Eddie Ryan takes us through the key numbers ahead of a titanic two-legged tie between Ireland and Denmark, beginning with the first leg in Copenhagen this weekend.
The Goalscoring Stakes
Unsurprisingly, Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Christian Eriksen leads the way for Denmark with eight goals. The 25-year-old was also the second highest scorer in Group E behind Bayern Munich hitman Robert Lewandowski, who netted 16 times.
Ominously for Ireland, the Dane’s eight goals come from a floating attacking midfield position, which will present a particular headache for Martin O’Neill. While Eriksen finished a distance second to Lewandowski’s goal tally in Group E, this is a very impressive strike rate from midfield.
Thomas Delaney and Eriksen’s combined total of twelve goals was equal to the total goal-shy Ireland mustered in Group D. Werder Bremen’s Delaney was followed by Andreas Cornelius of Atalanta and Nicolai Jørgensen of Feyenoord on two each.
Peter Ankersen, Kasper Dolberg and Yussuf Poulsen complete the Danish total of 20, with one each. This is eight higher than the Boys in Green’s mark of twelve, albeit they were possibly easier to find in the less competitive company of Group E.
James McClean leads the way for Ireland in the scoring charts. The West Bromwich Albion winger was never renowned for his goalscoring prowess at club or international level but has been a welcome source of that precious currency in a fiercely-fought Group D.
McClean’s sweet strike in Cardiff propelled Ireland to the play-offs and his haul of four edged out another unlikely source of goals in Daryl Murphy, who hit the net three times as highest Irish scorer.
Ireland also had five players on a goal each; captain Séamus Coleman, Shane Duffy, Jeff Hendrick, Shane Long and Jonathan Walters.
FIFA World Rankings
Ireland’s worst ever position was on Martin O’Neill’s watch, when the Boys in Green placed in a lowly 67th in 2013. Ireland are currently ranked 26th on that list and have occupied an average position of 32nd since the rankings began. The highest ever ranking for an Irish side was during the Jack Charlton era, when Ireland placed as high as tenth.
Denmark are the 19th-ranked side in the world, which puts a positive spin on a wildly fluctuating last twelve months, which saw they occupy their lowest ever position back in May, when they slumped to 51st. Their average mark is higher than the Boys in Green at a respectable 20.
Their graph is rising steadily as they have now jumped 32 spaces in just over five months.
The last meeting of the sides was in in August 2007 in Aarhus, with the Boys in Green thumping the hosts 4-0.
Robbie Keane and Shane Long scored a brace apiece, as the scoreline slightly flattered the visitors. The much-maligned Nicklas Bendtner struck both posts as the Irish left Denmark’s second largest city with a resounding victory.
Ireland have one of their best win percentages against a team of a similar profile with a 38% win rate in all matches.
The sides have met 13 times in total. Ireland lead the way with five wins. There have been five draws and three Danish victories.