Whelan to start in Republic play-off against Denmark

Glenn Whelan came on as a second-half substitute in the qualifier win over Wales last month

Glenn Whelan came on as a second-half substitute in the qualifier win over Wales last month

BBC coverage

How to follow:
Text commentary and report on the BBC Sport website

Republic of Ireland midfielder Glenn Whelan is likely to replace the banned David Meyler for the World Cup play-off first leg against Denmark.

Meyler’s absence and the withdrawal of Everton’s James McCarthy, because of a hamstring injury, open the door for Whelan to start in Copenhagen.

Republic boss Martin O’Neill could also go with Shane Long as a lone striker.

Christian Eriksen is a potent threat for the Danes and keeping the Spurs man quiet is key for Irish hopes.

“I think (Christian) Eriksen has become as important to Denmark as Gareth Bale is to Wales,” said O’Neill.

“He’s certainly of that ilk. Bale is, if you’re talking about Messi and Ronaldo being the two outstanding players in the world, then Bale is in that little group behind them of Hazard, Suarez… Neymar.

“Eriksen in the last year, for club and country, has put himself into that category.”

Christian Eriksen scored eight goals for Denmark in their World Cup qualifying group<!–

Christian Eriksen scored eight goals for Denmark in their World Cup qualifying group

Denmark are 19th in the world rankings and six places above their play-off opponents so O’Neill believes victory in the play-off would rank alongside his best achievements as Republic of Ireland manager.

“As far as we’re concerned qualifying for the Euros was a great achievement for us, and we thought that some of the performances were great,” said O’Neill.

“Getting there is big but the World Cup is something else as well so if we could make it it would be fantastic and obviously our opponents will feel the same as well.”

The Danes have lost just one of their last eight home matches although the Republic have impressed on the road, with a run of six competitive away games without defeat.

Hull midfielder Meyler has become a key player for the Republic and he is available for the second leg in Dublin on Tuesday.

Jeff Hendrick was a doubt with a back injury but he has been passed fit along with Stephen Ward, who has recovered from a knee problem.

Ten Irish players are on yellow cards and in danger of missing the second leg.

The Republic are aiming to make the finals for the first time since 2002 while Denmark’s last appearance came in South Africa eight years later.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *