Tuesday 20 March 2018

Great Dane ready to come of age on world stage

Kasper Schmeichel celebrates after Christian Eriksen scores Denmark's second. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Kasper Schmeichel celebrates after Christian Eriksen scores Denmark's second. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Colin Young

It was the night when Christian Eriksen sent his country back to the greatest stage in football, and might well have announced his final ascension as one of the greatest players in the world, someone who should really be on that kind of stage.

The Tottenham Hotspur star - for that is now what he undeniably is - brilliantly and brutally exposed every single Irish error, of which there were many.

Denmark must have known Eriksen would come to life eventually. They brought the T-shirts to prove it.

When Polish referee Szymon Marciniak blew his final whistle, the red WC18 T-shirts suddenly appeared and the Danish players chucked them on and sprinted to the small stand at the Aviva to start the party in front of their supporters.

The player with the biggest beam, the real star of this play-off and who will unquestionably grace the Russia finals, was Eriksen.

For the first 96 minutes of the two legs, Denmark's match-winner was under control, apparently a disinterested spectator, his touch slightly awry, his shooting not quite good enough to beat Darren Randolph.

And then Shane Duffy scored. He scored too early. The Aviva went mad, you could start planning for Russia and taste the vodka.

Unfortunately, Eriksen was provoked into life and it proved the death of this Ireland team.

So, while the 'Ole, Ole, Oles' starting ringing round the Dublin arena, Eriksen started cajoling his team-mates.

There may have even been a fist pumped in his frustration. It was the moment this tie changed.

Until then, hindered perhaps by the boggy pitch at the Telia Parken, Eriksen had struggled to make his majestic footballing talent count.

We all knew he was capable of being the difference between the two teams; he just didn't look too bothered about proving it.

Duffy's goal changed that. Suddenly, for 20 minutes, it looked like there were two Christian Eriksens on the pitch.

There are clearly times when the 23-year-old is working in a different stratosphere to his Danish team-mates.

Just after Ireland had taken the lead, he left three Irish players standing still with one deft touch, but Yussuf Poulsen still managed to give them back possession a second later.

If he was frustrated, angered or unfazed by the inadequacy of the others in white and red patches, it never showed.

Eriksen just continued to make himself available for the ball. He was unplayable for 20 minutes. And he won the game.

Last Saturday, as that torrid match had dragged on, the Tottenham playmaker had slipped deeper and deeper into the Danish midfield, at times finding himself beyond William Kvist and Thomas Delaney.

Last night, he popped up where he wanted and no one in the Ireland midfield or defence got anywhere near him.

The only time he made a point of going near the centre circle was for the re-starts. And there were five of those, three thanks to Eriksen.

His role in the first goal was merely a bit-part player, supplying the short corner to Pione Sisto who embarrassed Harry Arter with a nutmeg in the corner and supplied the clever cross which Andreas Christensen mis-hit into a post and Cyrus Christie and trickled over the line.

But the clinical finish to Nicolai Jorgensen's clever, instant pass three minutes later, was the type of goal he scores regularly for Tottenham. And, as we were warned beforehand, it can come from either foot.


His first was smashed home with his right. So devastating was his finish that, even at full-stretch, Randolph was nowhere near it. The ball glanced off the underside of the crossbar and flew into the net.

The game was over then but Eriksen still had more damage to inflict, only this time he didn't need to rush it.

He had already provided a couple of chances for the lively Pione Sisto when the winger returned the favour. The shot was unleashed by Eriksen's left foot. The outcome was the same; top corner. The damage done.

Poor Stephen Ward provided the assist for the hat-trick goal when he cut out Jorgensen's cross only to tee the ball up perfectly for Eriksen to smash it into the roof of the net.

Why the Spurs man didn't take the ball from Nicklas Bendtner to claim a fourth, only he will know.

Incredibly, Eriksen was named man of the match in Copenhagen. That was a poor match but he was still not the best player.

He was last night. And he will be a welcome addition to the finals.

Kasper Schmeichel celebrates after Eriksen's second goal

Irish Independent

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