Denmark qualifies for World Cup
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 centre back Duffy, who headed home.
Denmark midfielder Thomas Delaney had said after the first leg that breaching the Ireland defence was like “opening a can of baked beans with your bare hands - it takes time”.
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.
VENTURA’S STATUS UP IN AIR
The status of Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura remained in question after the four-time champions failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades.
Ventura said after Monday’s 1-0 aggregate loss to Sweden that he hadn’t resigned because he hadn’t discussed it with federation president Carlo Tavecchio.
On Tuesday, Tavecchio said he was calling a meeting for Wednesday to put together “an indepth analysis and decide on choices for the future.”
Ventura’s contract was recently extended to 2020 but the deal includes a stipulation that it could be voided in case of a failed qualification.
Italy was eliminated after a scoreless draw against Sweden on Monday.
Previous Italy coach Antonio Conte, Carlo Ancelotti, Roberto Mancini and Massimiliano Allegri were being mentioned as possible replacements.
Tavecchio’s status was also put into question by Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago, who oversees all sports in the country.
“I spoke with Tavecchio and I asked him what his intentions were and he told me that tomorrow there will be this meeting in the federation,” Malago said. “As you know, it’s up to the boss to take responsibility but if I were him I would resign.”
ENGLAND, BRAZIL DRAW
An inexperienced England side stifled another of soccer’s leading teams on, drawing 0-0 with Brazil after a scoreless draw with world champion Germany last week.
In a friendly of few chances in front of 84,595 fans at Wembley Stadium, the closest England and Brazil came to breaking the deadlock came in the final 15 minutes.
A long-range strike from Fernandinho shaved the goal post and Neymar fed Paulinho, who was denied at the near post by England goalkeeper Joe Hart.
“We were playing the best team in the world at the moment. I thought they were brilliant,” Hart said. “They made it really hard for us and we had to adapt on the pitch ... the defensive backline were absolutely phenomenal tonight.”
Denmark’s Christian Eriksen (left) celebrates with Thomas Delaney after scoring a goal against Ireland during the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying football in Dublin yesterday.