November 14, 2017 / 11:49 PM / a year ago

Denmark look to Russia as Irish soul-searching begins

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Denmark go to next year’s World Cup with one of the world’s top 10 players in Christian Eriksen, coach Age Hareide said on Tuesday, after the Tottenham playmaker grabbed a hat-trick in the 5-1 thrashing of Ireland.

Soccer Football - 2018 World Cup Qualifications - Europe - Republic of Ireland vs Denmark - Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Republic of Ireland - November 14, 2017 Denmark's Christian Eriksen celebrates after the match REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Denmark booked their ticket to Russia in style in the second leg in Dublin, running away with a tie that was in the balance after a goalless first game in Copenhagen.

“All the teams who go to the World Cup have star players and players who can make the difference and Christian showed that today,” Hareide told a news conference.

“He’s absolutely in the top 10 (players in the world). We saw it against Real Madrid, he’s probably one of the best players in his position in Europe at the moment.

“He has this capability of scoring goals, making assists and finding space.”

Asked how far his free-flowing team could go at next year’s tournament, Hareide said it would depend on the draw but added that the side wanted to improve and play good football.

For Ireland, it was a very different story.

Solid and organised four days ago, and leading early on Tuesday, they completely capitulated, leaving manager Martin O’Neill to face difficult questions over his tactics, halftime changes and whether the occasion got to his players.

“I’m naturally disappointed because a couple of nights ago in Copenhagen we had fought very, very strongly,” O’Neill, who cut short an interview with national broadcaster RTE, told a news conference.

“The two goals we conceded in the space of a couple minutes (to trail 2-1) knocked us for six really, they were very, very poor goals ... We were well beaten in the end by a side who are technically better than us.”

O’Neill said he still intended to sign a new two-year contract agreed in principle with the Football Association of Ireland and would guide the team in their bid to reach Euro 2020.

With questions over O’Neill’s tactics likely to dominate the Irish sports pages on Wednesday, his opposite number was asked how successful the Irish manager’s approach had been.

“If you lose 5-1, you’re not successful,” Hareide said.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by .....

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