Christian Eriksen scored a stellar hat trick as Denmark secured a berth at next year’s World Cup with an comprehensive 5-1 victory over Ireland in the second leg playoffs played on Tuesday.
With the first leg of the playoff finished 0-0, Ireland started off the second leg in the best possible manner, taking the lead in the sixth minute through defender Shane Duffy.
But Denmark’s players gradually won the midfield battles and were rewarded when Andreas Christensen’s effort went into the net off Ireland’s Cyrus Christie in the 29th minute. Eriksen then put 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.
Denmark coach Age Hareide paid tribute to Eriksen, who has been on fine form this season for Tottenham in the Premier League and the Champions League.Asked Eriksen’s world ranking as a player, Hareide said: “Absolutely in the top 10. It is difficult to rank, but we saw him against Real Madrid. He is probably one of the best players in his position in Europe at the moment.
“All the teams that succeed and go to a World Cup have star players, and players that can make the difference and Christian showed that today.”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”.