So here we are again, almost exactly two-years to the day since Christian Eriksen and co wrecked a nations world cup dreams at the Aviva Stadium we find ourselves back at the scene of the crime, and while Mick McCarthy deserves credit for steadying the sinking ship left behind by his predecessor, there’s a feeling not a lot has changed over the past twenty-four-months.
Take your mind back to the early days of the Martin O’Neill reign and the former Celtic boss had inherited a similarly toxic mess left behind by Giovanni Trapattoni before instilling a solid structure and organisation within the camp that saw Ireland sore to the heights of a last 16 appearance against France. Forget the last few months of the O’Neill reign, which were absolutely dour, and you can most certainly draw similarities in how O’Neill and McCarthy have gone about their business in the Irish hot-seat.
Switzerland’s 0-1 win over Georgia on Friday night ensures that a win at the Aviva Stadium on Monday will be enough to secure automatic qualification for next summers Euro 2020 finals, in which Dublin will host 3 group matches and 1 knockout game, but that sounds a much simpler equation than it is, as proven by the 5-1 hammering the Danes dished out two-years-ago.
Only group minnows Gibraltar (2) have scored less goals than Ireland (7) in this qualification campaign with 3 of those goals coming in absolutely dire performances over the rock. Of course, we can not mention the negative at one end of the pitch without mentioning the rock solid defence that has brought Ireland this far, having only conceded 4 goals in their 7 group matches (group best).
However, the Danes have only conceded one more than the Irish but have found the net an impressive 22 times during qualifying which is a remarkable 9 more goals than managed by the next best side in Switzerland.
If ever the old adage “goals win games” applied it’s this game on Monday night and you just have to question where Ireland are going to find the firepower to gun dun the Danish. McCarthy’s men showed some nice glimpses of attacking play during Thursday’s 3-1 friendly win at home to New Zealand but aside from the question of just how many if any of the starting xi from that team will feature on Monday it must also be taken into account that was the “all whites” first international game since last summer with Ireland’s performance less than convincing at times.
All three Irish goal scorers in that game were in fact first time scorers in the green shirt as Seani Maguire, Callum Robinson and Derrick Williams all found the net. Sadly full-back Williams, who impressed with his intensive attacking intent from deep, has been ruled out of Monday’s do-or-die tie through injury. Robbie Brady made his long awaited return to the Irish fold but didn’t appear to do enough to force his way into McCarthy’s thoughts for Monday while Jack Brady probably falls into the same category despite displaying a confident ability to create chances in the final third in his two Irish appearances of late.
Meanwhile, Denmark warmed up for their trip to Dublin by putting six past Gibraltar with star man Christian Eriksen scoring the final two of those six goals to get his eye in for a reunion with thr side he scored a hat-trick against at the Aviva in 2017.
While Ireland managed to hold the Danes to a 1-1 draw in Denmark during this campaign, you get the feeling Åge Hareide’s side have an extra gear to find whereas to use a racing term Ireland look very one paced and as a result are likely to be found out as we turn for the home straight.
PREDICTION: Ireland 1-3 Denmark (20/1)
Denmark win 6/5, Eriksen anytime scorer 12/5.