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were the better team Keane said last week the key to Martin O��Neill��s celebrated motivational acumen boils down to a knack for saying the right thing at the right time. So it was intriguing, on the eve of Tuesday��s second leg of the tautly wound World Cup play?off between the Republic of Ireland and Denmark, to hear O��Neill tease his captain, David Meyler, about missing penalties in training. Men's Reebok St. Louis Blues #9 Doug Gilmour Premier Navy Blue Third NHL JerseyThere is a real possibility of the match here ending in the same 0-0 scoreline as the first leg on Saturday and, therefore, of a penalty shootout being required. That would determine who advances to the World Cup finals, and who is left to survey the rubble of a 14-month qualification campaign. When asked about that scenario, Meyler declared his confidence he would score from the spot if called. Not many managers would have chosen that moment to bring their player��s training-ground failures to public attention but O��Neill did so with a deadpan interjection. Everyone in the room laughed, except Meyler, who, after being taken by surprise, looked playfully exasperated. O��Neill had succeeded in introducing levity into what could have been a heavy preview �C but in a pointed way. He defused the tension the occasion while reminding his player talk is cheap. Deeds are sport��s true currency.For Ireland, this play-off is a balancing act. They must find the right blend between defence and attack, fervour and composure. In Copenhagen they defended with steel but offered little going forward. O��Neill knows that must change, at least a little, if they are to score the one goal or more they will need to progress without a shootout. He knows his players must remain focused enough to deny space to inventive Danes such as Christian Eriksen and Thomas Delaney. They must also pass more incisively than they did on Saturday, when they concentrated so hard on keeping the ball away from their own goal they neglected to figure out how to get it near Denmark��s. ��We will try to be that bit more expansive if we can and deal with the ball a wee bit better,�� O��Neill said. Wes Hoolahan often delivers the ideal mixture but usually begins on the bench, where he stayed in the first leg. O��Neill did not say whether the Norwich City schemer would start on Tuesday. The suspicion is the only changes will see Meyler return to central midfield so Robbie Brady can shift wide and replace Callum O��Dowda, while Shane Long may start up front. The Southampton striker has not scored for club or country since February but Denmark��s defenders may be more bothered by his mobility than by Daryl Murphy��s brawn. O��Neill hailed his team��s fighting qualities but said: ��It should not be everything in our side because eventually, as well as spirit, you have to be able to play.�� Meyler reckoned Ireland��s spirit will give them the edge: ��Denmark don��t have the character, heart and desire we have.�� The opposing manager, Age Hareide, retorted: ��He doesn��t know us.�� O��Neill referred to his team��s record of rising somehow to grand occasions. ��We are going to try to win the game and will try to find a way to win it,�� he said. ��These players have been able to do that in the last couple of years.�� Teams of similar or higher standing to Denmark can Danny Amendola Authentic Jersey vouch for that, including Germany, Italy, Bosnia?Herzegovina, Austria and Wales �C all beaten by Ireland in high-stakes showdowns.In this campaign, Ireland��s best performances came away from home. They scored only four goals in their five group games in Dublin. Hareide highlighted this fact and referred to the possession and pass completion statistics from the first leg, which were heavily in Denmark��s favour. He is not buying O��Neill��s attacking talk. ��Ireland will play the same way,�� he said. ��They just want us to make mistakes. That��s OK. I haven��t got the patience to play like that. We��ll try to attack.�� Denmark (4-3-3, probable): Schmeichel; Ankersen, Kjaear, Bjelland, Larsen; Eriksen, Kvist, Delaney; Poulsen, Cornelius, Sisto.Michael O��Neill condemned the ��cruelty�� of Northern Ireland��s World Cup play-off defeat by Switzerland after they were ultimately denied a place in Russia by the controversial first-leg penalty. The Northern Ireland manager also insisted it was too soon to say whether elimination marked the end of an era for himself and several senior players. Northern Ireland produced a vastly improved performance in Basel but a goalless draw sent Switzerland through to a fourth consecutive World Cup finals thanks to Ricardo Rodr��guez��s penalty in Belfast. Rodr��guez was also on hand to clear a Jonny Evans header off the line in stoppage time in the second leg, increasing Northern Ireland��s torment.��I wasn��t aware it was Rodr��guez but the cruelty is in the poorness of the decision that means we are missing out on the chance to go to a World Cup,�� a distraught O��Neill said. ��That is the cruelty. We should still be playing extra time now, that is the reality. Yes, Switzerland were the better team in the first leg but they didn��t score other than the penalty. ��We were the better team tonight. For us to miss out because of that mistake, at this level and with those group of players who��ve given everything, is extremely cruel. We should be out on the pitch now fighting for a place in Russia.�� O��Neill revealed several Northern Ireland players were in tears in the dressing room after the game and that, for the likes of 38-year-old Aaron Hughes and 37-year-old Gareth McAuley, their dreams of playing at a World Cup are, in effect, over. The manager said: ��My first emotion is absolute devastation. It would have been disappointing if we��d just lost but it is devastating because of the manner of how we lost and the goal that decided the tie. I couldn��t have asked for more from the players. Their level of performance was phenomenal and I told them afterwards it was a privilege to be their manager tonight.��After five and a half years this is clearly a devastating moment but in terms of the character of a team it is also a high point. We went toe to toe with a team that reached the last 16 of the last Euros Authentic Danny Amendola Jersey and the last World Cup and the tie has been decided by a penalty that should never have been. The players are emotional and upset. There were some players in tears afterwards. Everyone was struggling to hold back their emotions. For some of these players it��s unlikely the World Cup will come around again.�� Oliver Norwood, the Northern Ireland midfielder, put it succinctly. ��Shafted is the only word for it,�� he said. ��It��s not just the penalty decision as the tackle Fabian Sch?r made on Stuart Dallas in Belfast was a red card. I will think about the penalty decision for years to come as it��s the only goal between the two sides and it��s knocked us out.�� O��Neill��s future with Northern Ireland is open to doubt given his outstanding achievements at international level. Scotland are believed to be keen to lure the Edinburgh-based manager to replace Gordon Strachan, but O��Neill insisted no one connected with Northern Ireland needs to decide their futures in the immediate aftermath of the play-off exit. ��I haven��t even considered that,�� he said. ��I am under contract until 2020 and tonight is about being with my players, spending time with them and making sure they are OK. I said to the players there is no need to make any rash decisions on anything they want to do. They have given everything. ��They will make decisions going forward. Certainly the likes of Aaron and Gareth at 38 and 37, and Chris Brunt, these players have had long and established Northern Ireland careers but, for me, they have time to make that decision. ��We don��t have a qualifier until next March so there is lot of time for that, and certainly at this moment in time it��s not a decision to be made. I am not thinking any further ahead than just being with the players.��