Belfast Telegraph

Repeat of ref's Windsor blunder would be difficult to take, admits Schmeichel

By David Kelly

For a nation known for its dark, brooding TV drama, levity lifts the media room at the corner of Copenhagen's Parken Stadium.

Kasper Schmeichel interjects when a local, once more, raises the potential of Christian Eriksen being man-marked.

Casting a wry glance towards his team-mate, the Leicester man chirrups in his native tongue: "If it was my choice, I'd do it myself!"

His broad shoulders shuffle in amusement, Eriksen throws a smile and avuncular Age Hareide, a manager who has seen it all, does likewise.

Schmeichel, unlike his broody old man, has freely admitted to his boyhood admiration for Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane, such that he suggests the visitors will unfurl a starting XI honed in his inspirational image.

A team of Roy Keanes would know how to stem the influence of Eriksen, by means fair or foul.

"I have been man-marked a few times," the Spurs star shrugged. "I don't know if the Irish will do it. I don't mind if they do as there is more space for other players. It doesn't really matter to us."

Hareide, who pitied Northern Ireland following their handball howler a night earlier, joins Schmeichel in hoping that there is no repeat. He also seems unperturbed by any attacking puzzles the Republic may impose.

"They are an easy team to read but a difficult one to beat," was his enigmatic, back-handed compliment. "The game plan is easy. They don't change much, they have the same style but stick together, they have great spirit."

Eriksen was one of the youngest players at the World Cup in 2010 and, after being at the Euros last year, he feels that another World Cup appearance could see Denmark fulfil their burgeoning potential.

"I don't think anyone goes into a match frustrated, we will do our thing, They will have people behind ball, we want to play," he said. "We want to play and create chances but we might get fewer opportunities than we normally do so we need to take them.

"You think it's nice having a holiday but it is boring watching other teams play at a major championship. Your mind is somewhere else. We've tasted it twice before and I want to go there a third time."

For Schmeichel, it would be a maiden bow.

"I've never played in a major tournament and it is something I want to experience. It's not enjoyable sitting at home and certainly something we want to achieve," he said.

The hope is that victory will be earned, not swayed by refereeing error.

"It's a shame that a refereeing decision can impact so much," says Schmeichel, referencing Windsor Park. "We all saw it was quite obviously not a penalty. Hopefully we won't concede something like that, we would feel hard done by."

The Copenhagen faithful have had their fill of bleak drama.

Belfast Telegraph

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