Ireland Host Denmark Needing Full-Three to Qualify for Euro 2020
The good news for Mick McCarthy’s Ireland side is that they have put themselves in position to qualify for Euro 2020 with just one game remaining. The bad news is that, after losing in Switzerland (2-0) in October, they will need to take the full three points from a Denmark team that has yet to lose in qualification (4-3-0).
Online sportsbooks have established the visiting Danes as 13/10 favorites to win, with an Ireland victory at 13/5 and the draw at +225.
Denmark, as mentioned, is unbeaten in seven qualification games and boasts by far the best goal differential in Group D (+17). They are 22 spots higher than Ireland in the FIFA rankings (14th vs 36th), moving up over 30 places in the last three years.
The Danes’ rise up the FIFA rankings has been spurred by a tremendous run over the last year-plus. Denmark has not suffered an international defeat since falling 3-1 away to Slovakia in a Sep. 2018 friendly. They have not dropped a competitive fixture since losing 1-0 at home to Montenegro during World Cup qualifiers in Oct. 2016.
Not often thought of as an offensive powerhouse, Denmark’s 22 Goals For are nine more than any other team in Group D. Christian Eriksen and Christian Gytkjær lead both the team and the group with 5 and 4 goals, respectively.
After conceding five goals in their first three qualifiers the defense has tightened up, posting five straight clean sheets.
Ireland were lackluster in their last qualifier, the aforementioned 2-0 setback in Geneva. They fell behind in the 16th minute and were never able to mount much offensively against a defensively-sound Swiss team.
Adding to the team’s woes, defender Seamus Coleman was red-carded for a handball in the 75th minute and will miss Monday’s match. Also unavailable are defender Derrick Williams and young striker Aaron Connolly, both due to injury.
Connolly strained his groin while his Brighton team was battling Man United last weekend. Williams tweaked his calf in Ireland’s Thursday night friendly against visiting New Zealand.
Despite the loss of Williams, the New Zealand friendly provides some optimism that Ireland will be able to upset the Danes. After being held scoreless in back-to-back games (including a disappointing 0-0 draw in Georgia), the Irish exploded for three goals after falling behind 1-0 in the 30th. Williams leveled the match just before halftime, while Sean Maguire and Callum Robinson tallied in the 52nd and 75th, respectively.
Head to Head
The first qualifier between Denmark and Ireland, which took place in Copenhagen in June, ended in a 1-1 draw. But the Irish will feel lucky to have escaped without a loss. Down 1-0 late, Shane Duffy rescued a point in the 85th minute on a terrific header from a set piece. Denmark thoroughly controlled the action, holding 63% of possession, outshooting Ireland 18-7, and holding a 6-3 advantage in corners.
The previous match – a 2018 Nations League contest in Aarhus – also ended level (0-0), despite the match stats being even more lopsided: 76-24% possession, 26-3 shots, 2-0 corners.
Who Needs to Step Up?
Obviously, in order to take the all three points, Ireland will need to score. With only 6 goals-for in seven qualifiers, to date, the boys up front will have to do their part, first and foremost.
Unfortunately, none of the strikers likely to figure in the match have scored more than one goal for the national team. In terms of the current squad, midfielder James McLean leads the squad with 10 goals in 71 caps, while Robbie Brady has 8 in 46.
If the Irish are going to qualify on Monday, those veterans will likely need to lead the way.