Eriksen's time to come of age

Denmark's national soccer team player Christian Eriksen addresses a news conference the day before the World Cup qualification match against Ireland.
Denmark's national soccer team player Christian Eriksen addresses a news conference the day before the World Cup qualification match against Ireland. PHOTO: REUTERS

Having taken on the mantle as Denmark's leader, Ireland know they have to stop him

COPENHAGEN • In 2010, Christian Eriksen was the youngest player at the World Cup. Since then, he has moved from Ajax to Tottenham, but has yet to add to the 44 minutes he played on football's biggest stage.

The midfielder will be hoping to change that by helping Denmark qualify for next year's World Cup when they host Ireland in their World Cup play-off first leg today before travelling to Dublin on Tuesday for the return leg.

"In a player's career, there are so few World Cup Finals and I know now how hard it is to get there," he told The Sun.

"Now we are in an all-or-nothing situation and we have to try to seize the opportunity."

While he was limited to two substitute appearances in South Africa, where at 18, he was the youngest of the 736 players at that World Cup, he is now a mainstay in Age Hareide's side.

He has featured in Denmark's entire qualification campaign, and is tipped to be the key to his nation's chances in this double-header. Of their 20 goals so far, he has been directly involved in 11, scoring eight goals and providing three assists.

"The extraordinary skills of Christian Eriksen give us something extra in that respect," Hareide, who has given Eriksen more freedom to play further forward, told Fifa.com.

"As an assist maker and a goalscorer, he has been fantastic for us, and you always feel he will create chances and produce something special.

"So often a player like that, capable of extraordinary things, can be the difference when a match is very tight - especially against a team as well organised as Ireland."

WELL-DRILLED UNIT

The countries which are hardest to play against are teams like yours. Teams who don't really have big names but the 13, 14, 15 players they use in most games are the same.

CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN, Denmark playmaker, on Ireland being tough to beat.

Eriksen recently scored against holders Real Madrid in Spurs' 3-1 win in the Champions League, but knows that Ireland will offer a different test.

"The countries which are hardest to play against are teams like yours," he told The Herald. "Teams who don't really have big names but the 13, 14, 15 players they use in most games are the same.

"They know their jobs, they know what to do, they have a clear plan. If you break one player down, there will be another one waiting there to pick up, so this will be a fight and we have to be on top of our game."

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill will be the first to admit he does not have superstars. But he believes his side can upset the odds and qualify for their first World Cup since 2002.

"We have a great never-say-die spirit," he told Fifa.com.

"We'd like to be going into games with big weapons at our disposal, superstar players, but not having that, we need to be able to find other ways of winning when our backs are to the wall."


DENMARK V IRELAND

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2017, with the headline 'Eriksen's time to come of age'. Print Edition | Subscribe