We examine the key battle in the first leg of the Republic of Ireland’s key battle with Denmark.
Saturday’s World Cup play-off first leg matches Denmark talisman Christian Eriksen with the Republic of Ireland’s combative winger James McClean.
Both players top-scored for their countries in 2018 World Cup qualifying, with the Dane looking to steer his country to their fifth World Cup and the Irishman aiming to help his to their fourth.
Eriksen hit eight goals in 10 qualifiers, with four of those strikes coming from outside the box. No other midfielder scored more goals in the European qualifying campaign.
Top scorers in European World Cup qualifying Player Team Goals R Lewandowski Poland 16 C Ronaldo Portugal 15 R Lukaku Belgium 11 A Silva Portugal 9 C Eriksen Denmark 8 M Berg Sweden 8
The Dane was involved in 11 of his country’s 20 goals scored in total, adding three assists to his goals. In fact, no other player created more chances in 2018 qualifying than Eriksen.
Most chances created in European World Cup qualifying Player Team Chances created C Eriksen Denmark 37 M Pjanic Bosnia & Herz 33 K De Bruyne Belgium 30 B Dockal Czech Republic 29 Xherdan Shaqiri Switzerland 29
The 25-year-old is on an incredible international scoring run, scoring in each of Denmark’s last six internationals, including their last five qualifiers.
He is only the third Dane to achieve that feat and the first for 55 years. Ole Madsen scored in 10 successive games between 1961 and 1962.
The only other player to manage it was Poul ‘Tist’ Nielsen, who scored in 10 successive matches between 1912 and 1916. Nielsen remains Denmark’s joint-top scorer with 52 goals along with Jon Dahl Tomasson.
Eriksen, a three-time Danish Footballer of the Year, made his debut aged 18 against Austria in March 2010, becoming Denmark’s fourth youngest full international and their youngest since Michael Laudrup.
Later that year, he became the youngest player participating in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He scored only 10 goals in his first 65 caps, but since then has scored eight in his last eight.
Denmark vs Rep Ire
November 11, 2017, 7:00pm
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James McClean’s four goals have have all come away from home, earning Ireland an extra six points. He scored twice in the 3-1 win in Moldova, scored the 1-0 winner in Austria and scored the winner-takes-all goal in Cardiff last month. The stats below show just how integral he has been to the team.
James McClean in World Cup qualifying Stat Total ROI rank Goals 4 1st Shots 34 1st Shots on target 10 1st Dribbles completed 16 1st Open play crosses 22 1st Chances created 8 3rd
No other Ireland player has scored more goals or won more caps than McClean during Martin O’Neill’s four years in charge.
Thirty-nine of his 55 caps have come under O’Neill and he has scored all 10 of his Ireland goals under him. He’s looking to play in his third major tournament after making one substitute appearance at Euro 2012 and featuring in all four Ireland games at Euro 2016.
Bizarrely, the 28-year-old winger has started as many international games as club games this season, having not started any of West Brom’s last 10 fixtures.
He has, in fact, been booked in each of his last three Ireland games and would be suspended for the second leg if booked on Saturday. It’s also worth noting that if Eriksen receives a caution, he would also miss the return leg in Dublin.
McClean has scored four goals in his last seven qualifiers, the same number of goals he has in 88 appearances in all competitions for West Brom.
Eriksen v McClean PL comparison since August 2016 Eriksen Stat McClean 47 Apps 42 47 Starts 15 11 Goals 1 17 Assists 2 3 Chances created/90 1.3 1.8 Dribbles/90 2.6 2.2 Open play crosses/90 5 81% Passing accuracy 72% 3.6 Shots/90 1.7 55% Shooting accuracy 68%
Ireland will be coming up against the player who has created the most chances in the Premier League since the start of last season.
PL stats since August 2016 Stat Total PL rank Chances created 136 1st Assists 17 2nd Shots 162 3rd
Ireland are in the play-off qualifying stage for a major tournament for the eighth time, qualifying on only three previous occasions. However, they have qualified in three of their last four play-offs. In order to keep that run going, they will need to keep the Dane quiet.