Martin O’Neill rued the mistakes that contributed to his team’s chastening World Cup play-off defeat by Denmark but defended his record as Republic of Ireland manager.
The Irish took an early lead in Dublin thanks to Shane Duffy’s sixth-minute strike but soon disintegrated and were punished by a Danish team for whom Christian Eriksen sparkled, scoring a high-class hat-trick and prompting the Denmark manager to describe him as one of the world’s top-10 players.
“I’m really disappointed. We were well beaten in the end after a really good start,” said O’Neill, whose team surrendered their lead by conceding twice in three first-half minutes following a series of blunders. “The two goals we conceded in a couple of minutes knocked us for six. They were very, very poor goals.”
O’Neill reacted angrily to the suggestion that a defeat such as this had always been on the cards because of his negative approach and that he had finally run out of luck. “That’s simply not true,” he said. “I didn’t win the trophies I’ve won as a player and a manager by having luck. I totally disagree with that.
“We were well beaten by a side that was technically better than us and had a world-class player in their team. We fought tooth and nail to get into this position. This was not the first match of the competition, it was a play-off to get to the World Cup. The disappointment is strong but I have to commend the players for getting this far.”
Before the end of the group stage O’Neill reached a verbal agreement with John Delaney, the head of the Football Association of Ireland, about signing a new two-year contract. That has not yet been signed. “I haven’t spoken to John since we last talked about it,” he said. “I’ll speak to him again, I’m sure, in the next couple of weeks.”
Denmark’s manager, Age Hareide, said his team is benefiting from how happy Eriksen is at Tottenham Hotspur. “He’s absolutely in the top-10 [players in the world],” he said. “It’s difficult to rank but we saw against Real Madrid that he’s probably one of the best players in his positions at the moment,” he said. “Ronaldo and Messi are playing as forwards but Christian is more a wide man or a central midfielder. He has this ability of scoring goals and finding space. And he’s in a team now, Tottenham, that wants to play football. We saw that against Real Madrid. It suits him to play there. He has good players to play there and a good manager. I think he’s enjoying his time at Tottenham at the moment.”
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