Kasper Schmeichel is expecting the Republic of Ireland to play in Roy Keane’s image as they attempt to edge past Denmark and reach the World Cup finals.
As a child, Schmeichel watched Keane lead a Manchester United team which included his father Peter sweep all before them as they dominated British and European football.
On Saturday evening, the 31-year-old will be in the Danish goal and Keane on the Irish bench as manager Martin O’Neill’s assistant as the two nations battle it out in the first leg of their play-off with a trip to Russia at stake.
Asked about his memories of Keane and his influence on the Ireland squad, Schmeichel said: “My memories of Roy Keane? Most of them holding trophies, being an inspirational leader and captain for Manchester United.
“Roy is a typical Irishman. They have a unique character. I have played with a lot of Irish players and I very much enjoy their attitude to life. They are very serious in their work business, but they also like to have fun.
“I’m sure that we’ll see a little bit of the Roy Keane on-pitch persona in the team tomorrow.”
Coach Age Hareide is expecting no favours from an Ireland team he believes is easy to read, but more difficult to handle.
Hareide said: “The game-plan is easy, they don’t change at all. From game to game, you can see the same style of play.
“But you also see the way they stick together and the the way the team spirit is spread out through the team. They work well together.”
If Ireland are to prosper at the Parken Stadium, they will have to find a way to limit Denmark’s star man Christian Eriksen, although Hareide does not fear a hatchet job despite seeing Wales playmaker Joe Allen depart early in Cardiff last month after Ireland adopted a physical approach.
He said: “The referee will control that part of the game. We know the Irish are physical, but they are not dirty. They challenge for the ball and that’s allowed in football.”
Eriksen is currently in fine form for both country – he scored eight of their 20 Group E goals – and club Tottenham, and is hoping to carry that into the showdown with the Republic.
The Spurs man said: “I’m feeling very good and feeling confident going into the game. Like any other game, I want to be involved in trying to create as much as possible.”
Eight years ago, Ireland suffered the heartache of play-off defeat by France in controversial fashion as a result of Thierry Henry’s infamous handball, memories of which were rekindled on Thursday evening by the penalty awarded against Northern Ireland in their clash with Switzerland.
Schmeichel said: “It’s a shame that a refereeing decision can impact so much. We all saw it and it’s quite obviously not a penalty.
“They’ll be feeling very hard done by and I’m sure if we were to concede something like that, we would feel hard done by.”