herald

Friday 23 February 2018

Injured Dalsgaard hopes Danish fans find their voice and drown out Irish guests

Denmark’s Henrik Dalsgaard (l) holds off Montenegro’s Luka Djordjevic during their World Cup Group E match in Podgorica last month.
Denmark’s Henrik Dalsgaard (l) holds off Montenegro’s Luka Djordjevic during their World Cup Group E match in Podgorica last month.

For Irish fans, a battle has been raging in the 22 days since the draw was made for the World Cup play-offs - putting into their hands those hard-to-get tickets for the first leg in Copenhagen.

Over in Denmark, however, they are facing a different kind of task: how to keep those boisterous away supporters quiet and make sure that the Danish side know they are at home when they play on their own patch.

The Danes are the second-happiest people on the planet (only Norway has more reasons to be cheerful; Ireland are 19th) and the Irish team will not exactly be expecting 'Welcome to Hell' signs next Saturday night.

They like our music - Johnny Logan is playing in Denmark on Friday and Saturday night and, as usual, he will pack out any venue he plays in - and they like our beer.

They like the Irish, in general. Could they like us just a bit too much, when it comes to football, and let the voices of the green army fill the air around the Parken Stadium on Saturday night, like Johnny Logan taking over some town hall?

It's something they are already aware of. "Hopefully we can match the Irish support, in both games," Brentford's Danish full-back Henrik Dalsgaard told The Herald.

"In our last couple of home games, Copenhagen had a really good, loud crowd, maybe Irish fans are a bit more wild but I hope the Danish supporters 'give up their manners' if you know what I mean, put a bit more fury into the game and make Ireland feel not at home.

"Hopefully we can get some young guys in to support us, not with too many beers on board but with a good bit of spirit, we need them a bit crazy on the night to give us a good start to the game at home, and then give us something to take to Dublin.

"I would have preferred to have Sweden in the draw, they are quite like us in mentality and football style so that game would have been interesting, maybe more open than this match with Ireland will be.

"The two matches with Ireland will be tough but in games like this, a play-off over two matches, it will be very difficult for both teams no matter what."

Whatever Denmark take to Dublin for the second leg, Dalsgaard won't be part of it. The 28-year-old played in five of the 10 group games for the Danes but he suffered an injury last week and is out of their squad.

It's a pity for the defender as he was relishing a clash with Irish players, having done battle (and won) with Irish opponents when Brentford played Reading in the Championship two weeks ago.

Yet his absence only strengthens his desire for Denmark to get past Ireland and get to the World Cup finals.

"It would mean a lot to us to get to Russia. We are desperate to do it, we look at ourselves and see ourselves as a nation who should be at the World Cup," says Dalsgaard, one of five Danish players at Brentford, those boys club-mates of Irish players Alan Judge and John Egan.

"We showed by beating Poland that we can do it and if only we had started the campaign a bit better we could have gone straight to Russia and avoided the play-offs. Hopefully these games with Ireland will show that we are going in the right direction and we can get to Russia.

"We have a young squad, we have been together for a few years now but hopefully this is the time for us to take the nation a step further and go to the World Cup. I think we deserve it, we played very well in qualification, especially toward the end, I think we 'found our game'.

"Hopefully we can keep building on that and it will be enough to get to the World Cup.

"Beating Poland 4-0 was pretty special and I'd say that was a career highlight for me, especially as it was such a big game for us, if we had lost to Poland it would have been over for us."

Dalsgaard has only been in England since last summer, having moved from Belgian side Waragem and joined the five-strong Danish contingent at Brentford, but he knows the mindset of the Irish players while also noting the undoubted class that the Danes have inn Christian Eriksen.

And he's not fooled by the lack of star names in Martin O'Neill's panel. "I look at Ireland not as individuals but as a team, a strong team that wants to work together. I see that with us too but we have Eriksen who gives us that little bit extra. Don't underestimate a good team with a lot of hard-working players," he says.

"But when you need that bit of extra spark in the game, it may come from Christian Eriksen. If it's 0-0 in the match after 80 minutes and we have to find something, maybe Christian can make that free kick or bit of magic.

"I think he has scored in his last six games for us so he is definitely developing into a very, very important player for us but all our focus is not just on him, hopefully we have other players who can have more space if Ireland are watching Christian too closely."

 

Dalsgaard's advice to travelling Irish fans...

"I come from the other side of the country so I don't know Copenhagen too well but I would tell the Irish fans to go down by the harbour. You can get really good food down there.

"Torverhellen, it's two big halls where you can get all types of food, when I am in Copenhagen with my wife we like to go there.

"The Irish fans should try local beer and local food, like Biksemad."

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