Erik­sen hat trick sends Den­mark to World Cup

The London Free Press - - SPORTS -

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.

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