Yesterday, Denmark celebrated the two-year anniversary of the 5-1 win in Dublin which secured qualification to the World Cup in Russia.
With another Dublin decider coming up, today’s qualifier at Parken against Gibraltar’s underdogs has been almost entirely overlooked. The match itself is just seen as part of the buildup to Monday’s ‘final’. And the players have answered more questions about Nicklas Bendtner’s new autobiography than the match against the minnows.
“We have tried to talk as little as possible about Ireland. We have to be professional, show enough quality to win and take the three points,” Denmark’s national coach Åge Hareide stated yesterday.
Hareide has tried to balance respect for Gibraltar with his own admission that he expects to play with two very different lineups in the two matches. Some of his regular starters will be rested on the bench today, although Hareide confirmed that Christian Eriksen, Simon Kjær and Thomas Delaney would all play a part.
Two months ago, Denmark took an easy 6-0 win from the visit to Gibraltar. No-one can imagine any problems in Copenhagen.
And should it happen, it wouldn’t even matter that much. Only an unlikely Danish defeat would change the scenario for Dublin, with a 0-0 draw then no longer enough to secure the qualification.
The Gibraltar match is more about getting some points for potential seedings for the Euros, to give the expected 25,000 spectators some goals – and to get the work done without injuries.
”We have to win tomorrow. As I see it, it is unbelievably important that we do well. We need a good performance. In football, if you have your mind elsewhere, you could get trouble against anyone,” Kasper Schmeichel said.
The Leicester City goalkeeper was the hero of the night in the hard-fought win against Switzerland last month. Schmeichel saved the hosts on several occasions in a match in which the Swiss played the better football.
With Ireland in mind, Christian Eriksen’s struggles at Tottenham are a concern, although Hareide has downplayed the importance of players such as Eriksen, Kjær and Delaney not playing regular football at their clubs at the moment.
Otherwise, the team is in a good place, and Hareide has strong options among his reserves.
Should he decide to rest the full-back Henrik Dalsgaard (Brentford), he could replace him with Daniel Wass, who has been Valencia’s starting right back this season. And if Andreas Christensen is rested after his injury at Chelsea, Mathias Jørgensen (Fenerbahce) or Joachim Andersen (Lyon) would be more than capable deputies.
Premier League starters such as Phillip Billing (Bournemouth) and Jannik Vestergaard (Southampton) were not even picked for the squad which underlines the depth at Hareide’s disposal.
In fact, the Norwegian’s major complaint relates to the fact that Ireland would have an extra day’s rest before Monday.
“I find it strange that this is possible. It should be more coordinated than that before the final matches of the qualifiers,” said Hareide, who does not want to miss out on the historical opportunity ahead of him. Like Dublin, Copenhagen is among the 12 host cities at the Euros, and Denmark would play at least two matches at Parken if they qualify.
“It’s a unique opportunity for us. None of our predecessors have had the possibility of playing a tournament at home. It’s an enormous motivation,” Kasper Schmeichel said.