Eriksen hat trick sends Denmark to World Cup
DUBLIN — 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.
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 in fine form this season for Tottenham in the English 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.”
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 Nicklas Bendtner, with the former Arsenal striker scoring from the spot.
“We were well beaten,” Ireland manager Martin O’Neill said. “We fought tooth and nail to try to get into this position. This was a playoff to take us to the World Cup. I have to commend the players for getting this far.”
Consolation event debated
The U.S. Soccer Federation is looking into the possibility of an event next year involving nations that did not qualify for the World Cup. The USSF confirmed it was exploring the idea after a report Tuesday by Fox.
The tournament idea, first suggested on social media, gained traction Monday when Italy was eliminated by Sweden, which advanced with a 1-0 aggregate playoff win. The Italians will miss soccer’s premier event for the first time in six decades.
It is not clear whether FIFA would allow exhibition games during the World Cup, which runs June 14-July 15.