Republic of Ireland were forced into a Euro 2020 play-off in March despite a late rally in their 1-1 draw with Denmark at the Aviva Stadium on Monday.
Needing a win to secure qualification, Irish midfielder Conor Hourihane came closest in a tense first period, shooting straight at Kasper Schmeichel from a good position, while David McGoldrick missed a chance on the turn from 12 yards after the break.
Denmark scored with their first shot on target after 73 minutes as Martin Braithwaite found a gap between the Irish defence to poke home Henrik Dalsgaard’s cross on the stretch.
Final Group D table
|Republic of Ireland||8||3||4||1||13|
Matt Doherty made for a grandstand finish with a far-post header to level on the night (85), and despite piling on the pressure in stoppage time, Mick McCarthy’s side were consigned to third place in Group D, with Switzerland and Denmark qualifying automatically.
Denmark were forced into two disruptive substitutions in the first half as Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Kasper Dolberg replaced the injured Kasper Delaney and Andreas Cornelius, the only real talking point from an anxious opening 45 minutes.
Ireland kept the ball well but with little attacking ingenuity in the first half, while Christian Eriksen had the first effort on goal after 25 minutes and 54 seconds, the longest wait for a shot in any game in this qualifying campaign.
Rep of Ireland: Randolph (6), Doherty (7), Duffy (7), Egan (6), Stevens (7), Whelan (7), Browne (7), Hendrick (6), Hourihane (6), McClean (6), McGoldrick (8)
Subs: Clark (6), Robinson (6), Maguire (NA)
Denmark: Schmeichel (6), Dalsgaard (7), Jorgensen (7), Kjaer (7), Larsen (6), Schone (7), Braithwaite (7), Eriksen (6), Delaney (NA), Poulsen (7), Cornelius (6)
Subs: Holbjerg (6), Dolberg (6), Christensen (NA)
Man of the match: David McGoldrick
That did prompt a slight Irish reaction, however, as McGoldrick’s neat header found Hourihane through on goal at an acute angle, but after opening his body up to find the far corner, his low effort was too close to Kasper Schmeichel.
The first big chance of the second half fell to McGoldrick, whose turn and half-volley was miscued over the bar, before Denmark got their opener during a rare attack.
Cutting in from the right, Dalsgaard’s cross caused confusion in the Irish defence, allowing Braithwaite to sneak in and poke past Darren Randolph.
The hosts did level with five minutes remaining to lift the roof off the Aviva Stadium, as Doherty arrived at the far post to head Enda Stevens’ brilliant delivery past Schmeichel.
David McGoldrick, who missed last month’s double-header in Georgia and Switzerland through injury, was included in one of three changes to the side which lost 2-0 in Geneva as he, Matt Doherty and Conor Hourihane replaced Aaron Connolly, the suspended Seamus Coleman and James Collins.
Denmark coach Age Hareide also made three changes to the side which beat Gibraltar 6-0 on Friday evening with Henrik Dalsgaard, Yussuf Poulsen and Andreas Cornelius returning to the side.
McCarthy’s side tried everything for a winner – Shane Duffy was used as an emergency striker in the four minutes of stoppage time – but nothing came, despite a few instances of pinball in the box.
Their chances haven’t ended though, with March representing an unusual opportunity for a late reprieve.
McCarthy: We could beat anyone
Speaking on Sky Sports, Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy says his side could beat anyone if they play like they did on Monday.
“If my players, my team leave everything on the pitch, give me everything, I’ll take the result that comes. Play like that in the play-offs, then we can beat anybody.
“Obviously we’re disappointed. We dropped to sleep and conceded a bad goal, but overall very pleased with the performance, proud of the players and immensely proud of the reaction.
“We’ve lost one game of the eight, and other than that I think we’ve been terrific.”
Schmeichel: We were terrible
Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel didn’t hold back in his assessment of their performance at the Aviva Stadium…
“We were terrible. We didn’t hit anything we tried to – we had to rely on our grit and determination. We needed to show it as we were under a lot of pressure. We just couldn’t get our game going, maybe the two early injuries hampered our plans and rhythm? But I don’t care right now.
“We said before the game that this is the best Irish side we’ve faced in the last six meetings or so. We had to ride our luck at times, but we needed to show that when you’re fighting for qualification.”
Next on the agenda is the draw for the Euro 2020 finals, which takes place in Bucharest, Romania, on November 30 at 6pm GMT.
You can follow the draw as it happens across Sky Sports‘ digital platforms or watch Sky Sports News‘ Euro 2020 draw show from 5.15pm.
Then, the European Qualifiers play-off semi-finals will be held on March 26, 2020 (7.45pm GMT), with the play-off finals taking place on March 31 (7.45pm BST).
Sixteen nations will be involved in the Euro 2020 play-offs, competing for the final four qualifying spots for next summer’s tournament.
When and where is Euro 2020?
The 16th UEFA European Championship runs from June 12 to July 12, 2020, and to celebrate the tournament’s 60th birthday, 12 cities across the continent have been selected as hosts.
The 12 cities and stadiums are: Amsterdam (Netherlands) – Johan Cruyff Arena, Baku (Azerbaijan) – Olympic Stadium, Bilbao (Spain) – San Mames, Bucharest (Romania) – Arena Nationala, Budapest (Hungary) – Puskas Arena, Copenhagen (Denmark) – Parken Stadium, Dublin (Republic of Ireland) – Aviva Stadium, Glasgow (Scotland) – Hampden Park, London (England) – Wembley Stadium, Munich (Germany) – Allianz Arena, Rome (Italy) – Stadio Olimpico, Saint Petersburg (Russia) – Krestovsky Stadium.
Rome’s Stadio Olimpico will host the opening match on June 12, while England’s national stadium Wembley will stage both semi-finals and the final.