Erik Sviatchenko absolutely loving what he's seeing from Matt O'Riley at Celtic
Former Celtic centre-back Erik Sviatchenko has bigged up the performances of Matt O’Riley since his January move to Parkhead.
O’Riley arrived in Glasgow in a bargain £1.5m move from MK Dons at the start of the year [Sky Sports]. Since then he’s become a pivotal member of Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic engine room. Matt made 20 appearances over the second half of the campaign with 4 goals and 2 assists to his name [Transfermarkt].
However, perhaps most surprisingly, he was given a role in the Denmark under-21 national team. O’Riley already appears to have worked his way into the starting line-up, and is already eyeing up a role with the full first-team squad for Qatar 2022.
And full Danish international Sviatchenko is certainly impressed with what he’s seen of the midfielder so far. As quoted by the Celtic Way, Erik said: “I know it is O’Riley’s dream to play for Denmark in the World Cup finals in Qatar later this year. He has performed well for the under-21s and he scored his first goal in midweek against Turkey. He has done magnificently well for Celtic and you have to say he is now knocking on the door of the full Danish international squad.
“The first time I heard about him was in the Danish media. O’Riley had a Danish mum but he could choose to represent both England, Denmark and Norway. All of that was mentioned as was the fact that he was an MK Dons player who had been linked with Celtic.
“As soon as Celtic entered the equation I started to take an avid interest in his career. When he signed I thought it was an interesting transfer. I knew playing for Celtic would be a step up for him in terms of coming from League One in England but after watching some of his games I have been very impressed. I’m just glad that he has chosen to play international football for Denmark and we’ll see what happens with him.”
What does Matt O’Riley need to do to reach Qatar 2022?
It’s easy to romanticise O’Riley making the World Cup at the end of the year and just assuming that it’s destined to happen. However, the reality is that he’s very early on in his Danish career and has yet to be given his first full call-up to the Denmark squad.
In addition to that, the quality he’s competing against can’t be understated. The likes of Thomas Delaney, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Christian Erikson. There are a host of options for manager Kasper Hjulmand to choose from.
Of course, where O’Riley has a big opportunity is in the UEFA Champions League this season. That’s not a competition everyone in the Danish squad will be competing in. If he can manage to hold his own against the best midfielders in the world, there could be a spot available to him.
It’s clear Hjulmand is a fan of O’Riley. The Celtic man has already touched on the chats he’s had with the Danish boss in the past. He’ll be aware of Matt’s progress and will undoubtedly be keeping tabs on him ahead of the competition.
However, at the same time, O’Riley is only 21 years of age. There will be several more World Cup opportunities available to him in the future. This is just the beginning of his international career, and it looks like it’s only a matter of time before it all blows up for him.
But this season it’s all about patience and ensuring he’s at the required standard on a weekly-basis for Celtic. Obsessing over a potential World Cup spot will do more harm than good.