Kasper Schmeichel saluted “world-class” Christian Eriksen after watching him fire Denmark to the World Cup with a match-winning display against the Republic of Ireland.
The Tottenham midfielder scored a stunning hat-trick in Dublin to shatter Irish dreams of making it to Russia next summer as the Danes erased memories of a frustrating goalless draw in the first leg of the play-off with a 5-1 triumph at the Aviva Stadium.
Asked about his teammate, Leicester goalkeeper Schmeichel said: “World-class. That’s the only way to describe him, world-class.”
Eriksen came to the fore as Denmark fought their way back from an early disadvantage as central defender Shane Duffy had headed Ireland into a sixth-minute lead.
However, two goals inside three first-half minutes, Cyrus Christie’s own goal and the first strike of Eriksen’s treble, turned the game on its head.
The Spurs man added two more after the break as the Danes capitalised on the Republic’s head-long charge in the quest to get themselves back into the tie and substitute Nicklas Bendtner’s last-minute penalty simply rubbed salt into Irish wounds.
Schmeichel said: “It’s been a long time coming for Denmark. We missed out on the last two tournaments, so we’re very, very happy and proud.
“My wife is here and she was in the fan zone and all that. She was sending me videos and photos so I could see the atmosphere building. I’ve got all my family and all my friends here, they were all involved in it.
“To see the atmosphere they created and to be able to give them that at the end was fantastic.”
Manager Age Hareide had been bullish ahead of the second leg, correctly predicting that Ireland would have to open up and that his side would get chances as a result.
In the event, they won comprehensively and the Norwegian, who played with Martin O’Neill at Manchester City and Norwich, can now look forward to testing himself on the biggest stage of all.
Asked how his team might fare next summer, he replied with a smile: “I haven’t thought about that at the moment. I’m only pleased that we have qualified.
“In football, things change rather quickly. We have to have all our players fit. I think we, on our best days, can play good football, but we know that when you go to the World Cup, you also meet very strong opposition. It depends what group you are in.
“I think it will be interesting and fascinating to go there and take this team. We want to develop, we want to get better and we want to play football, so we’ll have to wait and see.
“It’s all down to the groups, the draw will be very important, for sure. In front of Sweden, at least, I hope so!”
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