Christian Eriksen stars as Denmark rout Ireland 5-1, book World Cup spot.
With three goals from three chances, Christian Eriksen rocketed Denmark to Russia. Ireland had simply no answer to Tottenham’s playmaker as his display of Danish dynamite destroyed their dream of reaching a first finals since 2002.
The Republic of Ireland have put their heart and soul into this World Cup qualification campaign, but when it mattered most they were short of the one thing that really matters – quality.
That was served up on a silver service for Denmark by Tottenham Hotspur’s Christian Eriksen, who scored a magnificent hat-trick, stroking two shots into the net like he was knocking balls into an empty goal at the end of a training session, before smashing in a third.
Ireland were forced to bend the knee in the presence of his brilliance. Denmark had one world-class player, Ireland had none. It can make small margins look like a gulf in class.
Ireland were crushed, but the suggestion they had been humiliated at the end of a campaign in which they were fourth seeds in their group and still finished second, drew an angry response from manager Martin O’Neill, who walked out of a post-match television interview.
“We were well beaten, no question about that,” said O’Neill. “We were made to pay for some sloppy defending, two really poor goals to concede and when we tried to chase the game, we were punished.
“But we were beaten in a play-off. We have fought tooth and nail to get here, so the sense of disappointment is huge. But we have played 24 competitive games and lost four. This is one of them.
“We were beaten by a side that was better than us and has a world-class player in the team, who was absolutely magnificent. Eriksen is top class and he showed it.”
Eriksen now belongs in an elite group of players in the modern era, alongside Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who have carried their national teams to new heights, defining the big games with the force of their individual talent.
In the end, Ireland gambled and lost. O’Neill tried something different and it did not work. Having smothered Denmark in the first leg in Copenhagen, he tried to attack them. He might regret it now, but in truth, nothing was likely to stand in Eriksen’s way. He and Denmark fully deserve to be at the World Cup next year.
And that’s it! Denmark go to Russia 2018, the Irish will be left at home.