COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark failed to break through some stubborn defending by Ireland in a lackluster 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.
“It’s all to play for now,” Ireland coach Martin O’Neill said. “We have to win a game and we might have to score a couple of goals, because I think Denmark will score.”
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 meters 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 percent possession and made nearly four times as many passes, but ran out of ideas in the second half. They were whistled off the field after fulltime.
“Away from home, a draw has to be seen as a positive result,” said Ireland midfielder Harry Arter, whose side hasn’t lost in six away games in qualifying.
“Other than the first 15 minutes, I thought we kept them quiet.”
Ireland made Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel work only once, when Cyrus Christie broke free down the right, cut into the area and tried a deft chip late in the first half. Schmeichel blocked the shot with his right shoulder.
“We are in a better position than we were before the game,” said Schmeichel, who said the bare state of the pitch didn’t help his team.
“Very disappointing pitch, from our part of view. The pitch should be better in Dublin so hopefully we can get our game going a bit. It’s disappointing for such a big game. We were hoping to play some fast, incisive football and we were having to take an extra touch.”