Nicklas Bendtner is really looking forward to playing in the Aviva — and that’s not just the usual
respectful tourist speak.
Tomorrow: Aviva Stadium, 7.45pm
Referee: Szymon Marciniak (Poland)
TV: RTE Two, Sky Sports
Bet: Republic of Ireland 6/4 Denmark 15/8 Draw 21/10
When Lansdowne Road was being knocked down, Damien Duff made his famous comment to the effect that the old place might have been a bit of a kip but it was “our kip”.
And while the Duffer relished the prospect of playing in a state-of-the-art new stadium, he pointed out that the likes of Zinedine Zidane might quite fancy it too.
Bendtner is never likely to be mistaken for old Zizou but it tells you something about changed times — at least in terms of the facilities if not the football — that the Danish striker reckons the Aviva tomorrow will provide a more rewarding platform for his team than did the Parken in Copenhagen on Saturday night.
“We can play better,” he says. “I think the pitch was disappointing. It made it difficult for both teams. Our normal passing game where you can play one or two touch couldn’t really come off because the pitch was so difficult, so that changed the match a lot. But I’ve heard the pitch in Ireland is excellent.”
Bendtner is professionally diplomatic about the away team’s approach in Copenhagen but it doesn’t take a forensic reading between the lines to ascertain his true feelings about the wild Irish way.
“I would say that Ireland didn’t really surprise us,” he says.
“We thought they would stay deep and defend as they’ve had great success with that. 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.
“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, they have to try to score. They can’t play a game of this importance for zero-zero. So I think it will be a little more open. I think they will come out a little more which will allow us to get more space.
“Maybe we have a slight advantage given the fact if both teams score we’re are going to be the ones going through, and that’s why this second game will be a little bit different.”
It says something about the unappetising nature of the fare on Saturday that perhaps the biggest cheer of the night was the one which greeted the entrance onto the pitch of Bendtner, the Dane who has come in from the cold.
By contrast, the negative reaction of the crowd to the state of play at the final whistle told another story.
“It was a disappointing match, it wasn’t really an exciting match and the whole of Denmark wanted us to win,” Bendtner concedes. “We didn’t. But I don’t think they booed, I didn’t hear that. They are always supportive, you know, they want us to go through. We haven’t been in a World Cup or European Cup for a long time. I think after the excitement, the hype — you saw the fireworks and everything — the game came a little bit flat.”
Primarily because of way Ireland played? “I think you can answer that question yourself.”
Is that how you like to see football played? “(Pause) I would like to play a match where you have exciting football but you also have to accept sometimes you see a match different ways. And you also have to give credit to the Irish team for the way they performed their strategy.
“Defensively for them it was really good. Offensively it wasn’t that strong.”
Spurs’ Christian Eriksen believes that the fear of conceding an away goal will play on Irish minds tomorrow night.
“They played the same style through all of qualification, so I don’t think it will change that much,” he observes.
“At home, they might be a bit more adventurous with the fans at their back, but I don’t think it will change too much. They will be scared of us scoring a goal. That would be a big hit. The first goal is very important. But they’ll play the same way. For us, it’s about keeping the tempo and taking the chances we do get. It can take time.”
Asked if, for him, Denmark beating Ireland in a World Cup play-off would eclipse Spurs beating Real Madrid in the Champions League, Eriksen confirmed: “I think it would. It would mean a lot for me personally and for the country overall. Getting to a World Cup is one of the biggest things you can do for your country.”
Schmeichel, Ankersen, Kjaer, Bjelland, Larsen, Delaney, Kvist, Eriksen, Cornelius (Poulsen 64), Nicolai Jorgensen, Sisto (Bendtner 72).
Subs not used:
Lossl, Hansen, Jensen, Vestergaard, Christensen, Mathias Zanka Jorgensen, Knudsen, Fischer, Lerager, Schone.
REP OF IRELAND:
Randolph, Christie, Duffy, Clark, Ward, O’Dowda, Hendrick (Hourihane 90), Arter (Whelan 88), McClean, Brady, Murphy (Shane Long 73).
Subs not used:
Westwood, Elliot, O’Shea, McShane, McGeady, Hoolahan, Doherty, Hogan, Kevin Long.
Milorad Mazic (Serbia).
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