Sublime Eriksen propels Denmark to World Cup

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Christian Eriksen’s magnificent hat-trick inspired Denmark to a 5-1 demolition of the Republic of Ireland in Tuesday’s second leg of their play-off in Dublin to clinch a spot at next year’s World Cup.

Following Saturday’s stalemate in Copenhagen, Ireland got their home leg off to the perfect start when Shane Duffy headed them into the lead after only six minutes, but Denmark struck twice before the break and three more in the second half to seal their place in Russia.

“It is an incredible feeling. We have been fighting for so long to get to the World Cup. We are very much looking forward to it,” said Eriksen.

“It is not often I score any hat-trick so of course it is incredible.”

The equaliser arrived in fortuitous circumstances on 19 minutes when Cyrus Christie helped bundle in Andreas Christensen’s effort, but there was nothing lucky about Eriksen’s thunderbolt for the second or his second-half brace.

Nicklas Bendtner, on as a late substitute, completed the rout in the final minute with a penalty after a clumsy trip on him by James McClean, extending Ireland’s wait for a first World Cup appearance since 2002.

“We’re really disappointed. We were well beaten in the end,” said Ireland coach Martin O’Neill.

“The two goals we conceded within a couple of minutes knocked us. We had to chase the game and Denmark took advantage. They deserved to go through.”

O’Neill, who had already agreed a new contact to lead Ireland into the qualifiers for the 2020 European Championship, will ship criticism for again selecting his team without the craft of Wes Hoolahan.

The 35-year-old, one of four Ireland players likely to retire from international football, was only introduced at the interval with Ireland needing three goals to redeem their cause.

Duffy will certainly be around for the next campaign and his role as a central figure was solidified by his second crucial goal of the campaign.

After Daryl Murphy earned a free-kick on the halfway line, Robbie Brady’s delivery was telegraphed perfectly for the giant centre-back to arrive on cue to nod past the onrushing Kasper Schmeichel.

That early breakthrough ensured the game opened up and Murphy nearly added a second only to ripple the side-netting with a volley.

AFP

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