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Denmark manager Age Hareide is confident that his team can progress through the playoff and reach Russia 2018 without requiring penalties. He is backing the creativity of his players to get an away goal against a Republic of Ireland team who he predicts will play the same defensive way as they did in Copenhagen.
“Even if they score first, we know that one goal will get us there,” said Hareide speaking at the press conference in the Aviva Stadium on the eve of the second leg. “It is a fantastic opportunity to get to the World Cup when we don’t have to win (the game).”
When asked by extratime.ie how much preparation had his team done for the possibility of a penalty shoot-out if the game is scoreless after 120 minutes, he replied “nothing.”
He went on to elaborate that it was because “I am superstitious and we won't need them. We will try to get a goal - that is our main goal.
“If we get one goal, they have to score two. It is obvious that we need to build on what we did in Copenhagen. We had the ball a lot.
“In the match we had 587 passes with 85 % to a Danish shirt,” said Hareide who had been busy looking up the stats (see here). "Ireland had 206 passes and were down to 60% (pass completion). We created enough chances to get a goal. Sometimes you don’t succeed.”
Ireland managed to contain Christian Eriksen in the first leg but Hareide is looking for more from the Spurs striker.
“It is always easier to stop a team from playing than to create. That's why creative players are more and more important in football, to get space and take on people. That is why they are so valuable for the team to get them going.
“Teams try to lock down, that's natural and there is nothing wrong with that, but we will try to find the space to get Christian [Eriksen] on the ball.
“I don't expect them to go higher than they did in Copenhagen, they just want us to make a mistake. That's okay. I haven't got the patience to play like that. We will try to attack Ireland and try to get a goal, and then we'll take it from there."
"They are very good at defending. They keep the team very tight. They don't increase the space - they make it as narrow as possible."
Ireland midfielder David Meyler earlier in the day said that Denmark “don't have the character and the heart and the desire that we have” which was not something that either Hareide or defender Andreas Bjelland agreed with.
“My thought is that he doesn't know the players,” said the Denmark manager about Meyler's remarks. “Most of our players are spread out in the whole of Europe, some with great experience and they don't get that far if they don't have the heart and the brains to play football.
“It's not only about winning duels and fighting, it is about skill. We have a strong team now and hopefully we will show it tomorrow.”
Andreas Bjelland meanwhile certainly felt his team are up for the fight should Ireland look for one but that his team’s passing game will overcome whatever Ireland throw at them.
“We are talking about a game that could take us to the World Cup so of course we have to fight,” said Bjelland. “We will have the mentality for this game if it goes to extra-time.”
“We can fight with them if they want to fight. Our game plan is to get it down on the floor, move them around and hopefully we score before them.”