World Cup: Denmark secures spot with rout of Ireland
Christian Eriksen scores hat trick to send Danes to 5th World Cup appearance
Christian Eriksen scored a superb hat trick as Denmark qualified for next year's World Cup with an emphatic 5-1 victory over Ireland in their playoff on Tuesday.
With last week's first leg having finished 0-0, Ireland made an ideal start to the return match by taking the lead in the sixth minute through defender Shane Duffy.
But Denmark's players gradually took control in midfield and were rewarded when Andreas Christensen's effort went into the net off Ireland's Cyrus Christie in the 29th minute.
Eriksen then stole the show, putting the visitors ahead in the 32nd minute, and scoring two more after the break.
Nicklas Bendtner turned a deserved victory into a rout when he converted a penalty in the 90th minute.
Next year's tournament in Russia will be Denmark's fifth World Cup appearance and first since 2010.
Yet a raucous home crowd in Dublin had been treated to the perfect start when Robbie Brady's free kick from just beyond the halfway line was flicked on by Denmark's Nicolai Jorgensen. The ball rose into the path of center back Duffy, who headed home.
Denmark midfielder Thomas Delaney had said after the first leg that breaching the Ireland defense was like "opening a can of baked beans with your bare hands - it takes time".
Perseverance eventually paid off
This time, their perseverance eventually paid off in the 29th minute.
Pione Sisto went past Harry Arter after a short corner and pulled the ball back for Christensen, whose touch just managed to send the ball over the line despite Christie's efforts to try and divert it away.
Three minutes later, Yussef Poulsen showed good tenacity to steal possession off Stephen Ward, before exchanging passes with Jorgensen. The ball was worked to the left, where Eriksen struck a first-time shot into the net via the crossbar - giving Ireland keeper Darren Randolph no chance.
Ireland manager Martin O'Neill made two changes at the break as his team tried to chase the game. It made for an open contest, but it played into Denmark's hands.
The contest was over in the 63rd minute when Sisto picked out Eriksen. The Tottenham forward was given too much time on the edge of the area and fired the ball home - with Ciaran Clark and Duffy unable to reach him.
It was a match to forget for Ward, who failed to control a cross and allowed Eriksen to race onto the loose ball and rifle it into the top corner in the 74th minute.
The hat trick brought Eriksen's total in this World Cup qualifying campaign to 11. A bad night for Ireland was compounded when James McClean gave away a penalty for a foul on Bendtner, with the former Arsenal striker scoring from the spot.
All qualifying results
- Senegal 2-1 South Africa
- Burkina Faso 4-0 Cape Verde Islands
- Ireland 1-5 Denmark