even with the guaranteed presence of Eriksen in the side. Changes will be made by the Danes, Kasper Schmeichel and Thomas Delaney suspended, a boost for Ireland as Delaney was their best player in the 0-0 draw with Ireland last month.

"The group is finished we've done the job, we're top of the group, but we want to get better," added Hareide.

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