Denmark v Republic of Ireland preview: Midfield to be key in World Cup play-off match

12 of Denmark’s 20 goals in qualifying came from midfielders Christian Eriksen (above) and Thomas Delaney

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Republic of Ireland are a good bet to score in Copenhagen on Saturday but Denmark’s midfield could run the show in this crucial World Cup play-off clash.

Republic of Ireland are unbeaten in their last four meetings with Denmark (W2 D2)
Recent history shines in favour of Ireland against Denmark — and any psychological edge Martin O’Neill can have over the Danes is likely to be warmly received. Ireland beat Denmark 4-0 the last time these two nations met, in a friendly in Aarhus 10 years ago. You have to go back to 1994 World Cup qualifying for the last competitive fixtures between the countries, which were drawn both home and away. Denmark have certainly changed since 2007, with their long-stranding manager Morten Olsen now firmly forgotten about. They enjoyed a strong World Cup qualifying campaign after a disastrous Euro 2016 effort but lagged behind Poland, finishing second in Group E. Ireland were also runners-up to one of Europe’s ‘non-elite’ sides in Serbia. Both Ireland and Denmark will fancy their chances after decent campaigns.

Ireland to win or draw at 27/25

Shane Long scored twice for Ireland when they beat Denmark 4-0 in 2007 — he is yet to score for Southampton this season
Shane Long had previously scored only once for Ireland on the day he netted twice against Denmark in the 4-0 friendly win in August 2007. It would be three years until Long got back on the international scoresheet. Long’s Ireland career has been erratic at best. Of his 17 international goals, only five have come in competitive games. Three of those were during Euro 2016 qualifying — his best period in an Ireland shirt. This World Cup qualifying campaign has seen Long struggle for game time and his sole goal was in the 3-1 win over Moldova in October 2016. That was his last strike for his country and a timely goal on Saturday in Copenhagen would certainly boost his chances of World Cup selection if Ireland get the Russia.

Shane Long to score at 17/4

12 of Denmark’s 20 goals in qualifying came from midfielders Christian Eriksen (8) and Thomas Delaney (4)
Denmark have arguably one of the most underrated midfields in Europe. In Christian Eriksen they have a playmaker who has proved capable of running the show on the biggest club stage; the Champions League. Tottenham’s Eriksen also delivers on a regular basis in the Premier League. But the Danes also have the excitable Thomas Delaney, who is as good offensively as he is tracking back. Fans may scoff at Denmark’s regular inclusion of one-time Fulham midfielder William Kvist. He didn’t exactly pull up trees in England. But Kvist just sits there and provides the anchor needed for Delaney and Eriksen to bomb forward. Add to that the young Yussuf Poulsen and Celta Vigo’s Pione Sisto and Denmark have a really exciting midfield on their hands.

Christian Eriksen to score twice at 17/1

Ireland have scored in each of their last nine away internationals, stretching back to November 2014
Ireland are good for a goal away from home and Saturday is no different. The Irish may have only scored 12 in 10 games during their World Cup qualifying group campaign but they made sure goals came on the road. Breaking down opponents has proven tricky in Dublin, when the away sides naturally sit back and soak up the pressure. But away from home, when the game opens up, Martin O’Neill’s side don’t hold back. Eight of their 12 qualifying goals came on the road. Unfortunately, however, Denmark only conceded three times in five home qualifiers. This one should have goals but it will also be a tight affair.

Draw and both teams to score at 17/4

Rosenborg’s Nicklas Bendtner has scored 20 goals in 36 appearances for club and country since April
Norway’s spring to autumn domestic season means Nicklas Bendtner has not had a rest over the summer. Instead, the former Arsenal striker has splayed right through June and July and continued to score while doing so. Bendtner’s career trajectory looked set to plummet after a disappointing stint up front for Nottingham Forest last season. But since joining Rosenborg he has found goals to come by. Granted, you could argue a player of his talents should be able to run rings round Norwegian club side defenders. But Bendtner is a confidence player if ever there was one and he comes into Saturday’s game in far better goalscoring form (five in six games) than Nicola Jorgensen or Andreas Cornelius.

Nicklas Bendtner to score at 39/20

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