Football / World Cup: Danes do not disturb Charlton

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FROM last summer's European champions to underdogs in Dublin this afternoon: Denmark's fall reflects not so much their failure to capitalise on unexpected triumphs in Sweden as the bounce in the step of Jack Charlton's Republic of Ireland, which gives them a clear view of America and the 1994 World Cup finals.

Little, it seems, can disturb the equilibrium of the Irish before their latest qualifying tie - save for a collective affliction wiping out the entire midfield set Charlton says is without rival anywhere in Europe.

In training yesterday, Kevin Moran strained a hamstring, rendering him a likely non-starter alongside Paul McGrath in defence, but Charlton revealed hardly a moment's concern in lauding Alan Kernaghan's claims as the stand-in.

Charlton's unwillingness to disrupt his middle quartet means Eddie McGoldrick is preferred at Lansdowne Road as Terry Phelan's replacement at left-back. The discarded option - to withdraw Steve Staunton and recall Ronnie Whelan - is a further blow to their former captain, who is also unhappy with the terms Liverpool have offered him to stay, and he could be on the move in the close season.

McGoldrick, primarily a sweeper or winger for Crystal Palace in a season of constant change, could have to take account of the quick-footed Brian Laudrup, the star turn in the Danish fairy-tale that unfolded in Sweden.

If that is the case, it can only enhance Irish confidence, Charlton argues. 'I've no idea what Laudrup will do,' the manager said. 'If he's feeling good, he'll play all along the front line. If not, he will disappear down the right-hand side. I hope he disappears down the right-hand side.'

McGoldrick is 27 tomorrow, the same day Moran reaches 37. In longevity terms John Aldridge is closer to the Blackburn defender, but Charlton is delighted to recall him in place of Tommy Coyne, despite the veteran striker's recent absence from the Tranmere team following a second hernia operation.

Denmark have lost, through injury, Flemming Povlsen, the goalscorer responsible for reviving their own hopes with last month's victory over Spain. With Manchester United's Peter Schmeichel a heartening presence in goal, defensively they are as sound as the Irish - neither has yet conceded a goal in the tournament. 'Ireland and Spain are the favourites to go through, but I am very confident we can take one of the two positions,' their manager, Richard Moller Nielsen, said.

However, a draw - matching their achievement in Copenhagen - would not be a disaster for the Irish.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Bonner (Celtic); Irwin (Manchester United), McGrath (Aston Villa), Moran (Blackburn Rovers) or Kernaghan (Middlesbrough), McGoldrick (Crystal Palace), Houghton (Aston Villa), Townsend (Chelsea), Keane (Nottingham Forest), Staunton (Aston Villa), Aldridge (Tranmere Rovers), Quinn (Manchester City).

DENMARK (probable): Schmeichel (Manchester United); L Olsen (Seraing), Rieper (Brondby), Kjeldbjerg (Silkeborg), Steen- Nielsen (Odense), Vilfort (Brondby), Kristensen (Portsmouth), J Jensen (Arsenal), Laudrup (Fiorentina), Elstrup (Odense), Pingel (Brondby).

Northern Ireland can aid their southern neighbours by gaining a result against Spain in Seville tonight in another Group Three qualifier. Billy Bingham's men, who have no late injury worries, need to win to stay in contention.

Gary Speed, the Leeds United midfield player, aggravated a thigh strain yesterday and may be absent when Wales meet the Representation of Czechs and Slovaks in a Group Four qualifier in Ostrava tonight.

----------------------------------------------------------------- GROUP THREE ----------------------------------------------------------------- P W D L F A Pts Spain 7 3 3 1 13 1 9 Denmark 6 3 3 0 4 0 9 Rep of Ireland 5 3 2 0 9 0 8 Lithuania 7 2 3 2 8 11 7 Northern Ireland 6 2 2 2 7 7 6 Latvia 8 0 4 4 3 15 4 Albania 7 1 1 5 4 14 3 -----------------------------------------------------------------