Hareide concedes Eriksen’s absence will have an impact
The standard stuff about this being a place to come to was always going to sound a little hollow after all that transpired this time last year. And so Age Hareide found himself politely prefacing just about everything with “normally” as he looked forward to his side’s game against Ireland tonight.
“Normally, it’s difficult to play Ireland, because they are a well-organised, hard-working team,” said the 65-year-old Norwegian, whose players found everything all too easy last November. “Sometimes they can lose, as they did the last time,” he acknowledged, “but normally they are hard to beat. Their attitude and experience is their greatest strength, I think, and we expect them at their best.”
The Danes, Martin O’Neill must be hoping, will be some way off theirs given the absence of their leading light, Christian Eriksen, and Hareide admits the midfielder’s absence will have an impact.
“He’s a good player, an important player for us, but we haven’t focused on him not being there but on the players who are here. We may have to play a different way without him but we have shown we have a lot of good players in Denmark. We don’t want being without Christian to be an excuse after the game. We need to show ourselves and do our best.”
They take a lot of momentum into the match. The defeat on penalties by Croatia at the World Cup aside, it is two years and 20 games since the national team proper has been beaten. The win here stands out for the number of goals scored, but it is not the only good result, and Hareide believes that if they can manage another against Ireland they can push on to top this three-team Nations League pool.
“If we win we are looking to top the group, but we know the difficulties,” he says. “Games against Wales and Ireland will be even matches, we are aware of that. That is our attitude, we know it will be tough, and this is also a chance for Ireland to be part of the race to the top.”
If they can pull it off, though, he is more positive than most about the potential of the new competition. “It’s a lot better than playing friendly matches and it gives you a chance to play against the top teams the next time if you get promoted – that’s very interesting. It’s usually very hard to get games against teams like France, Spain and Germany, teams who attract huge crowds.”
The FAI says the Danes have attracted a large one themselves for tonight’s game.
For all his usual charm, Hareide is hoping they have another bad night.
Denmark manager Age Hareide: expecting Ireland to be at their best