Christian Eriksen was delighted to play a major part as his stunning hat-trick helped fire Denmark to the 2018 World Cup as they shot the Republic of Ireland's dreams down in flames with a 5-1 victory.
The hosts got off to a great start as Shane Duffy headed them in front just six minutes in, while goalkeeper Darren Randolph made two diving saves to keep out efforts from William Kvist and Pione Sisto as Denmark pushed for an equaliser.
The visitors made their pressure count just before the half-hour mark with a quickfire double as Andreas Christensen's effort hit the post and then Cyrus Christie before finding the net and Eriksen fired a powerful effort home from the edge of the 18-yard box to put the Danes ahead.
The Tottenham midfielder netted his second after finding space and firing past Randolph after 63 minutes and he completed his hat-trick with another powerful effort with just over 15 minutes remaining. Nicklas Bendtner’s penalty at the death put the result beyond doubt.
Eriksen told Sky Sports Main Event: “It’s not often I score any hat-trick, so of course it’s incredible and taking your country to the World Cup with three goals away and winning the play-off, it’s going to mean a lot for my whole career, for my whole life really. It’s a big thing and I’m very, very happy about it.
“It’s an incredible feeling. We’ve been fighting for so long to get there (to the World Cup) and of course now the two play-off games were very hard but with the result we got tonight we can be very pleased and it makes you very much looking forward to the World Cup.”
The Spurs man, who will line up in Saturday’s north London derby at Arsenal, believes his confidence comes from changes in the coaching team following Age Hareide’s appointment in charge a little over 18 months ago.
Eriksen added: “I think mentally I’ve grown up and taken a more clinical shot instead of the passing and a bit more thinking I think, a bit more of a striker – getting my own shots out and get the goal as soon as possible.
“With the change of the manager and how we play, it’s meant a lot for my position in the game and how we keep me in the game, keep me involved. It’s been a big change.”
Hareide hailed his side’s character to fight back, saying: “Belief is very important in football and the lads stuck together and gave a fantastic performance today in a very difficult game.
“It was very good. Especially when we came from behind, 1-0.
“They tried to play and got the opening and (we) got the goals and were more effective than we were in Parken and the effectiveness is very important for the football so I’m very, very pleased for the team and their performance as well.
“This is a very difficult place to play football because they’re compact and good defensively so scoring five goals against Ireland, it doesn’t happen very often.
“I was surprised really because I think they played in a diamond — the midfield — with two forwards, and our centre-halves can handle two forwards, but that gave a lot of space in centre midfield for Eriksen.”
Hareide had a message for Ireland after the match as he praised Eriksen for his contribution.
He added: “Just to say, ‘Thank you very much for giving us space’, because they locked us down in Parken very well and Eriksen was very much out of the game and today he was fantastic.
“He’s a fantastic player on the ball and he works hards for the team all the time so he’s an inspiration for all the lads around him. If you give him the ball, something happens and I think that’s the difference between the sides.”