Republic of Ireland v Denmark and an unlikely circle of footballing hell | Football

“What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same and nothing that you did mattered?” It was the premise of the 1993 cinema hit Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray played Phil Connors, a cynical, egotistical and misanthropic TV weatherman who finds himself reliving the same 24 hours over and over and over again while working on location in the hick town of Punxsutawney. More recently, the footballers of Denmark and the Republic of Ireland have found themselves trapped in a similarly nightmarish scenario, apparently destined to meet each other time after time in a never-ending series of mind-numbingly tedious football matches. After four draws and one emphatic Danish victory, Monday night’s will be their sixth competitive meeting in two years.

Although Ireland’s goalkeeper Darren Randolph and his teammate Shane Duffy deserve some sort of footballing medal of valour for being the only two players from either nation to have played every single minute of every single encounter, one can’t help but feel that it is Christian Eriksen who is deserving of our most heartfelt sympathies. He is better than this. Or at least was better than this, a relentlessly awful fixture that always seemed somehow beneath a man of his extraordinary talents, until it inevitably dragged him down to its level. Ireland have become the Ned Ryerson to his increasingly world weary weatherman; old “Needle Nose Ned the Head” being the relentlessly cheerful former schoolmate of Connors in Groundhog Day, whose overbearing small-town insurance salesman shtick eventually earns him a haymaker in the chops by way of a greeting.

While Ireland have brought most of the familiarity, Denmark have provided the contempt. “It was a lot of defending on their side and we were trying to attack against 11 players in their own half,” said Eriksen in a withering post-match analysis following one particularly soul-sapping stalemate in Copenhagen, during which Ireland failed to score for their fourth consecutive game. “They played like this in every game we’ve played. In the second game in Ireland they wanted to go forward but they knew what happened when they went forward so that’s why they were too scared to go forward.” His teammate Thomas Delaney likened Denmark’s attempts to break down the Ireland rearguard to trying to open a tin of baked beans with one’s bare hands.

Played five, drawn four …

Denmark 0-0 Republic of Ireland 11 Nov 2017, World Cup play-off

Republic of Ireland 1-5 Denmark 14 Nov 2017, World Cup play-off

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Denmark 13 Oct 2018, Nations League

Denmark 0-0 Republic of Ireland 19 Nov 2018, Nations League

Denmark 1-1 Republic of Ireland 07 Jun 2019, Euro 2020 qualifier

In Groundhog Day, the main protagonist whiled away his time in his supernatural purgatory by becoming fluent at French, mastering jazz piano and becoming an expert ice sculptor. Since Ireland foolishly gave Eriksen the time and space to put in a virtuoso performance in the second leg of a World Cup qualifier won 5-1 by Denmark in Dublin, the one game in five in which Ireland were foolish enough to take the game to their opponents, Martin O’Neill and subsequently Mick McCarthy have conspired to obstruct and frustrate his every attempt at an encore by sabotaging his Rosetta Stone tapes, keyboard and ice pick. Denmark’s Dublin win in 2017 notwithstanding, there have been no discernible signs of either team attempting to better themselves as they became resigned to their respective places in this unlikely circle of footballing hell, their other four encounters having been a series of unbroken deadlocks, just one of one of which featured anything so exciting as a couple of goals.

Christian Eriksen, here avoiding Daryl Murphy’s boot, has been dragged down by the fixture.

Christian Eriksen, here avoiding Daryl Murphy’s boot, has been dragged down by the fixture. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters

As recently as Friday, Ireland somehow found themselves top of Group E, despite having scored just six goals in seven matches, two of which were against what is to all intents and purposes a 426-metre high limestone ridge on the south coast of Spain. Interim wins for Denmark and Switzerland have rendered their latest encounter with their Scandinavian adversaries in the dangerous realms of the “must-win”, whereas Denmark rock up in Dublin knowing they need only avoid defeat.

“It would be nice if we’d qualified already but it was unlikely right at the very start,” said Mick McCarthy, who can at least claim to be tainted by association with only one of Ireland’s five recent failures to beat Denmark. “But needing a draw … ooh, I don’t know how you’d go about that one. Would you just sit back and think: ‘Well, we’ll soak it up?’ No, not really. Do you go gung-ho and get it done? At least we know what we’ve got to do – we’ve got to win. There is no other result that’s going to count for us.”

The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.

The portents are not good. Denmark are unbeaten in their past 23 competitive games (their elimination on penalties at the hands of Croatia at the last World Cup doesn’t count as a defeat in this context), while Ireland have not beaten anyone ranked higher than them by Fifa since seeing off Bosnia and Herzegovina in a Euro play-off win four years ago. “This is a different team under a different manager; it will not be an easy game,” said Denmark’s manager, Åge Hareide, who says his team are in Dublin looking for a win. They rarely are easy, either on the eye or for two sides who have come to know each other so well they could sing each other’s national anthems. Once more with feeling, it’s deja vu all over again.

Source link

Diablo’s original devs give their opinion on Blizzard

essar steel: View: Common sense wins in India’s bankruptcy case