Ire­land have the edge but Bendt­ner still be­lieves

The Guardian - Sport - - Football England V Brazil - Paul Doyle Dublin

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 to­mor­row’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. “We’ll 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.”

Nick­las Bendt­ner is con­fi­dent Den­mark will score in to­mor­row’s sec­ond leg

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