Denmark—World Cup 2022 profile—24
Today, with Denmark, we continue to profile, in reverse alphabetical order, the 32 teams which qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The Red and Whites are participating in their sixth World Cup since first qualifying in 1986. They reached the quarterfinals in 1998 in France and left at the Group Stage in 2010 and left after the Round of 16 in 1986, 2002, and 2018. In 2021 they reached the semifinals of the Covid delayed Euro 2020 and were unlucky not to progress to the finals. Since qualifying for the cup, they have played eight matches in 2022, two friendlies—a 4-2 loss to the Netherlands and a 3-0 win over Serbia—and six Nations League matches, two losses to Croatia, two wins over France, and two wins over Austria.
Placed in Group D with France, Australia, and Tunisia, the Danes should have no problem progressing to the Round of 16. Given their squad seems to have Frances’s number, they may well move on in first place. If they come in top of their group their first knockout game will most likely be against a team they will beat. If they come in second, they will likely meet Argentina and probably exit the cup then.
Denmark is a Nordic country in Europe and together with the autonomous territories of the Faroe Islands and Greenland, forms the Kingdom of Denmark. The Danish European mainland and its 443 adjoining islands cover 16,580 square miles. Despite its northern location, the country, which is flat and at low elevation enjoys a temperate climate that runs from a January winter low of 35F and an August summer high of 63F, but due to that northern location, the country is subject to large variations in daylight with short 7-hour winter days and long summer days of sunlight from 4 am to 10 pm.
Denmark has been inhabited since about 12,500 BC with Ribe, its oldest town founded in 700. Tribal groups gave way to Viking control and consolidation around 700. The country was Christianized by 965 and became a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy with its constitution by 1849, giving the Faroe Islands their home rule by 1948 and Greenland’s by 1979. The 6M Danes are 86% ethnically Danish, 76% Christian, speak Danish, have a GDP of $406B, and have an HDI score of 0.948 (very high). The country is very progressive and liberal with strong historic and cultural ties with Sweden and Norway. Among the greats Denmark has gifted us are Tycho Brahe, Niels Bohr, Hans Christian Andersen, Soren Kierkegaard, and Isak Dinesen, aside from Nobel Prize winners in literature and great filmmakers.
Squad (which may change before the cup given injuries, form, and coaching choices—teams mentioned are subject to change given transfers): Goalkeepers—Kasper Schmeichel, (Nice), Frederik Ronnow, (Union Berlin), and Oliver Christensen, (Hertha Berlin); Defenders—Simon Kjaer, (AC Milan), Joachim Andersen, (Crystal Palace), Joakim Maehle, (Atalanta), Andreas Christensen, (Barcelona), Rasmus Kristensen, (Leeds United), Jens Stryger Larsen, (Trabzonspor), Victor Nelsson, (Galatasaray), Alexander Bah, (Benfica), Midfielders—Thomas Delaney, (Sevilla), Mathias Jensen, (Brentford), Christian Eriksen, (Manchester United), Daniel Wass, (Brondby), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, (Tottenham), Philip Billing, (Bournemouth) and Casper Nielsen, (Club Brugge); Strikers—Robert Skov, (Hoffenheim), Andreas Skov Olsen, (Club Brugge), Jesper Lindstrom, (Eintracht Frankfurt), Rasmus Hojlund, (Atalanta), Andreas Cornelius, (Copenhagen), Martin Braithwaite, (Espanyol), Kasper Dolberg, (Sevilla) and Mikkel Damsgaard, (Brentford).
Path to Qatar
Denmark were seeded atop Group F in UEFA qualifiers for Qatar, in a group that contained Scotland, Israel, Austria, Moldova and the Faroe Islands. Given the relatively weak competition, the Danes progressed directly to the World Cup after eight straight group wins without conceding a goal, topping their group with a four-point cushion and a +27-goal differential, Scotland coming in second at 23 points.
The Danes employ a 4-3-3, coach Kasper Hjulmand’s preferred setup. But with so many experienced players and on a squad with incredible chemistry he is able to adjust using a 4-3-1-2 and a 3-4-2-1 with equal aplomb. Denmark come into the tourney after their emotional Euro when in their first match talisman Christian Eriksen collapsed with a heart attack and needed to be revived on the pitch before being medevacked to a nearby hospital. He has recovered and come back in fine form to be a key player for both his new club Manchester United and the Danish National Team. The bond the players experienced since has come through in performances that seem out of character in a much-higher-than-expected manner. But they seem to have made that new level their own and found one essential key, the way to consistently beat France, of all teams. They will need to repeat the feat in Qatar if they want to move beyond the Round of 16.
The Red and Whites have a good squad and top among their key players, aside from Eriksen, are the captain and defender Simon Kjaer and keeper Kasper Schmeichel. Strikers Martin Braithwaite, Andreas Cornelius, Mikkel Damsgaard, Yussuf Poulsen, and defender Andreas Christensen are also important in Hjulmand’s rotation.
Group and Tourney Prospects
The Danes are still playing with a lot of emotional energy and though they have a good squad they are not among the top ten in the world (despite FIFA’s ranking of 10th in the world). Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, Croatia, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain, would be odds-on favorites in any head-to-head confrontation.
What is intriguing, though, is the plane they are performing at since the summer of 2021. Is it sustainable to play with such emotion over the course of 18 months? If they can sustain that emotional edge and bind it to what is a strong, disciplined, and capable team, on any given day they could give those ten better teams a run for their money. With a little fortune, they could derail the dreams of one of them.
Photo: Danish keeper Kasper Schmeichel – Shutterstock ID 1775435459, by Alizada Studios