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