2018 World Cup Qualifying - UEFA, Playoffs
  • Shane Duffy (6')
  • Andreas Christensen (29')
  • Christian Eriksen (32', 63', 73')
  • Nicklas Bendtner (90' PEN)
2nd Leg - Denmark win 5-1 on aggregate
2nd Leg - Denmark win 5-1 on aggregate

Denmark reach World Cup, doom Ireland after Eriksen's hat trick

Christian Eriksen's hat trick helped Denmark qualify for the 2018 World Cup with a 5-1 win over Republic of Ireland, whose hopes ended in the UEFA playoffs once more.

The Tottenham midfielder, who had been effectively shackled in the goalless first leg in Copenhagen, took the second leg of the playoff tie by the scruff of the neck with two superb finishes either side of half-time before lashing home a third late on.

In the process, he took his tally for the campaign to 11 goals, just two fewer than Ireland managed in their 12 games in the competition, before substitute Nicklas Bendtner converted a last-minute penalty.

Having spent the 90 minutes in Copenhagen largely defending for dear life, Ireland needed to be more proactive if they were going to get past the Danes.

It was no surprise when Martin O'Neill once against ignored the clamour for 34-year-old Wes Hoolahan's inclusion, and he could hardly have been more delighted when, with less than six minutes played, his team took the lead.

Robbie Brady's set-piece delivery has at times left something to be desired during the current campaign, but the free kick he floated into the Danish penalty area caused panic and when striker Nicolai Jorgensen could only help the ball towards his own goal, Shane Duffy rose to head past advancing goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

However, that was never likely to be decisive and had it not been for keeper Darren Randolph, who reprised his heroics in Denmark with good saves from William Kvist and Pione Sisto in quick succession, the visitors would have been back in it.

Ireland might have increased their lead with Daryl Murphy and James McClean going close, but the wheels came off in spectacular fashion inside three devastating minutes.

Following a corner, Pione Sisto drove into the box and put a hopeful ball into the mass of bodies in front, where Andreas Christensen scuffed a shot off the post, but it went in after striking defender Cyrus Christie.

And it was 2-1 in favour of the visitors three minutes later as Brady was dispossessed and Denmark pushed forward. Christian Eriksen lashed home a shot from the edge of the box off the underside of the bar to put the Danes in full control.

O'Neill knew the time had come to throw caution to the wind and he did just that after the break, sending on playmaker Hoolahan and winger Aiden McGeady for defensive midfield duo Meyler and Arter.

The Danes revelled in the extra freedom that afforded them and Randolph had to parry a well-struck Sisto effort after Eriksen had turned neatly to send him sprinting towards goal.

Play switched rapidly from end to end with Duffy planting a firm header straight into Schmeichel's arms before Eriksen ran half the length of the pitch unopposed only to see his shot blocked by the diving Randolph.

However, the Middlesbrough keeper was exposed once again with 63 minutes gone as Eriksen effectively killed Irish hopes for good, receiving Sisto's pass and expertly curling a left-foot shot inside the far post to make it 3-1.

He completed his hat trick by dispatching a rasping drive into the roof of the net as Stephen Ward failed to clear a cross, and there was still time for Bendtner to have his say when he converted a last-minute penalty after being felled.

It was the fourth slip-up for Ireland at the final hurdle in their five appearances in World Cup playoffs, after they also lost in a playoff in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

But unlike eight years ago, when Thierry Henry's handball went uncalled and doomed Ireland, there was no doubt who deserved to go through on Tuesday night, as Denmark qualified for their fifth World Cup after missing out in 2014.