Football Features

“Goalscoring problems cost them” – Five things learned as Ireland miss out on automatic Euro 2020 qualification

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:06, 18 November 2019 | Updated: 14:54, 12 February 2020

Republic of Ireland drew 1-1 with Denmark on Monday evening, missing out on the chance to automatically qualify for Euro 2020.

Mick McCarthy’s men went into the game knowing a win would be enough for them, but the Boys in Green went behind midway through the second half with Martin Braithwaite giving Denmark the lead.

Matt Doherty did pull Ireland level late on, but it was not enough to save them from the play-offs. So, what did we learn?

1. Ireland’s lack of goals costs them

Ireland’s Euro 2020 qualifying decider against Denmark was always going to be a tough task for Mick McCarthy’s side.

Only a win would do to secure automatic qualification while a two-goal lead might have been required had Gibraltar held Switzerland to a draw. This is an Ireland team that had only scored six goals in their opening seven games of Group D.

And, on the 10 year anniversary of Thierry Henry’s handball which cost Ireland a place at the 2010 World Cup, the Boys in Green only had themselves to blame.

Despite Denmark certainly look there for the taking, Ireland were poor in front of goal. Conor Hourihane had their only shot on target of the first half shortly after the 30-minute mark having made his way into the box with a good touch. However, his effort was tame, practically passing the ball to Kasper Schmeichel in the Denmark goal.

The hosts continued to pile pressure on their visitors but Ireland failed to make key moments count. When they managed to get the ball into good positions, there was a distinct lack of movement from teammates, frustrating fans.

And even when Matt Doherty equalised for Ireland on the night, it proved to be too late.

2. Denmark enjoy another trip to Ireland

Every few years, be it for in World Cup or European Championship qualifying or even the Uefa Nations League, it seems we get treated with Denmark vs Ireland.

Even Christian Eriksen is starting to get fed up with it, saying pre-match: “We’ve been in Ireland a lot.

“Of course we’d rather play somebody else, but in the end it’s whoever we get drawn against.”

But after Monday night he may want to be returning to Ireland soon, as Denmark extended their good record in the Republic.

The Danes are now unbeaten in the Republic of Ireland in their past three games, drawing two and winning won – that 5-1 victory in the 2018 World Cup qualifying. Stretching that slightly further, Ireland have only beaten Denmark at home once in their last six games, with the sole victory coming in a friendly back in March 2002.

Despite Eriksen‘s wishes, Denmark would do well to be drawn against Ireland in the next World Cup qualifying campaign.

3. Shane Duffy gives Ireland something to be proud of

Although Denmark did extend their good record in Ireland to confirm their Euro 2020 qualification, it certainly wasn’t a good night for them on the pitch.

Aage Hareide’s men went into the crucial game as Group D’s biggest scorers, managing 22 goals in their opening seven matches. Boasting the likes of Andreas Cornelius, Yussuf Poulsen and Christian Eriksen in attack, Denmark would have fancied their chances – especially when taking their record into consideration.

But Ireland, and particularly Shane Duffy, were resolute at the back and seemed to suck the attacking talent out of Denmark for most of the game. Duffy had been handed the captaincy in Seamus Coleman’s absence and took his game up another level. In the first half he denied a certain goal from Eriksen whose powerful shot seemed to be on its way past Darren Randolph, getting his head in the way. He then cleared the resulting corner, easing pressure on the Ireland goal.

Unfortunately a momentary lapse for Ireland’s impressive defence cost them on the night, but Duffy certainly provided a positive.

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4. Aage Hareide gets one last chance for dream

When Ireland announced the appointment of Mick McCarthy last year, they confirmed the 60-year-old would be replaced by Stephen Kenny after Euro 2020 – whether they appear or not.

It’s a similar situation for Aage Hareide at Denmark, with the Danish Football Association announcing their manager’s imminent departure.

The 65-year-old, who has been in charge of Denmark since 2016, will be replaced by Kasper Hjulmand at the end of the European Championships. But, unlike McCarthy for now, Hareide is guaranteed an appearance. It will be the second tournament in a row Hareide has overseen for Denmark, having led them to the last-16 of the 2018 World Cup where they lost to eventual runners-up Croatia on penalties.

Denmark will go into Group B alongside Russia and two other teams, as one of the hosts of the tournament and will play either two or three of their group stage games at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen – a find send off for Hareide.

5. A light at the end of the tunnel

While the two teams would have wanted to secure automatic promotion with a win, both knew they would be guaranteed at least a play-off spot no matter what happened.

And it is Ireland who will be relying on that play-off spot to reach next year’s European Championship, qualifying as a next best-ranked team in League B. The only question now is, who will they face? As things stand, Ireland could go onto either Path A or Path B, with a draw deciding their fate – alongside Wales, Slovakia and Northern Ireland.

The draw is scheduled to take place on November 22, while the play-offs not happening until March 2020.