World Cup 2018: Denmark Preview
Despite having to go through a play-off game to confirm their place in Russia, Denmark have a good chance of making their way through their group.
To say success on the international stage has eluded Denmark for 26 years, whilst true, is a bit of a disservice. A win at the 1992 Euros was never expected. A win at this summerʼs World Cup would be even less expected.
This time, however, the Danes actually qualified. Whether or not they will make an impact remains to be seen.
Denmark cut their qualification fine, only making it into the pot for the World Cup after a play-off game. They did, however, qualify in style: beating the Republic of Ireland 5-1 at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin to guarantee their progression.
In a group that includes Peru and Australia, the Danes will feel confident of their chances of making the Round of 16. Once there, though, they would most likely face an Argentina side who, despite their shaky form in recent months, are hardly an enticing prospect for any side.
Road to Russia
Åge Hareideʼs outfit, who were pitted against Poland, Montenegro, Romania, Armenia and Kazakhstan in qualifying, ended qualifying in second place.
Despite picking up 20 points, finishing five points behind group winners Poland and four points ahead of third-placed Montenegro, the Danes had to get past the Republic of Ireland over two playoff-legs.
After an uninspiring nil-nil draw in Copenhagen, a hat-trick from Tottenham-playmaker Christian Eriksen helped see Denmark through to Russia with the game ending up as a 5-1 demolition for the Republic of Ireland at home.
Hareide likes to set Denmark up in a 4-2-3-1 formation which allows him to build a team around Christian Eriksen as a classic number ten.
Denmark aren’t entirely reliant upon the Tottenham player for their goals, though. With Pione Sisto on one wing and Youssef Poulsen on the other, the Danes have two very different players who offer a threat in their own particular way.
Defensively, the Denmark team are also not unimpressive. The centre-back pairing of Andreas Christensen and Simon Kjaer cover Kasper Schmeichel in goal and will prove to be a difficult proposition for any opposition attack.
In front of them, Thomas Delaney and Lasse Schone themselves offer greater protection and function as the double pivot linking the defence and attack.
Key Player: Christian Eriksen
Perhaps the most important piece in Mauricio Pochettino’s recent revival of Tottenham into being a true contender in the Premier League is Christian Eriksen.
As both the main creator and the man who makes the possession game tick, the Dane will be expected to play a similar role for Denmark during the course of the World Cup
However, in the absence of anyone resembling Harry Kane in the Danish national team, not only will Eriksen be asked to match his club role with the flag on his chest, he’s also one of their main goal-scoring threats.
Denmark find themselves in Group C, alongside Peru, Australia, and the heavy group favourites, France.
Despite the best efforts of Didier Deschamps, no team is more talented than the French which suggests the group will be something of a three-horse race for second.
Australia are probably the weakest team in the group but the Socceroos come into the tournament on the back of strong results against Hungary and the Czech Republic, who they beat 2-1 and 4-0 respectively.
The Peruvians were recently given a boost, as captain and star (and most handsome man in football), Paolo Guerrero, was cleared to play in the World Cup after his suspension, following a positive drug test, was miraculously postponed.
Prediction: Round of 16 exit
The Danes clearly have enough to see off Peru and finish second in the group. However, this would pin them against the winners of Group D.
That group houses Lionel Messi and a busload of other world-class talents. It would take a miracle not unlike the one 26 years ago in Gothenburg for Denmark to get past Argentina.
Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Group C in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.