World Cup 2018: Denmark vs France – Lineups, Preview & Prediction
The top two teams in Group C meet in an all-European encounter which has the Danes hopes of progression in the balance.
15:00 BST, Tuesday 26th June, Luzhniki Stadium (Moscow, Russia) ITV
On Tuesday afternoon, Denmark and France will play one another to determine who will finish top of Group C in this summer’s World Cup.
With one of the most exciting squads in the World Cup, France have the potential to do very well in the knock-out stages. Victory in both previous games has already sealed their passage out of the group. However, they are yet to capture the imagination of the audiences of the competition.
With no pressure on the result in this fixture, fluency and goals are the demands they must try to fulfil. Their opponents are not the sort of team to give goals away cheaply though.
Age Hareide has instilled a resilience into his team despite not having a host of star names to call upon. Having recently claimed that France “are nothing special”, his theory will be given a stern test in a game which will define Denmark’s immediate future.
A last-minute goal against Peru and a draw with Australia has put the Danes into a commanding position to progress into the knockout stages.
Now needing a solitary point to secure second place or a win to clinch top spot, Denmark will be aiming for a win which will send them top of the group to avoid Croatia in the second round.
Last Time Out
Denmark 1-1 Australia
A controversial penalty awarded through VAR prevented a second Danish win despite Christian Eriksen’s best efforts.
The Danish captain again proved his value to the team, providing a spark of life in an otherwise stilted display from the Scandinavians. His 7th-minute goal showcased his masterful technique, volleying Nicolai Jorgensen’s cute lay-off into the net with power and precision.
Although Denmark had started the match in determined fashion, their good work was undone just before halftime. Yussuf Poulsen conceded a penalty for the second successive game despite the referee not initially punishing his handball.
The second half saw the Australians becoming more of a threat but Denmark held firm.
France 1-0 Peru
Les Bleus booked their place in the next round with an unconvincing performance that saw them send Peru out of the tournament.
Olivier Giroud was returned to the starting lineup and played a crucial part in helping to build his team’s attacks. It was the Chelsea striker’s shot which fell to the feet of Kylian Mbappe, his simple finish giving France the lead and making him the second-youngest player to score in the World Cup.
Having earned their lead with a good first half display, France failed to maintain their standard after the break. Instead, it was Peru who were the more dominant team.
A combination of missed chances and some last-ditch defending by the French meant the South American’s were left to rue what could have been.
Meanwhile, France still search for an elusive way to combine their players and unlock their undoubted potential.
William Kvist has been ruled out of the remaining games with a broken rib while Yussuf Poulsen is suspended following his second yellow card of the tournament in the previous game.
This could see Middlesbrough’s Martin Braithwaite brought in on the right side of the attack but no other changes are expected.
Didier Deschamps has no such selection problems to contend with but does have plenty of options in naming his starting lineup.
France’s improved display in their last match could see the same 4-3-3 formation used in a search for consistency.
Key Battle: Christian Eriksen (Denmark) vs N’Golo Kante (France)
If Denmark are to get a positive result from this match, they almost certainly need to score.
To do this, the player with 13 goals from his last 15 international appearances will be expected to deliver once more.
Eriksen is provided plenty of freedom to roam in this team and will look to exploit the space just in front of France’s back four.
Luckily for the French, they have a player who is one of the best in the world at defending this space.
Kante is used in a much more traditional anchor-midfield role for France than he does in the Premier League.
Rather than cover the whole of the central area, Kante will sweep up danger in front of his defence which will put him in direct competition with Denmark’s main threat.
The penalty converted by Mile Jedinak last Thursday was the first goal conceded by Denmark in 571 minutes.
This run stretched back to the consolation goal scored by Ireland last November and includes five clean sheets, four of which were earned against teams competing in Russia this summer.
Behind the much of the success in this is Leicester City keeper, Kasper Schmeichel.
With 15 clean sheets from his 36 international caps, nine of which came during his last 13 appearances, Schmeichel is slowly beginning to step out of his father’s shadow.
Searching for style
France’s struggles to live up to expectations has been well documented over the last few weeks.
It’s also seen pressure increase after two mediocre displays which have produced wins if none of the thrills which were hoped to accompany them.
In the centre of all of this, literally, is Paul Pogba. After having a season with Manchester United that failed to catch fire, he is now living the same problem in a different team.
There was some genuine flashes of his potential in the first half display against Peru, Pogba playing in a more advanced position in midfield that is widely believed to be his best position.
Like several other of the game’s highest-profile stars, he has yet to justify the hype which has been wrapped around him.
With the important matches fast approaching and without a bad performance to mar his World Cup this summer, there is still time for Pogba to prove his critics wrong. If Pogba can find his rhythm, there’s a good chance that France’s rhythm will also return.
Prediction: Denmark 1-1 France
With relatively little at stake for both teams, the desire not to lose could well eclipse the will to win and result in a subdued match.
Denmark will keep a tight shape that will be hard to break down and much could depend on how much France are prepared to risk.
Despite this, the game could well see some goals but it may not necessarily see a winner rise from this contest.