Denmark is the most common underdog pick at World Cup 2022. With the success of Croatia reaching the Final in 2018, the feeling among the Denmark camp evolves from wishful thinking to realism.
Ironically, Croatia eliminated Denmark in the round of 16 in Russia. The eventual runner-up overturned Denmark’s early advantage after a defensive mishap among the Danish back line. In the end, Croatia’s win on penalties sparked a run that defeated the hosts and the English.
In many ways, Denmark put itself in position to experience one of those runs of its own. Moreover, France and Denmark played a scoreless draw in the final group stage game. However, that scoreless draw was mutually beneficial, and ended up being a somewhat forgettable fixture.
That game does not speak to what Denmark accomplished in recent years, especially against some of Europe’s top teams. Now, it can build on experience in major tournaments to compete on the biggest stage.
Starting from the back, Kasper Schmeichel’s manual dexterity as a goalkeeper worked wonders for the Danes. A shutout against Peru preceded just a one-goal-against outing versus Australia. That one goal came on a penalty. Then, of course, Denmark held France at bay in the final group stage game.
Schmeichel’s superb performance during Russia 2018 truly came to light against Croatia. The former Leicester City keeper saved three penalties in total against Croatia, with one of those coming in regular time. Despite saving two in the shootout, Denmark could only convert two of its five attempts.
Rivaling the best
The close calls against Croatia and Denmark represent many things for the potential of Denmark. The Danes held their own against a top team and showed a dogged determination to prove their prowess against Europe’s finest. In fact, Christian Eriksen had an opportunity for a game-winner against France. Steve Mandanda beat the then-Spurs midfielder in their one-on-one late on.
Now, a group stage fixture with little on the line and the World Cup Final have an incomparable level of urgency. Yet, it is still remarkable to consider that France scored four against Croatia, while Denmark held the champions scoreless.
Nations League Upset
By the same token, the UEFA Nations League is not an accurate gauge of a team’s performance. If anything, the matches are skin to friendlies rather than a major tournament. Nevertheless, Denmark drew France in League A, Group 1 in June. The Danes defeated France on matchday one. Former Copenhagen striker Andreas Cornelius scored a brace as Denmark upset the French at home, 2-1, in Saint-Denis.
Moreover, the Danes also drew Croatia in that group. The Checkered Ones got the best of Denmark, 1-0. The Danish Dynamite meets its rivals in the Nations League once again on September 22 and 25. These two games represent a strong opportunity for Denmark as a tune-up two months before World Cup 2022.
There, Denmark meets a pair of familiar foes.
Denmark set for World Cup 2022 clashes
Compared to Russia 2018, not much changes for Denmark in its group stage for Qatar 2022. Drawing into Group D as a pot 2 side, Denmark faces France and Australia. The lone change is Tunisia replacing Peru. It is quite the coincidence, but not one that should overly scare Denmark.
Plus, it helps to have the chip on the shoulder from four years prior.
The Red and Whites have a 66% probability to defeat Tunisia in its debut match. In matchday 2, it is a tall order to unseat the champions. As clear-cut underdogs, a draw likely feels like a decent success should it transpire. It helps to round out the group stage against Australia. In that fixture, Denmark are, as of now, overwhelming favorites.
Therefore, Denmark should see itself through. Group D is not the most challenging group at the World Cup. In fact, a case is made that it is one of the more straightforward and simple.
With Denmark’s haul of talent, there is serious horsepower across the pitch with over a dozen players across Europe’s top five leagues. Ahead of the 2022/23 European calendar, a number of Danish talents are under the spotlight at new clubs.
After establishing himself as a defender on Chelsea’s starting XI in 2017, Andreas Christensen succumbed to a back injury. He was bereft of playing in the 2018 FA Cup final. However, Christensen earned the honor of Chelsea’s ‘Young Player of the Year.’ After that, in the 2021 UCL final, Christensen came off the bench in the first half as an unheralded substitute. He defended his team’s 1-0 victory over Manchester City. Currently, the defender awaits a new challenge with a four-year contract with Barcelona.
Off the back of Russia 2018, forward Christen Eriksen aided the Spurs’ quest for the UCL title. Tottenham finished as runner-up in that tournament to English rivals Liverpool. Eriksen is one of the best stories in the world of soccer. Nearing death after a cardiac arrest against Finland in Denmark’s first game at Euro 2020, Eriksen made a miraculous comeback just to play again. He thrived at Brentford, which took a chance. That afforded a new opportunity at a top club. This time, it is Manchester United calling the midfielder’s number under a three-year contract.
Kasper Schmeichel, one of the heroes of both Denmark and Leicester City, has a storied career. In a relatively quiet move, he is on his way to Nice in preparation for what is likely his last World Cup at the age of 36 come the World Cup.
Now, Danish captain Simon Kjær leads the Danes with a hidden agenda to show the world they have the horsepower to match France. Watch out for the Dynamite; they could ignite at the World Cup.
PHOTO: LISELOTTE SABROE/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images
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