Sunday 24 February 2019

Hareide: One goal will get us to Russia

Danish boss annoyed over Meyler's 'lack of heart'jibe at Danes

Denmark coach Age Hareide watches training at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin last night. Photo: Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Denmark coach Age Hareide watches training at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin last night. Photo: Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Dublin in November was the stage for Denmark to secure the nation's first-ever qualification for the World Cup finals.

They've not yet booked their flights to Russia but the Danish camp have a very firm belief that the only man with an Irish surname to have an interest in the 2018 World Cup finals will be their craggy midfielder Thomas Delaney.

The rival managers, Age Hareide and Martin O'Neill, are old pals, a friendship dating back to the early '80s, but whatever conversations happen in private between the pair, you get the impression that Hareide would be very glad to see the back of O'Neill's Irish team, Irish football in general.

"It's always easier to stop people from playing than creating," he said at his pre-match press conference in Lansdowne Road last night, a venue Hareide first visited as a player with the Norway international team back in 1984.

"We know that even if they score first, one goal will get us there. It's a fantastic opportunity that we don't have to win to come to the World Cup and we have to take that."

There had been a genial side to Hareide in the lead into the play-off games. Speaking to this reporter at their team base outside Copenhagen last week, Hareide smiled as he looked back on his many trips to Ireland, as a player with Norway and Manchester City, and then as a (winning) coach with his clubs in European battles against Shelbourne and Bohemians.

His humour has dis-improved since the weekend, Hareide unimpressed with Ireland's negative approach, the mood not helped by an hour-long delay when they arrived in Dublin airport. And when comments from David Meyler, suggesting that Denmark's players lack the heart and desire which drives Ireland, were put to him, a hint of anger emerged.

"My thought is that he doesn't know the players. With a quote like that then he doesn't know players," Hareide said.

"When we started I didn't know the (Danish) players myself, but after this I know them and most of our players are spread out across Europe, with great experience, and they don't get that far if they don't have the heart and bravery to play.

"And that includes skill and experience of adapting to different cultures. I hope they show that tonight."

The challenge for his side is to counter Ireland, get some space for their attacking players (who looked poor in the first leg but can, they hope, step up) and get the goal, the one goal which Hareide feels will do the job.

"We have to expect the same here, we will come out try to create chances to win," he says, Hareide likely to make one change to his side, the ineffective (and injured) Nicolai Jorgensen tipped to drop to the bench and make way for Yussuf Poulsen.

"There are more players in our group used to playing two tight matches a week, including in the Champions League.

"Our players are used to that and it's also a case of mentality. If it goes into extra time, I think we have the squad of players to deal with it.

"We said after game in Copenhagen, the speed of our passing, we'll try to play the ball through the midfield lines. We will try for higher speed and less touches on the ball. I don't expect Ireland to go higher than they did in Copenhagen. They just want us to make a mistake.

"That's okay - but I haven't got the patience to play like that. We will just try to attack Ireland, score a goal and take it from there. We know that even if they score first, one goal will get us there.

"Martin will stick to that task and that way of playing. He is a good manager and he wants to win. So do I."

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