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Dublin: 1°C Friday 23 April 2021

Schmeichel praises Irish fans: 'It's a shame they won't be at the World Cup'

The Denmark goalkeeper is heading to his first major tournament after tonight’s 5-1 win in Dublin.

Kasper Schmeichel consoles Jeff Hendrick after the game Kasper Schmeichel consoles Jeff Hendrick after the game. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

– Paul Dollery reports from Aviva Stadium

“I SEE HIM do that all the time in training,” said Kasper Schmeichel as he rounded off his media duties by fielding a question about the quality of Christian Eriksen’s hat-trick, which ended Ireland’s World Cup hopes.

Denmark’s last line of defence, Schmeichel was the first player to present himself to the press in the mixed zone in the bowels of the Aviva Stadium in the aftermath of tonight’s 5-1 victory over Martin O’Neill’s side, which sealed the Danes’ place at next summer’s World Cup.

Age Hareide’s side are heading to Russia thanks largely to the contribution of Eriksen, who beat Darren Randolph three times as Denmark dismantled an Ireland side who had spent the majority of the first half in the ascendancy.

With just over six minutes played, Shane Duffy rose high to head the ball beyond the reach of Schmeichel and send Ireland into the lead. The tie turned in Denmark’s favour just before the half-hour mark thanks to a Cyrus Christie own goal, before Eriksen hit the first of his three superb goals just over two minutes later.

“World class. That’s the only way to describe him. World class,” Schmeichel said in relation to the Tottenham Hotspur playmaker, who has the ability to be one of the star attractions when 32 nations assemble in Russia next June.

It won’t be Eriksen’s first major tournament, but it will be a new experience for Schmeichel. Denmark have had their summers free since Euro 2012, and the Leicester City goalkeeper didn’t make his senior international debut until 2013.

Kasper Schmeichel celebrates his side's first goal of the game Kasper Schmeichel celebrates. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“It’s been a long time coming for Denmark,” said 31-year-old Schmeichel, whose father Peter won a European Championship medal in 1992 and reached the World Cup quarter-finals in France six years later. “We missed out on the last two tournaments so we’re very, very happy. And proud.”

It looked like it might be Ireland’s night as the Aviva Stadium erupted after Duffy’s opening goal. Daryl Murphy and James McClean both went close to increasing their lead, but Schmeichel pointed out that Denmark never lost their composure.

“There was such a long way to go in the game,” he said. “I think it was just a question of us getting our game going. As soon as we got it going there was no panic, there was no worry.

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“It shows a lot about the character of this team. We’ve been down before but we’ve always fought back. It’s to do with our team spirit, which is great. Tonight was a great night for us.”

Schmeichel also paid tribute to the Ireland supporters. Despite a disappointing night, the Irish fans vociferously backed their team until the final whistle and the Denmark goalkeeper was impressed.

He said: “I’ve got to say how impressed I am with the Irish fans. After the fourth goal they stand up and sing ‘The Fields of Athenry’ and it gives you goosebumps.

“I remember seeing in Poland [at the European Championship] in 2012 when Ireland played Spain, we were all sat watching the game and I think there was about 12 minutes where it was just the Irish fans singing.

“For the tournament it’s a shame that the Irish fans aren’t there because they’re truly unique as well.”

Seamus Coleman and Darren Randolph dejected after the match Seamus Coleman consoles Darren Randolph after the game. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Understandably, the reaction from Schmeichel’s opposite number, Darren Randolph, was short and unfortunately not so sweet.

“It’s extremely disappointing obviously. We didn’t see that coming,” said the Middlesbrough goalkeeper.

“We needed to try and get back into the game so you’re going to leave yourself open. We got punished.”

‘Let me finish’ – Martin O’Neill involved in another tense post-match interview on RTÉ

This emotional James McClean post-match interview is hard to watch

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Paul Dollery

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