The Republic of Ireland endured a nightmare night in Dublin on Tuesday, with the hosts taken apart by a magnificent display from Christian Eriksen, whose hat-trick helped the visitors to a thumping 5-1 win.
With the tie perfectly poised after a first-leg goalless draw in Denmark, the Irish got off to a superb start when Shane Duffy headed home on six minutes after a Robbie Brady free-kick.
🚀 Lift off Ireland!
— Sky Sports FF (@SkyFantasyFooty) November 14, 2017
The Irish were much improved from their toothless first-leg display and had a couple of chances to increase their lead, with Daryl Murphy and James McClean both going close.
However, just before the half-hour mark, the Dane’s drew level when some weak defending allowed Chelsea centre-half Andreas Christensen to shot against the post, with the ball going in off an unlucky Cyrus Christie.
— Joe Coyle (@joecoyledesign) November 14, 2017
That equaliser took the wind out of Ireland’s sails, and just three minutes later, the visitors took the lead, with a mistake from Shane Ward allowing Denmark to break quickly, with Christian Eriksen producing an exquisite first-time finish.
Lord ! pic.twitter.com/bJDmMb9ZQe
— BurakCan (@brkcnyldz93) November 14, 2017
At half-time, Martin O’Neill sent on Wes Hoolahan and Aiden McGeady for David Meyler and Harry Arter, but with a weakened central midfield, things went from bad to worse for the Irish.
Eriksen bagged his second of the game on 63 minutes, again producing a superb finish after good work from the effervescent Pione Sisto.
— Spurs News Today (@TodaySpurs) November 14, 2017
More poor play from Ward then set up Eriksen who blasted home his third goal of the game.
The king of Denmark🔥👑 https://t.co/O9mpFBLGbT
— Hotspur World⚽️ (@Hotspur_World) November 14, 2017
Sub Shane Long threatened to get one back for the Boys in Green but there was still time for none other than Nicklas Bendtner to rub salt into the gaping Irish wound, with the ex-Arsenal man converting a spot-kick after he had been felled in the box by McClean.
A rancid cherry on the top of Ireland’s putrid cake indeed.
And so Ireland’s hopes of lining out in next summer in Russia ended not only in defeat, but in utter humiliation.
Not surprisingly, McClean, one of Ireland’s better performers on the night, was distraught at the end of the game.
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) November 14, 2017
While O’Neill may not have much quality to choose from within his squad, a prehistoric football ethos coupled with a regular lack of tactical nous begs the question of just what he can offer the Republic in the coming years.
As for Denmark, they make it to a World Cup finals for the first time since 2010, with Eriksen deserving of the biggest stage of them all.