Erik­sen goals send Den­mark to World Cup

Daily News - - SPORT - SOC­CER

DEN­MARK’S hat-trick hero Chris­tian Erik­sen said his per­for­mance in their 5-1 de­mo­li­tion of Ire­land yes­ter­day would be life-chang­ing af­ter they booked a ticket to next year’s World Cup.

The mid­field mae­stro, who had missed a cou­ple of de­cent chances in the goal­less play-off first leg, made no mis­take in the Dublin re­turn as his tre­ble put the Irish to the sword.

“It’s in­cred­i­ble to take your coun­try to the World Cup with three goals in a play-off,” said 25-year-old Erik­sen.

“It’s go­ing to mean a lot through­out my ca­reer, through­out my whole life, re­ally. It’s a big thing and I’m very happy about it.”

The Danes also ben­e­fited from an An­dreas Chris­tensen goal, that can­celled out Shane Duffy’s early header for Ire­land, and a late Nick­las Bendt­ner penalty but Erik­sen stole the show.

“We can­not ig­nore that Erik­sen de­liv­ered an in­cred­i­ble per­for­mance and prob­a­bly played his best in­ter­na­tional game, in my opinion,” Bendt­ner told re­porters.

De­spite the plau­dits of his team­mates and his cen­tral role in the vic­tory, Erik­sen was his usual hum­ble self. “It’s a crazy feel­ing, we’ve been fight­ing to­gether for so long since the qual­i­fi­ca­tion started,” he said.

The Danes did not panic when Duffy scored and a short cor­ner saw Pione Sisto beat Harry Arter be­fore flash­ing the ball across the box where Chris­tensen’s shot was de­flected into the net by Ire­land’s Cyrus Christie just be­fore the half-hour mark.

“Af­ter scor­ing one goal it was a big knock for Ire­land, we got a lot of con­fi­dence and started to play good foot­ball,” said Erik­sen, who plays for Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur.

He added Den­mark’s sec­ond soon af­ter and put the game out of Ire­land’s reach just past the hour be­fore com­plet­ing his tre­ble.

Erik­sen, who has scored 21 times in 75 in­ter­na­tion­als, said there were more goals to come from Den­mark in Rus­sia.

“We’ll take this with us and try to score as many goals as pos­si­ble at the World Cup as well,” said the mid­fielder, who doused for­mer in­ter­na­tional de­fender Lars Ja­cob­sen, who was broad­cast­ing for Dan­ish TV, with cham­pagne as he cele- brated.

Den­mark coach Age Hareide hailed Erik­sen as “one of the best play­ers in the world”.

“All the teams who go to the World Cup have star play­ers and play­ers who can make the dif­fer­ence and Chris­tian showed that to­day,” Hareide told a news con­fer­ence.

“He’s in the top 10 (play­ers in the world). We saw it against Real Madrid, he’s prob­a­bly one of the best play­ers in his po­si­tion in Europe at the mo­ment.

“He has this ca­pa­bil­ity of scor­ing goals, mak­ing as­sists and find­ing space.”

Asked how far his free-flow­ing team could go at next year’s tour­na­ment, Hareide said it would de­pend on the draw but added that the side wanted to im­prove and play good foot­ball.

For Ire­land, it was a very dif­fer­ent story.

Solid and or­gan­ised four days ago, and lead­ing early on yes­ter­day, they com­pletely ca­pit­u­lated, leav­ing man­ager Martin O’Neill to face dif­fi­cult ques­tions over his tac­tics, half­time changes and whether the oc­ca­sion got to his play­ers.

“I’m nat­u­rally dis­ap­pointed be­cause a cou­ple of nights ago in Copen­hagen we had fought very, very strongly,” O’Neill said.

“The two goals we con­ceded in the space of a cou­ple min­utes (to trail 2-1) knocked us for six re­ally, they were very, very poor goals... We were well beaten in the end by a side who are tech­ni­cally bet­ter than us.”

O’Neill said he still in­tended to sign a new two-year con­tract agreed in prin­ci­ple with the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion of Ire­land and would guide the team in their bid to reach Euro 2020.

With ques­tions over O’Neill’s tac­tics likely to dom­i­nate the Irish sports pages, his op­po­site num­ber was asked how suc­cess­ful the Irish man­ager’s ap­proach had been.

“If you lose 5-1, you’re not suc­cess­ful,” Hareide said. – Reuters

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

ON TAR­GET: Chris­tian Erik­sen scores Den­mark’s sec­ond goal dur­ing last night’s World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion play-off sec­ond leg against Re­pub­lic of Ire­land in Dublin.

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