Denmark

AP Photo/Peter Morrison

Eriksen hat trick puts Denmark in World Cup (video)

Leave a comment

Only two spots remain in Russia after Denmark overcame an early scare to belt the Republic of Ireland in the second leg of their UEFA World Cup qualifying playoff in Dublin on Tuesday.

Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen scored thrice in the Danes’ 5-1 win over Martin O’Neill’s Irish, who led on Shane Duffy‘s opener.

[ USMNT: McKennie goal, Horvath howler ]

Andreas Christensen made it 1-1 and Eriksen’s first had Denmark up at the break. Ireland’s hopes went down the drain when Eriksen bagged two more in the second half, and “Lord” Nicklas Bendtner converted a 90th minute penalty to bag the berth.

The only remaining spots will be settled in the next 24 hours, as Honduras-Australia and Peru-New Zealand take qualifying to the wire.

Kasper Schmeichel calls Denmark pitch “horrendous” after Ireland draw

Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Denmark would’ve liked to have scored at its home pitch on Saturday during their UEFA World Cup qualifying playoff against the Republic of Ireland, but a scoreless draw was more than sufficient heading into the second leg.

[ MORE: Hazard calls Belgium teammate “the best player in the PL” ]

That being said, not everyone was pleased with the Parken Stadium’s playing surface for a match of its magnitude.

Leicester City and Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was critical of the pitch following the 0-0 draw on Saturday, calling it “horrendous” that wasn’t conducive to support Denmark’s style of play.

“It was an horrendous pitch, which was very disappointing,” Schmeichel said. “There was no grass on it, it was soft, it took me back to the old days at Bury and in League Two.

“We wanted to play incisive football, so it made a bit of difference, but no excuse. They were very dogged.”

Notice that Schmeichel also got a shot in his statement at one of his former clubs and their field — Bury — where he spent time on loan back in 2006.

The two nations will meet again on Tuesday in Ireland, and a win or scoring draw (1-1, 2-2, etc.) would be enough for Schmeichel and Denmark to reach the World Cup with the away goals rule in effect.

UEFA WCQ: Ireland, Denmark all square ahead of decisive 2nd leg

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ireland held firm in the face of Danish pressure and chances, ultimately securing precisely the result they were after — a 0-0 draw away to Denmark — in Saturday’s first of two legs with a place at the 2018 World Cup on the line.

[ MORE: Shaqiri promises “nice party” in Switzerland “when we qualify” ]

Every measurable statistical category drastically favored the home side — 72 to 28 in possession; 14 shots (5 on goal) to 8 shots (2 on goal); 81 percent to 53 percent passing; and on and on — but Martin O’Neill’s side managed to keep the clean sheet anyway, courtesy of Darren Randolph‘s five saves, and a semi-spectacular miss.

It was, by a mile, the game’s best scoring chance, and it came and went in the 32nd minute. Christian Eriksen fired a shot on target from nearly 30 yards out, and while Randolph made the save while falling to his right, the Middlesbrough goalkeeper couldn’t hold the ball and it fell to Denmark’s Pione Sisto eight yards from goal. The Celta Vigo winger took his chance with his first touch, on his preferred right foot, and fired inches wide of the far post.

Randolph made a key save in the 90th minute (above photo), denying Yussuf Poulsen’s goal-bound header from the top of the six-yard box. Jens Stryger Larsen got down the left wing, cut back inside onto his right foot and served up a tantalizing ball for Poulsen, but Randolph was quick to react, rising to tip the ball over the crossbar and complete his man-of-the-match performance.

The decisive second leg will be played on Tuesday (2:45 p.m. ET), at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

UEFA World Cup qualifying playoff preview

Maurizio Degl'Innocenti/ANSA via AP
Leave a comment

Eight teams remain for four spots in Russia.

[ MORE: MLS Conference Finalists cheat sheet ]

There are some big names in the bunch, including multiple World Cup winners like Italy.

And five of the eight teams advanced from their groups at EURO 2016, including quarterfinalist Italy.

Italy is also one of four playoff teams who went to the 2014 World Cup. Not all will go back, with Greece facing Croatia in one of the playoff ties.

Northern Ireland vs. Switzerland
First leg – Thursday in Belfast
Second leg – Sunday in Basel

The Swiss were incredibly unfortunate, going 9-1 just like group-winning Portugal but failing to advance on goal differential.

The plucky Northern Irish proved their EURO run was no fluke when they advanced fairly comfortably over third place Czech Republic.

Switzerland will be favored to advance behind its terrific midfield, with Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri, Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, and the Montreal Impact’s Blerim Dzemaili in the mix.

Northern Ireland will line up in from of EURO hero Michael McGovern, who starred in helping the Green and White Army stymy several foes in 2016.

Croatia vs. Greece
First leg – Thursday in Zagreb
Second leg – Sunday in Piraeus

Croatia comes out of a wildly competitive Group I, two points behind Iceland and three points ahead of Ukraine.

Greece needed the final day to edge past Bosnia and Herzegovina after finishing miles behind Belgium.

Croatia is loaded in attack and style, but Greece has traditionally been a squad full of tactically-efficient defenders.

Denmark vs. Republic of Ireland
First leg – Saturday in Copenhagen
Second leg – Tuesday in Dublin

The Danes finished five points back of Poland and four ahead of Montenegro in Group E.

Ireland edged Wales for second place in Group D.

Expect this pairing to be as plucky as any of the four ties, with Martin O’Neill’s Irish prepared to make life very difficult for unbeaten-since-Oct. 2016 Denmark.

Sweden vs. Italy
First leg – Friday in Solna
Second leg – Monday in Milan

The Italians lost the Group G lottery, which was always going to come down to the pair of matches between Italy and Spain.

Sweden advanced past Netherlands on goal differential for second in Group A, finishing four points behind France.

Since 1934, Italy has failed to qualify for a World Cup exactly once (1958). Sweden didn’t make it to the last two tournaments despite a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic. There would be a certain ridiculousness to the Swedes making it happen without one of their all-time heroes.

UEFA playoff draw sets up intriguing battles

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The fight for the final four 2018 World Cup spots from UEFA is well and truly on.

On Tuesday in Zurich, Switzerland the draw for the two-legged playoffs was made as the eight best runners up from the UEFA qualifying group stages found out their fate.

[ MORE: Latest World Cup rankings released ]

The Republic of Ireland will face Denmark over two games, while Northern Ireland face Switzerland and two monster clashes have been set up as Sweden and Italy will lock horns and Croatia and Greece will do battle.

A spot at the World Cup in Russia next summer is the prize for the four winners of these home and away playoffs.

The Republic of Ireland seem to have got the better draw, especially as they will play at home in the second leg in Dublin. Northern Ireland will also be okay with having Switzerland but are slightly hampered by playing the first leg in Belfast. Italy against Sweden will be a tight game and one neither nation will relish, and the same can be said for Croatia vs. Greece with their intense local rivalry.

First leg matches will take place on November 9-11, while the second leg will take place on November 12-14.

Below is the full schedule for the two playoff games.


UEFA playoff schedule

First leg

Northern Ireland vs. Switzerland
Croatia vs. Greece
Denmark vs. Republic of Ireland
Sweden vs. Italy

Second leg

Switzerland vs. Northern Ireland
Greece vs. Croatia
Republic of Ireland vs. Denmark
Italy vs. Sweden