Is it finally time for Wes Hoolahan to shine for the Republic?
- Credit: PA
It’s make-or-break time for Wes Hoolahan and the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup hopes this evening.
The Irish take on Denmark in their World Cup play-off second leg in Dublin tonight with the tie evenly poised after Martin O’Neill’s side gained a 0-0 draw in Copenhagen.
Ireland were accused of ‘parking the bus’ on Saturday but no Irish fan will complain if they are celebrating a place at Russia 2018 come this evening.
They will have to be more offensive minded than they were at the weekend though and that could mean Norwich City’s Hoolahan comes into O’Neill’s thinking. The Ireland chief has often resisted calls for Hoolahan’s inclusion in his starting XI but could be tempted against the Danes, who have their own playmaker in Christian Eriksen that’s capable of causing damage. “We’ll try to be a bit more expansive if we can,” said O’Neill.
Hoolahan, 35, has played in just one major championship, scoring in a Euro 2016 group game against Sweden before Ireland went out in the last 16 against France.
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Ireland have managed to find the net just four times during their Group D qualifiers in Dublin and managed only 12 during their entire World Cup qualifying campaign.
However, O’Neill remains confident they can find a way through the Danes.
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He said: “You have to treat the game on its own merits. You can’t look at the past now and say: ‘Well, we didn’t do this and we didn’t do that’.
“Some of the games we might have scored more goals in, but we’re not prolific. Really top quality Republic of Ireland sides have not been able to score goals.
“You have Robbie Keane (record goalscorer on 68 goals) out on his own and the next person to him is someone who might have forced a corner or something like that. Seriously, that is the case.
“There have been great players who have played for the Republic of Ireland in their history and they have never been prolific.
“We have to find the net and we think we’re capable of doing it. We find everything tough, it’s the nature of us. We don’t have all the skills that maybe other nations have.
“We have to find it in different manners. I’ve said that umpteen times, we have to find it. So far, the lads have come up big in matches and tomorrow is a massive game and we’re hoping to do it again.”
Midfielder David Meyler is confident that Ireland can blend the kind of defensive resilience which promoted Denmark midfielder Thomas Delaney to liken breaking them down to trying to “open a can of baked beans with your bare hands” with a goal-threat.
Meyler said: “We’re going to go and try and win the game because we want to qualify for the World Cup. We’re not going to lie there and let Denmark roll us over.
“We need to go there and we need to perform and we need to score goals. I believe we will.”
You can watch Ireland’s World Cup play-off second leg live on Sky Sports Football/Main Event (kick-off 7.45pm).