Duffy says Ire­land will be happy to grind out an­other mag­i­cal re­sult

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Total Football - By Luke Ed­wards

Den­mark as­sume the Repub­lic of Ire­land will play a dif­fer­ent sort of game in the sec­ond leg of their World Cup play-off. They be­lieve the hosts will open up, ex­pand and at­tack. The Danes think the Ir­ish will be eas­ier to beat as a re­sult. They are likely to be dis­ap­pointed.

Ire­land do not feel the need to im­press any­one with the qual­ity of their foot­ball. They are fo­cused on the job and the prize at the end of it – get­ting to the World Cup.

This is Mar­tin O’neill’s Ire­land; prag­matic, dog­matic, yet still ca­pa­ble of mag­i­cal re­sults when they need them, as Ger­many, Italy, Aus­tria and Wales have dis­cov­ered.

They ground Den­mark into sub­mis­sion in Copen­hagen, rarely both­er­ing to at­tack, so fo­cused were they on pro­tect­ing their own goal. It suf­fo­cated the game as a spec­ta­cle, but en­sured they go into the sec­ond leg with a real chance of reach­ing their first World Cup for 16 years. There are plenty of ac­cu­sa­tions that can be thrown at them for their lack of am­bi­tion, yet Ire­land still came close to snatch­ing an away goal.

“It was a dif­fi­cult night be­cause they’re a good team,” said Brighton cen­tre-back Shane Duffy. “It was scruffy and ugly, maybe we could have put our foot on the ball a bit more, but we were solid.

“We’re sat­is­fied we didn’t lose the game, kept a clean sheet and we take it back to Dublin now. It’s go­ing to be an­other tough night but noth­ing we haven’t come up against be­fore. We’ll go in with the same game plan; we’ll be hard to beat. We’ll be dis­ci­plined, we know we can score goals, we’re at home, we’ve still got to re­spect them, they’ve got play­ers who can cut you open, we’ve got to con­cen­trate.

“You can’t get ahead of your­selves and go all guns blaz­ing and lose the match early on, we’ve got to soak up their pres­sure.

“I’m quite con­fi­dent they won’t score in Dublin and, when the time is right, we’ll get a goal.”

For­mer Ar­se­nal striker Nick­las Bendt­ner be­lieves the sec­ond leg will take Ire­land’s main strength away from them. “We thought they would at­tack more in num­bers than just kick the ball away and hope to hit a player,” said Bendt­ner, who has lost his place in Den­mark’s start­ing XI. “I think it will be a dif­fer­ent match. They know that they can’t play a match where they have to stay so deep. They know they have to come out and try to score. They can’t play a game of that im­por­tance for zero-zero. I think it’s go­ing to be a bit more open, which will also al­low us to get more space.”

Like a high-stakes poker game, it could well be down to who­ever loses nerve first and leaves them­selves vul­ner­a­ble.

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