The boos at the final whistle suggested that Denmark fans believed their team blew their best chance of World Cup qualification by failing to beat the Republic of Ireland in Copenhagen on Saturday but Nicklas Bendtner is confident he and his team-mates can instead reach Russia via Tuesday’s second leg in Dublin.
Bendtner confessed to being a little surprised by how defensive the Irish were on Saturday but is convinced that Martin O’Neill’s men will pursue victory with more abandon at home and, in doing so, will leave themselves vulnerable to the Danes. “I think it will be a different match,” says Bendtner.
“They know they can’t play a match where they have to stay so deep. They have to come out; they have to try to score. They can’t play a game of this importance for 0-0. I think they will come out a little more, which will allow us to get more space. In a way I think it will be a more interesting match to watch. Maybe we have a slight advantage given the fact that, if both teams score [in Dublin], we are going to be the ones going through, and that’s why this second game will be a little bit different.”
Bendtner admitted, however, that the first match did not pan out exactly how he expected. “I would say that Ireland didn’t really surprise us. We thought they would stay deep and defend as they’ve had great success with that but maybe we thought they would come out of the blocks and try to attack in more numbers rather just kick the ball away and hope to hit a player. But they defended with their lives as we’ve seen. We had three good chances; maybe we could have done better with some of them but they defended really well. They are strong so we have to match that on the away pitch and we have to take our chance and hopefully get a goal.”
That will be no simple feat, as the Republic have kept clean sheets in their last three matches. But it will not be easy for the Irish to score either and they, too, could be said to have missed an opportunity by not returning from Copenhagen with an away goal. The notion that they will be a far more fearsome force in Dublin is not based on their performances during the group stage, during which they played better on their travels and did not beat any of their main rivals in Dublin.
Their last really impressive win there was against Bosnia-Herzegovina two years ago – in the second leg of the play-offs for Euro 2016. Martin O’Neill’s team tend to be more comfortable playing off the back foot. They are not trying to impress anyone, quite happy to be awkward.
Shane Duffy, colossal again in Copenhagen at the heart of the Irish defence, does not envisage a radically different approach from his side for the second leg. “Well go in with the same game plan obviously, we’ll be hard to beat,” said the Brighton & Hove Albion centre-back. “We’ll be disciplined. We know we can score goals, we’re at home and we’ve got to go for it. But we’ve still got to respect them. They’ve got players who can cut you open. We’ve got to concentrate and that’s what we’ll do. You can’t get ahead of yourselves and go out all guns blazing and lose the match early on.
“We’ve got to respect the opposition a little bit. They’ve got quality and we’ve got to soak up their pressure and they soak up our pressure a little bit. We’ll try and stay in the game as long as we can and we’re confident we can score goals against them at home. It doesn’t matter how we get through as long as we do.”
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