Ireland were well beaten at home to Denmark on Tuesday night, going down 5-1 to leave their World Cup hopes lying in tatters.
Christian Eriksen was the star of the show on the night, scoring a brilliant hat-trick after being gifted chances time and again by an out-of-sorts Irish defence and midfield. An own goal from Cyrus Christie and a late Nicklas Bendtner penalty either side of that compounded the misery on what was a horrific night for Irish football.
It as a much different story in the Danish camp, however, as manager Age Hareide and his players celebrated a major victory for Denmark, once that propels them to the World Cup for the first time since 2010.
While O’Neill as despondent after the final whistle, his former teammate was naturally in a much lighter mood – and had some less than complimentary things to say about the way in which Ireland’s diamond formation essentially allowed Christian Eriksen free reign in the middle of the pitch:
“I was surprised really because they played in a diamond – the midfield – with two forwards, and our centre-halves can handle two forwards, but that gave a lot of space in centre midfield for Eriksen.
“‘Thank you very much for giving us space’, because they locked us down in the first leg very well and Eriksen was out of the game, and today he was fantastic.”
The Tottenham playmaker was on hand repeatedly to punish almost evey mistake Ireland made over the course of the 90 minutes. Eriksen himself had a similar viewpoint to his manager, telling RTE after the game that Ireland’s shape allowed him more room to maneuvre than he had been allowed in Copenhagen:
“I think we improved our game a lot and of course Ireland let us play a bit more, which we did. That was why we created so many chances and were dangerous when we had the ball.
“Of course we got a lucky goal when Christiansen scored and after that it was just one-way. After scoring one goal it was a big knock for Ireland and it gave us the confidence to keep going.”