Ireland outclassed by great Danes as World Cup dream ends
Norsemen cast cold eye on best efforts of O’Neill’s men, then pass by, en route to Russia
Ireland have joined two of European football’s long-established aristocrats, Italy and Holland, in being absent from next summer’s World Cup after a desperately disappointing night in which Martin O’Neill’s men were outclassed by a rampant Denmark.
Despite taking an early lead, the home team were taken apart by a side they had subdued in Copenhagen during Saturday’s play-off first leg. For the trip to Dublin, the Dane’s seem to have taken WB Yeats’ advice. They cast a cold eye on the best Ireland and its raucous support could offer. Then the Norsemen passed by, en route to Russia.
It started well at least. As if to summon the spirit of 1014 Ireland had called in the war pipes for the occasion. Led by the Achill Pipe Band, the home fans delivered as lusty a rendition of Amhrán na bhFiann as ever heard in the Aviva, followed by a roar that could have curdled the blood of even the coolest Scandinavian.
It seemed to have an effect. In the first meaningful kick of the game, Robbie Brady welcomed Christian Eriksen to Dublin with a vengeance that suggested the Bradys were close relatives of Brian Boru.
Then, barely six minutes in, a free from Brady caused panic in the Danish penalty area and Shane Duffy rose to head past Kasper Schmeichel.
Plethora of chances
We would have happily settled for the rest of the game being as uneventful as the one in Copenhagen. But no such luck. The teams chose this of all nights to be entertaining, with a plethora of chances at both ends. Just after the half hour, Denmark had taken two of theirs, the second a beauty from Eriksen.
Now it was the visiting fans’ turn to get noisy. “You only sing when you’re winning,” they chanted – pots calling the kettle black, but in annoyingly perfect English – at the cowed green masses.
Martin O’Neill had predicted his side would need to score twice to win. Now they needed at least three. And after that we lost count, as Eriksen completed a hat-trick and Niklas Bendtner added a fifth.
Ireland had meantime headed for the Longboat – substitute striker Shane. But on a night when nothing worked, the Danes seemed to have holed that in advance.
Denmark now join 31 other qualifiers for the draw in Moscow next month. The Irish, North and South, will at least have some good company in sitting the tournament out.