Cyrus Christie has challenged the Republic of Ireland to win the World Cup war against Denmark after edging the battle in Copenhagen.
Martin O’Neill’s men left the Parken Stadium last night with a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their play-off having survived something of a mauling in the first half.
Opinion is divided on which side holds the advantage as they prepare to meet again at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night with the Irish hoping the comforts of home will work in their favour, while the Danes are expecting a more progressive approach from their hosts which may leave them space to exploit.
However, Middlesbrough full-back Christie is convinced it was Ireland who emerged with the upper hand and is now backing them to make the most of it.
He said: “It was very tough, but it was tough for Denmark as well. I’m sure they knew they were in for a game and we won the battle.
“We had chances and I don’t think they had too many chances. We kept them quiet and, at the end of the day, we could have won it.
“Now we go back to our home ground and we will be full of confidence. We re-assess, we get ready for Tuesday and we can hopefully make it a special night.
“It’s a massive night and hopefully we can rise to the occasion.”
That Ireland left Copenhagen with their hopes intact was due in large part to the heroics of goalkeeper Darren Randolph, who produced first-half saves from Jens Stryger Larsen, Andreas Cornelius and Christian Eriksen, and another from substitute Yussuf Poulsen at the death to deny the Danes.
Randolph’s contribution helped to extend the Republic’s unbeaten away run in the campaign to six games, but also served to highlight their comparative difficulties at the Aviva Stadium, where they have managed maximum points only against Georgia and Moldova.
The fact that a score draw will be enough to see the Danes through is a concern for O’Neill and his players.
However, central defender Shane Duffy is relishing a contest which could very well take 120 minutes or more to decide.
Duffy said: “It’s huge. I can’t wait. Honestly, I can’t wait. Get me home now and recover and we’ll come back at them on Tuesday.
“No-one can take anything away from our performance defensively against a very good team and we’ll have more on Tuesday.”
Ireland’s display in Denmark will have won them few admirers from an aesthetic point of view, but it did confirm their capacity to grind out results when they need them.
A different approach may be required back in Dublin if they are to prosper, but, given what is at stake, Duffy is confident there is more to come.
He said: “We’ll be a different team at the Aviva and we will create a lot more. It wasn’t a night here to do anything stupid.
“You could see their technical players struggled. It wasn’t pretty, but we got a result and it’s a cup final on Tuesday.
“One game, one win and we’re at the World Cup, so let’s go for it.”