Ireland fall short against Denmark, Euro 2020 hopes hinge on the play-offs

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Martin Braithwaite celebrates scoring his goal against Ireland. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Martin Braithwaite celebrates scoring his goal against Ireland. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Close, but no cigar. Ireland missed out on the chance to book their place at next summer’s European Championships last night, as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Denmark at the Aviva Stadium. On a bitterly cold evening, Mick McCarthy’s side delivered arguably their best performance of the qualification campaign - but they fell short of the victory they needed to secure safe passage to Euro 2020. The Danes arrived in Dublin needing just a point to progress, and they looked to have done enough when Martin Braithwaite ghosted in behind Matt Doherty to break the deadlock in the 73rd minute. However Ireland rallied, with the Wolves fullback making amends as he equalised with five minutes to go. The hosts then huffed and puffed during a raucous finale, but they couldn’t find that precious winner. From the Aviva Stadium, Keith Duggan writes: “Never a dull moment, at least not in those wild, injury-time seconds when time and the world in general is pressing hard against the Republic of Ireland team and the players on the field are pulsing with raw belief and surging recklessly in chase of late glory.”

Ireland must now bid to qualify for Euro 2020 via the backdoor of the play-offs, which take place in March of next year. McCarthy’s side will play a one-off semi-final match away from home on March 26th and, if they win, will then play a one-off final on March 31st with a place at Euro 2020 on the line. Ireland’s opponents in the play-offs depend on the result of tonight’s fixture between Wales and Hungary (kick-off 7.45pm) - if Ryan Giggs’s side win at home then they qualify automatically, meaning Ireland would play Slovakia in Bratislava. You can read Ruaidhrí Croke’s explainer on the new system HERE. Elsewhere Ken Early has suggested the manager’s defensive mindset is what has cost Ireland their place at the Euros, especially on a night when Denmark seemed there for the taking. He writes: “Why did Ireland fail to qualify? It’s because they scored seven goals in eight games and the Danes scored more than three times as many. McCarthy has appealed throughout the campaign for more positivity around the team. But if he is seeking the source of negativity, he might also want to look at his own tactics.”

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