Republic of Ireland boss O'Neill tips hat to 'world-class' Eriksen in defeat
Martin O'Neill admitted his Ireland team were "well beaten" by a "world-class" player in Christian Eriksen after Denmark's 5-1 win in Dublin claimed a place at next year's World Cup finals.
"He played very very well," said O'Neill of Tottenham playmaker Eriksen after the second leg of a playoff. "He's a top class player and he proved it tonight."
Eriksen grabbed a hat-trick as Denmark powered past the Irish having conceded a sixth minute goal to Shane Duffy's header. "It's a real disappointment, obviously," O'Neill told reporters at the Aviva Stadium. "We were well beaten in the end after we got off to a really good start."
After a 29th minute Cyrus Christie own-goal, Eriksen seized the initiative three minutes later with his first goal.
"The pair of goals in the space of a couple of minutes knocked us for six," said O'Neill. "They were really poor goals to concede. We definitely needed a second goal."
Both Daryl Murphy and James McClean went close before Denmark's equaliser. And after making two attacking changes in bringing on Aiden McGeady and Wes Hoolahan at halftime to no avail, Eriksen grabbed two more goals before Nicklas Bendtner completed the scoreline in the 90th minute.
"We were chasing the game," O'Neill admitted. "We made a couple of changes. Denmark took advantage of us, and deserve to be through. They had a world class player playing in their team."
O'Neill is still yet to sign a new contract extension that has been on the table since October. "I haven't spoken to [FAI CEO] John [Delaney] since we talked about it. I'll probably talk to John in the next couple of weeks."
And he said it was too early to consider Ireland's qualifying campaign for Euro 2020.
"I can't think of that tonight," he said. "It's a major disappointment. Tomorrow morning, it won't be my first thought. I think the draw is in January or something like that."
O'Neill was irked by the notion his luck may have turned on a night when a positive start unravelled alarmingly.
He said: "That's simply not true. I didn't win those trophies that I have won both as a player and as a manager and have some luck. Everybody is entitled to a little bit of luck, so I totally disagree with you.
"The disappointment is obviously very, very strong tonight because we haven't been able to do it, but I have to commend the players on getting this far.''
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.