Familiarity certainly seems to breed contempt when it comes to Republic of Ireland fixtures against Denmark, yet the fact that these sides will meet for a sixth time in two years makes it no easier to predict the outcome.
Aside from the humiliating 5-1 defeat by the Danes at the Aviva in November 2017, which caused Ireland to miss out on a place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the two sides have played out four draws, three of which have been scoreless and, at times, soulless affairs.
The most recent fixture was a feisty encounter in June, and Monday's return clash will certainly bring the most noise, since the early stages of the aforementioned Dublin disaster when the Lansdowne Road arena was rocking following Ireland’s early goal.
The rest, etc, etc…
Manager Mick McCarthy, however, would not dwell on that particular occasion as he sat down for Sunday’s pre-match press conference at the FAI headquarters in Abbotstown.
Not quite performing a Pontius Pilate on the matter, seeing as he was not manager on that particular outing, McCarthy is well aware that several squad members are probably still hurting from that occasion – but rather, he opted to accentuate the positives from the more recent meeting in June.
On that occasion, the first half was an evenly matched encounter as both sides attacked and enjoyed chances, before Denmark took control of affairs leading up to their 76th-minute goal from Pierre-Emile Hoejbjerg.
Disaster for Ireland as Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's glancing header beats Randolph #denirl #rtesoccerhttps://t.co/xyydabdL7Y pic.twitter.com/jAKDR7GrFP— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) June 7, 2019
Not to be outdone, Alan Judge had come on for Ireland and proved instrumental and influential, as he sent in the perfect delivery for Shane Duffy to head home with five minutes, and added time, remaining.
McCarthy’s side actually went after the victory in those final exchanges with the home side rocked from the big defender’s late goal, and the manager has been busy reminding the press and, no doubt, the players of how a victory is not beyond their capabilities.
"We drew in Denmark and played well in Denmark, and actually could have won it in the end, so I would prefer to talk about that and the positive side of things rather than remind people of the negative," said McCarthy.
"I can’t imagine in your life that if someone keeps bringing up the negative stuff that you have done helps you be any better than you can be.
"I just think that there's always a big performance in us that can win a game.
"If I don’t believe it I might as well go home, and I’m not going home anytime soon."
So it is clear that McCarthy believes, but the Ireland manager might struggle to back up that confidence, based on his side’s recent performances?
The games in Georgia and Switzerland suggest that his team are becoming increasing predictable and falling back into the old habits of the previous regime, unable to create clear-cut chances, while giving the ball away far too easily.
The away performances in Tbilisi and Geneva last month disappointed, with the manager happy to admit that his side needed to keep possession a lot better.
Tactics, team selection and an under-par performance could certainly be cited for some of the reasons behind the stalemate in Georgia, while Ireland perhaps, just came up against a better team, performing close to their potential, during that 2-0 defeat to Switzerland.
Hindsight, of course, will tell us that the away point in Georgia has now become quite important, otherwise, tonight’s game would be a dead rubber as Ireland would sit four points off Denmark and three off the Swiss who face Gibraltar in their last game.
And Georgia’s recent performance in St Gallen showed, once again, that maybe the last two managers have been unfairly criticised for the performances and points dropped against the eastern European side.
McCarthy really does need to go back to Copenhagen last summer to draw on an overall performance to be proud of.
Granted, Denmark’s profligacy in front of goal kept Ireland in the game in the second half, but McCarthy sent his men out from the first whistle to play on the front foot and perhaps they earned their own luck in that one.
Even the home game against Swiss, which did yield another vital point, would have to be put down as a poor overall performance, as the visitors came and dominated play and possession from the opening stages right up to the point where David McGoldrick rose highest to help the ball home.
There has been little else for McCarthy to use as a motivational tool other than the home match against Georgia way back in March and, of course, the re-emergence of McGoldrick, who was brought back in from the international wilderness by the returning manager.
'Didzy' was the stand-out Ireland player in that home game against Georgia, while the Sheffield United striker also led the line well in Copenhagen, holding the ball up and running the channels all night.
Every campaign appears to throw out a talismanic figure, and McGoldrick is the best that Ireland have produced in this qualifying process, while not yet comparable to Jonathan Walters or James McClean in recent campaigns.
It is no coincidence that McGoldrick missed the double-header in Georgia and Switzerland that yielded just a point, and his return to fitness certainly gives Ireland a fighting chance to snatch the vital victory.
But for that to materialise, there really needs to be a very strong supporting cast against the perceived superior opposition.
Other key players throughout campaign have included the virtually impenetrable Shane Duffy, shot-stopping sensation Darren Randolph, and Glenn Whelan, who has performed the role asked of him without any fuss, and was responsible for driving a fight-back, of sorts, against Switzerland last month.
Whelan will, once again, be handed the onerous task of marshalling that space in front of the back four with one eye on the "special" Christian Eriksen, as McCarthy referred to him ahead of the game.
But while Eriksen builds through the middle, the main area that caused Ireland problems in the first match was the way that the two Denmark full-backs, Henrik Dalsgaard and Jens Stryger Larsen pushed up, and as a result, allowed wide men Martin Braithwaite and Yussuf Poulsen to wreak havoc in that channel between defence and midfield.
The manager said that his side have been working on that particular aspect of the Denmark game, which is quite predictable, such is the settled nature of their team.
"We’ve worked really hard this week, obviously we’ve played Denmark quite a bit over the last few years, so we know what they’re all about," said Whelan on Sunday.
"It’s not just Eriksen we need to be careful off, they’ve quite a few players so please god for us it’s our night.
"We’re at home and we need to go out there with real passion and a real fight to qualify."
McCarthy’s approach certainly involves an element of mirroring the Danish play, as he will also look for his two wide forwards to come inside and complement the attacking play of McGoldrick.
Sean Maguire played it perfectly in the friendly against New Zealand on Thursday and the manager revealed that it was an aspect of the game that his side had been working on during the week.
For it to work tonight, the onus will be on the Ireland full-backs to keep their counterparts rooted back inside their own half, which may give Ireland the attacking impetus.
The alternative would be to allow them to come on and use the space left behind the full-backs to be exploited by pace and counter-attacking play.
Of course, if Ireland are to mirror the Danes, the manager will also have to weigh up the Eriksen factor as, on paper, his quality should really prove the decisive factor.
Ireland can rely on a fervent home support at Lansdowne Road, the team’s passion levels ought to summon more from their players, while their spirit is certainly stronger than their counterparts.
Whether that is enough to cancel out Eriksen’s influence remains to be seen, but the Danes have other avenues that they can turn to should the Spurs midfielder be neutralised.
Poulsen is a real threat coming in off the right side and his recent winner against Switzerland shows that he has the temperament for the big occasion.
Lasse Schone is perhaps just as important a cog in this Danish wheel as Eriksen, as the classy midfielder gets the play moving quickly from in front of the central defensive pairing, and Denmark’s ability to switch flanks quickly is often down to the vision of the former Ajax maestro.
Denmark are also bolstered by their last line of defence, Kasper Schmeichel, who has developed into one of the best goalkeepers in Europe.
The Leicester City stopper finally emerged out of his father’s giant shadow, following a slow start to his club career, and Schmeichel junior is now a formidable presence between the sticks and his form has been one of the main reasons why Denmark are currently leading Group D.
Manager Age Hareide has admitted recently that he is sick of the sight of Ireland, and he fully expects a battle at the Aviva.
The manager added at the pre-match press conference that his team do not like playing Ireland, which is a back-handed compliment from a side that have also been happy to slate the Irish style of playing.
Hareide is correct when he says that Ireland appear to use the same players and tonight’s side will have a very familiar look about it when the team is finally announced an hour or so ahead of kick-off.
Randolph has fully recovered from injury and his presence in goal will give Ireland a sense of comfort from kick-off, while Duffy and John Egan in the middle of defence, with Whelan sitting just in front offer a very strong base to build a team on.
Enda Stevens has been solid throughout his first real campaign in the green jersey, while Conor Hourihane and Jeff Hendrick should make up the midfield three with Whelan.
McGoldrick will lead the line with McClean unlikely to be usurped from the wide-left attacking role.
Two places remain to be filled, with the absence of captain Seamus Coleman through suspension as well as the right attacking role, which appears to be giving the manager quite the conundrum.
Robbie Brady may well be his ideal selection for that particular role, but the Burnley man’s performance against New Zealand was lacking a little on Thursday, most notably in the energy-levels department, so it looks unlikely that the manager will call on him to start.
Callum Robinson was handed the chance to cement his place in the team in that position, however, the manager feels that the Sheffield United forward is more effective coming in off the left and may have to settle for a place on the bench.
Callum O’Dowda, meanwhile, put his hand up for that role by making a real impact in Switzerland, coming on at half-time when Ireland were really struggling to get a foothold in the game.
Naturally a left-sided player, coming in off the right flank may actually fit the player’s game quite well, as he would not be required to attack the flank and get past the full back.
The Bristol City midfielder is also a strong, energetic unit and is well able to put in a shift when out of possession, so O’Dowda really does tick a lot of boxes on the McCarthy wish-list.
But Ireland’s hidden gem may come in the form of Matt Doherty, who does not necessarily appear to tick those relevant boxes, but is set to start at right-back in the captain’s absence.
Doherty’s natural game should suit this Ireland formation and playing this opposition, as there will be space to run into behind the opposing full-back, and also with the right flanker cutting inside.
Doherty has shown how he can drive a side forward in the Premier League over the past two seasons with Wolves and the former Bohemians man also has an eye for goal.
Chances of another humiliation are naturally slim, while Ireland bossing the game early and putting it beyond the Danes is also a scenario that is unlikely to materialise.
A tough, tight affair is expected and the likelihood is that the game will remain in the balance right up to the 60-minute mark and beyond.
As mentioned, Ireland have been poor in possession in recent matches and there is also a focus on holding onto the ball heading into this game.
McCarthy’s basic instinct still remains, in that he will want to play front-foot football, attack when possible and get numbers in the box.
The expected starting XI is, however, missing a natural playmaker and the panicked approach in recent games is not likely to succeed in this one.
However, if Ireland can manage to tame this battle a touch heading into the final quarter, the manager will look to creativity on the bench to help decide this contest.
Alan Judge was the man summoned for the game in Copenhagen, while McCarthy may be tempted to see if Jack Byrne could provide something similar this evening.
The bench is also loaded with potential goalscorers so the manager will also be looking for someone to step up to the plate if a late goal is required.
Maguire put his hand up on Thursday night following a wonder-strike for Ireland’s second goal against New Zealand, while 17-year-old Troy Parrott looked very much at home as he made his international debut.
It was Tottenham’s Eriksen who broke Irish hearts last time around, yet perhaps tonight, it is time for a new kid on the block to earn his spurs.
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