Denmark failed to break through some stubborn defending by Ireland in a lacklustre 0-0 draw in the first leg of their World Cup playoff on Saturday.
Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph was forced to make two good saves in the first half but was protected well after halftime, with Denmark star Christian Eriksen kept quiet at Parken Stadium.
Both teams were careful to not leave themselves open in what was always likely to be a tight match, given Ireland’s preference to defend deeply and play on the counterattack.
The second leg is in Dublin on Tuesday, when Denmark will look to clinch a place in its first major tournament since 2012.
Ireland last played at a World Cup in 2002 and is featuring in its ninth playoff for a major tournament.
Randolph produced a double save in one first-half attack, off Nicolai Jorgensen and Andreas Cornelius, before seeing Pione Sisto side-foot wide from 10 metres minutes later after the Ireland goalkeeper parried out Eriksen’s long-range shot.
The best action of the second half was reserved for the final minutes, when Randolph tipped over Yussuf Poulsen’s header and Denmark midfielder Jens Larsen had a shot deflected just wide.
Eriksen scored eight goals in qualifying and has been one of the standout playmakers in Europe in recent seasons at English club Tottenham. However, he was well-marshalled by Ireland’s midfield and cut a frustrated figure at times.
The Danes had 68 per cent possession and made nearly four times as many passes, but ran out of ideas in the second half.
Morocco, Tunisia last African teams to qualify
Morocco and Tunisia qualified for the World Cup on Saturday, taking Africa’s last two places.
Morocco sealed its place by winning in Ivory Coast 2-0 in what was a straight shootout for the place from Group C.
Nabil Dirar and Medhi Benatia scored in the space of five minutes in the first half to help send the Moroccans to their first World Cup since 1998 and deny Ivory Coast a fourth straight appearance.
Tunisia secured the draw it needed, 0-0 at home against Libya, to qualify from Group A and edge out Congo.
Congo beat Guinea 3-1 in a whirlwind finish, when Congo scored twice in injury time, but that still wasn’t enough.
Morocco and Tunisia join Nigeria, Egypt, and Senegal as Africa’s five teams at the tournament next year in Russia.
Morocco’s win in Abidjan gave coach Herve Renard success over his former team and the country he led to the African Cup title in 2015. Morocco needed just a point from the game to qualify.
All qualifying results
- Denmark 0-0 Republic of Ireland
- Congo DR 3-1 Guinea
- Tunisia 0-0 Libya
- Morocco 2-0 Ivory Coast