Sunday 19 January 2020

Ireland have nothing to fear from Denmark

Irish side should be positive and look to win the group

Josh Cullen and David McGoldrick (left) during a Republic of Ireland gym session ahead of tonight’s clash with Denmark.
Josh Cullen and David McGoldrick (left) during a Republic of Ireland gym session ahead of tonight’s clash with Denmark.

This game in Denmark tonight is all about belief, the management team trying to get it across to the Ireland players that they are good footballers, that they have no reason to be afraid of Denmark.

Yes, they have to be wary of the Danes. They can't afford to make mistakes but the squad also needs to go out with the confidence that they can win the match, or at least get a draw to take into the game on Monday.

And there's no reason why Ireland can't aim to win. Our away record isn't great but this isn't a game away to Germany or Spain. It's Denmark.

If Ireland are serious about qualifying, these are the games they should look to be winning - aim to win but with the last resort that they don't lose. Ireland will have opportunities in the game tonight and it's up to the players to take them.

Denmark are a good side. They are strong, well-organised and they will be hard to beat. But they will see Ireland as beatable and we should see them the same way.

The normal result between Ireland and Denmark is 0-0, that 5-1 is a bit of an unusual one. So Ireland should focus on the fact that in the four games, they have drawn 0-0 three times. Ireland have not been at their best in any of the matches and had an awful display in the 5-1 game.


This squad is better than that and under a new manager, with a new lease of life, they have nothing to fear going into this one.

People will talk about revenge but I see it as an opportunity for this squad. They have started the group well, with two wins and a decent performance against Georgia and they have to try and build on that, use the energy they showed in that game and look to win a game, not to be worried about losing every time you play.

Denmark are a good side but Christian Eriksen won't be at his sharpest. With the Champions League defeat and a possible move on the cards, he has a lot on his mind so the Irish side should go out with no fear and play with more freedom than they have shown against Denmark previously.

I think we talked Denmark up way too much over the last two years. In the play-off games, we were in a situation where we were so fearful of not qualifying that we forgot to work on what we were good at. We focused too much on them and it cost us. Eriksen is a class player and if you give him time and space he will hurt you but he's not lightning quick, he's not massively skilful.

So if Ireland play with a higher tempo and limit his space and chances, he won't have the time on the ball to influence the game as he did before.

He is a good player but the rest are nothing to be afraid of. I said when the group was drawn that this was a group Ireland should aim to win. No disrespect to Denmark or Switzerland but they are not amazing, they are just strong, hard-working teams that can be beaten, if you know how.

We have a manager who will demand 100 per cent from the players. It's up to them to put the work in - and if they do that, the reward will be there. I think the players know that.

It's important to send the players out with a bit of belief and confidence.

That's the only way you should approach it. You only have the players for a short period of time and those players have come off two years of bad press and bad vibes.

If Mick can turn that around where everything is positive in the background, the players will go out on the pitch with that mindset. It really helps the players to know they have the trust of their manager and have a bit more freedom to express themselves.

You need to have a plan and tactics but sometimes players need to make their own decisions as a game develops. They need to have the faith that, if they do make a decision, the manager will back them. They are being told they are good players and we have a couple who have been promoted to the Premier League so it's time for them all to stand up and show what they can do.

After the win over Georgia, I felt that people had a bit more belief in the side. They saw there was talent and a work ethic, and that it could lead to another period of success.

One thing about Mick McCarthy is his loyalty. If you do what he asks and do it well, he will reward that.

So he will probably stick with the same starting XI that beat Georgia.

Mick will think 'why change it?' as it worked at home to Georgia and that's a positive sign.

If you play well and the manager sticks with you, that loyalty breeds confidence around the squad, instead of someone thinking, there is no point in me playing out of my skin when I'll be dropped for the next game when such a player is back.

The players need to feel that they will be rewarded and Mick is doing that.

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