THE Republic of Ireland play their remaining game of the 2020 qualifying campaign in Group D against Denmark at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin tomorrow, November 18 – an infamous date in the history of Irish football as they were knocked out of 2010 World Cup playoffs by a controversial handball by France’s Thierry Henry ten years previous.
Ireland currently sit top of Group D, level on points with Denmark, having played seven games, winning three, drawing three and losing on just one occasion – a 2-0 loss to Switzerland in Geneva last time out.
However, breathing closely down their necks are the Danes who are also on 12 points and the Swiss currently just one point fewer, both of which hold a game in hand over Ireland and play just three days before Ireland host Denmark in the Aviva.
Switzerland play host to Georgia on Friday, while Denmark host bottom of the table Gibraltar in Copenhagen the same night. Switzerland will then travel to Gibraltar where they will play simultaneously with Ireland v Denmark kicking off at the same time Monday night at 8.45pm. Assuming that both Denmark and Switzerland win their games in hand on Fridayas largely expected, it would mean Ireland would be in third place still on 12 points, Denmark would be top on 15 points and Switzerland would move into the top two qualification spots on 14 points. Ireland would then have to beat Denmark and hope Gibraltar can cause a massive upset to beat the Swiss to gain their first win of the campaign.
Even if the worst doesn’t materialise Ireland still know that anything short of a win against Denmark would likely see them crash out of Euro 2020 qualification.
Mick McCarthy picked his squad on Thursday to face New Zealand in an international friendly in the Aviva on Thursday before welcoming Denmark for their crunch qualifier. There were concerns around three Irish players and whether they would be ready to face Denmark but Darren Randolph, Glenn Whelan and Matt Doherty have all been selected for the games against New Zealand and Denmark. However, 19-year-old Aaron Connolly who had been the provider of a glimmer of hope in the final minutes of last month’s drab 0-0 encounter with Georgia in Tbilisi has unfortunately been ruled out of both games having picked up a groin injury on club duty at the weekend. Youth still seems to be the way forward as McCarthy hands a competitive debut selection to 17-year-old Troy Parrott who has been in impressive form for the Under 21’s this year. McCarthy will also be happy to see David McGoldrick back after injury last time out.
Denmark on the other hand will have all their big guns available for the Aviva clash including Christian Eriksen and while the Tottenham man may not be on top form for his club at present he still remains a big threat to the Irish goal. Kasper Schmeichel is expected back in goal and having kept Ireland quiet for three of the last five meetings between the two teams and will be an important player for the Danes between the sticks.
Home advantage is usually huge for these crunch type qualifiers and the Irish players will be hoping that the Green Army will be out in droves to support them and that memories of the 2018 World Cup playoffs against the Danes in the Aviva – where they were on the reverse of a 5-1 thrashing – are completely out of their minds.