Hareide con­cedes Erik­sen’s ab­sence will have an im­pact

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - SOCCER - EM­MET MAL­ONE

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

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