Matt O’Riley builds Celtic momentum ahead of Rangers as he reflects on ‘crazy’ Denmark debut

Celtic star Matt O’Riley is flying for Sunday’s clash with Rangers after an unforgettable debut for Denmark.

The playmaker returned to Glasgow to prepare for the trip to Ibrox with a treasured souvenir shirt to put up in his house and backing from his new coach Jesper Sorensen to burst his way into the nation’s senior squad for World Cup 2022 in Qatar.

O’Riley was full of pride with his family in attendance as he made a first Danes Under-21 appearance from the bench in their draw with Belgium.

The Parkhead ace has made a huge impression on his coaches and colleagues during an opening week with the squad having pledged his allegiance.

O’Riley slotted perfectly onto the scene speaking the language and booming out the national anthem before making his bow with 20 minutes to go at the MCH Arena in Herning, home of Celtic ’s Champions League conquerors FC Midtylland.

It’s a night he’ll never forget as he said: “It was my first match, so I will definitely have to take the jersey home and hang it in my room.

“It’s something I’ll remember all my life. Now I am only 21 years old, so maybe there will be a senior international team match, which I can also look back on.

“It was also cool to hear the national anthem. There were probably not that many at the stadium, but it was still good. Maybe one day I can do it in a bigger stadium, it would be totally wild.

“I sang along to the national anthem. There are probably some things that I do not know perfectly, so it’s also something I have to learn.

“I do not want to be the one on the national team who does not bother to speak Danish, so I’ll do my best.

“When I go home to Scotland, I also speak Danish with my mother. My grandmother is also coming soon, so I will also speak Danish with her. So, in a year or two, my Danish can be almost perfect, that would be good.

“It’s been great for them [family]. I have not seen my cousin for maybe four or five years, so it has been a long time.

“I am Danish, but my family is pure Danish, so for them, it is absolutely crazy that I am in the national team.

“My debut was fine. I might have been a little nervous before the match, but when I came on, it was just a normal match. I also had some good chances where I could have scored a goal with a little luck.

“I think Belgium was a bit lucky because we actually played really well. We also had some great chances in the last 20 minutes, so it’s a little annoying that we did not win, but it was still a good performance.”

Boss Sorensen was hugely impressed by the impact the Celtic star made on his unit.

As well as his footballing ability, the coach also pointed to the personality of the player as a key reason for his smooth integration.

Sorensen added: “He is a thoughtful and pleasant young man who reflects a lot and has a steely will. He’s done a lot to integrate as well as possible in the squad.”

The Under-21 manager had spoken openly prior to the game about O’Riley’s ability to push his way into the senior set-up for the World Cup at the end of the year.

Sorensen says he has many within his squad who can make the step-up to Kasper Hjulmand’s top-team and the Parkhead ace could join their ranks.

Club boss Postecoglou has also made it clear it’s a target for the midfielder to chase in the coming months as he progresses at Parkhead.

Sorensen thrust O’Riley into the game with 20 minutes to go and said: “It worked really well and we took over the match again. It was so unfortunate that we could not profit from it in the end.”

O’Riley now has the opportunity to make another statement with a starring performance against Rangers at Ibrox on Sunday.

Celtic can go six points clear of their rivals in the flag fight with just six games to go if they repeat their victory of last month.

O’Riley was a shining light in that 3-0 success producing the type of display which led Sorensen to pick him in the first place.

Another glittering show Old Firm will push his credentials even more and the former MK Dons star is not shying away from the fact Qatar is on his mind as he hunts down silverware in Glasgow’s East End and attempts to make a mark when the club returns to European competition at the beginning of next season.

Sorensen believes it is possible and O’Riley said: “There are some really talented players in this [Under-21]team and some of them probably dream of fighting their way into the World Cup team. I also think they have the qualities for that.

“First, I have to play well for Celtic and for the Under-21 team, and if I’m lucky, I might join.”

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