Republic of Ireland’s World Cup dream shattered by Eriksen and Denmark

And lo, the spirit and awkwardness of Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland were not enough. Those qualities took them to within touching distance of their first World Cup in 16 years but no further. Denmark, far superior in this play-off, will go instead. In Christian Eriksen they have a player who belongs among the elite, a point he expressed beautifully in Dublin with an exquisite hat-trick.

Fleetingly Ireland had Russia within their reach, Shane Duffy heading them into a sixth-minute lead. But by half-time Denmark had wrenched the World Cup ticket out of the home side’s hands and they never gave it back. They scored the away goal the Irish had dreaded when William Kvist’s ugly shot found the net via Cyrus Christie’s leg in the 29th minute. Then came Eriksen’s trio of beauties. It seemed like an unnecessary insult when Nicklas Bendtner scored from a late penalty.

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