The 2018 World Cup will have to look elsewhere when it comes to the tournament’s resident party animals.
Republic of Ireland’s fun-loving fans had their hearts broken in Dublin as Martin O’Neil’s men were beaten 5-1 at the hands of Denmark.
The Aviva Stadium was a cauldron of noise as the home fans belted out their national anthem and when Shane Duffy gave the hosts the lead after just six minutes it seemed the thousands in attendance would witness an historic achievement.
However, the Danes were in no mood for fairy tales.
Two familiar names combined in the space of three minutes to shell-shock David Meyler and co midway through the first half.
First Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen forced Cyrus Christie to concede an own goal from a corner routine — Harry Arter was brutally nutmegged seconds before the goal.
The Blues’ 21-year-old centre-back’s side-footed finish hit the inside of the post before deflecting off Christie and into the net.
And before the hosts had time to react, Christian Eriksen finished off a swift counterattack with a superb finish from the edge off the box.
The Spurs playmaker curled his effort beyond Darren Randolph via the underside of the bar to give the visitors a deserved lead…
Ireland endeavoured to claw their way back into the tie in the second half but Denmark proved too resolute and used their possession effectively.
Eriksen scored a second goal of equal beauty just after the hour mark to squash any hopes of an Irish miracle.
The 25-year-old, who was the youngest player present at the 2010 World Cup, scored from a similar distance as his firs,t but finished with his left foot instead…
Eriksen then capped off a virtuoso performance with a thunderous strike to bag a hat-trick.
He pounced on Stephen Ward’s misjudged clearance to continue his fine run of goalscoring form.
The emphatic strike was Eriksen’s ninth goal in his last eight international games…
Nicklas Bendtner then rubbed salt in the wounds by converting a last-minute penalty to make it 5-1 on the night, and on aggregate.
The result means that England are the only home nation to make it to Russia following Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland’s ultimate unsuccessful campaigns.
Full credit to O’Neil and his troops, they showed plenty of character as usual, but they made too many defensive mistakes on the night and the better team won in the end.
Congratulations to Eriksen and Denmark — see you in Russia.