Prising Ireland apart ‘like opening tin of baked beans with your bare hands’

Kasper Schmeichel gathers the ball under pressure from Ireland's Daryl Murphy. Picture: Stephen McCarthy

Denmark’s Thomas Delaney described trying to break down Ireland’s defensive formation as “trying to open a tin of baked beans with your bare hands.”

His last name is Irish and his analogy for failing to break down the Irish defence might as well have been.

Former Glasgow Rangers player and Denmark legend Brian Laudrup co-commentator on Danish tv said Delaney and the rest of the Danish team were “left frustrated” after 90 minutes of coming up short against a strong and well-organised visiting defence.

There were those who felt Ireland came to Copenhagen for the first game of this double-header only to kill the game, playing in a 4-5-1 formation and happily affording possession to the Danish team.

Frank Arnesen, former sporting director at Chelsea, now pundit for Danish television said the Irish had “no
ambitions” to win the game.

Åge Hareide, Denmark’s Norwegian coach, threw a thinly veiled dig at Martin O’Neill’s side when he said they played a “primitive style of football extremely well”.

A sentiment echoed by the Danish captain Simon Kjær.

Kasper Schmeichel defended the Irish approach after the game. “I oppose the notion that Ireland didn’t play football in the right manner. They play to their strengths. You can’t blame them for doing that. It was up to us to find a way to score and we didn’t do that.”

However, it wasn’t just the Irish who left the Danes frustrated. Almost without exception the home players and their coach Åge Hareide
criticised the state of the pitch in Telia Parken. Captain Simon Kjær felt the playing surface “slowed the tempo of our game” and made the tricky job of breaking the tight Irish organisation even more problematic. Ireland boss Martin O’Neill said the conditions were difficult but wouldn’t admit to it being an advantage for the Irish team.

The most scathing criticism in regard to the wobbly pitch came from Kasper Schmeichel who compared the patchy and uneven surface to the conditions he experienced playing for Notts County in the English fourth tier.

“I love playing in Parken,” Schmeichel said, “but the surface is always a problem.”

Flemming Povlsen played an important part of the Danish national team that won the Euros in ’92 in Sweden.

Commenting on the pitch after the game he was unsure whether a better surface would have been an advantage for the Danes, charging the hosts with lacking the “offensive ideas” to break down the Republic.

The Danish team tried to mirror the same starting 11 (with one exception) as well as presenting the style they’d utilised in their 4-0 win against Poland.

Playing centre-forward Andreas Cornelius on the right side of the attack, however, didn’t create the same physical advantage against a more resilient Irish team.

His fellow forwards, Nicolai Jørgensen and Pione Sisto both played below par, especially Feyenoord’s Jørgensen, who was anonymous, even if he has been plagued by injuries this season. According to Danish daily paper Ekstra Bladet he was “not present.”

Denmark created three major chances in the game. The first a double chance, both shots saved by the excellent Darren Randolph.

The biggest opportunity of the game fell to Celta winger Pione Sisto. A shot from distance was parried to his feet, but he was outside the post with the second effort. The last chance of the game came a minute before time when left back Jens Stryger Larsen crossed it for Yussuf Poulsen who’s header was tipped over by the Irish ’keeper.

“We created the necessary chances to win the game,” Christian Eriksen said after the game. “You cannot expect to get more chances against a team sitting so deep.”

Eriksen, the Danish locksmith, tried again and again to unpick the bolts of the Irish system but the Irish had found the right plan to limit the tools of the best player in the Danish team.

“They need to come forward in the second game. When they do that we’ll have more space and we have to be cynical and put away our chances.”

The atmosphere in the Danish camp is one of slight disappointment, but with an overriding feeling that the superior quality of the Danish team will prevail in the end.

“Don’t worry, we’ll take them in Dublin” was the
headline in Ekstra Bladet

Given that Martin O’Neill said the onus will be on the Irish team to attack the game in Dublin tomorrow, perhaps that can of beans Thomas
Delaney spoke of will open a little easier in the second leg.

  • The author is a reporter for Discovery Networks, Denmark,

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