Team Spotlight | Denmark: Realistic World Cup challengers?

Denmark have continued on the same path that took them to the semi-finals of the European Championship in 2021 and the only real worry is the ongoing search to find the right centre-forward in Kasper Hjulmand’s 4-3-3 system. Denmark may have lost twice to Croatia in the Nations League but did also beat France twice. In Paris they won 2-1 against a full-strength French team after a couple of late goals from the substitute Andreas Cornelius and, in the last game before the World Cup, the score line was 2-0 at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen.

“We have a fantastic squad and we are full of confidence because we know what our players can do,” Kasper Schmeichel said before adding: “But when we play France at the World Cup, it will be a different match.” Christian Eriksen, who, of course, suffered a cardiac arrest at the same stadium during Euro 2020, was magnificent against France, leading Mikkel Damsgaard to say: “We have great self-confidence going into the World Cup. We will make some noise, we aim to go far and hopefully win the whole damn thing,” he grinned.

Kasper Hjulmand often deploys a 3-4-3 formation against strong opponents but switches to a more attack-minded 4-3-3 against weaker teams. He is very adept at changing tactics during games, either through a switch of formation or with substitutions. Denmark won their qualifying group four points ahead of Scotland, winning nine of their 10 games and with a goal difference of +27.

Coach: The open minded and eloquent 50-year-old Kasper Hjulmand has been able to restore the public’s affection for the national team since he took over from Åge Hareide in 2020. From day one he has, almost like a missionary, talked about the Danish team belonging to every Dane. For a long time friendlies in Copenhagen were far from sellouts but now they are always full, no matter the opposition. He was widely praised for how he dealt with the fallout from Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest at the Euros, and his contract runs for another two years.

Star: Christian Eriksen literally came back from the dead in June 2021 when he suffered a cardiac arrest four minutes before half-time in Denmark’s first match at the Euros, in Copenhagen. He has shown an incredible willpower to be able to continue his career at the top level and is now at Manchester United after a successful six-month spell at Brentford. An efficient, reliable player who wants to succeed at a major tournament after missing out last year.

Unsung Hero: Thomas Delaney is often praised by the national coach, Kasper Hjulmand, who is keen to point out the Sevilla midfielder’s incredible work-rate and efficiency at set pieces. It is quite easy to be overlooked when you are playing in a midfield also consisting of Christian Eriksen and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg but Delaney adds something important to the team and contributes with the odd important goal too, as he did in the Euro 2020 quarter-final against the Czech Republic. “We had a plan, but my goal was not part of the plan,” he said with a chuckle after the game.

Best XI: 4-3-3, Kasper Schmeichel; Daniel Wass, Simon Kjær, Andreas Christensen, Joakim Mæhle; Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Thomas Delaney, Christian Eriksen; Andreas Skov Olsen, Kasper Dolberg, Mikkel Damsgaard

By Jesper Engmann of Jyllands-Posten via Get Football’s partnership with the Guardian

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