Kasper Hjulmand and Denmark
Imagine you are the national team coach of a mid-level power at a Euro and your star player needs to have a medivac intervention on the pitch due to a heart attack that has stopped the muscle from pumping further. Then imagine that you thereafter take your team, working off of raw emotion, to the semifinals of the tourney where you lose by a single score after several very disputable no-calls go your opponent’s way at their home field.
Continuing the fantasy, you are placed in the subsequent UEFA Nations League A in a setup where you need to play the current world champions and you beat them twice, home and away, scoring four goals and conceding one. Then, you are placed in a UEFA World Cup 2022 qualifying group where you qualify for Qatar before the matches are over. Finally, imagine when your World Cup group is called you are placed with the self-same current world cup champions.
Your name is Kasper Hjulmand and you are the Danish national team coach.
Denmark has a good team with a number of skilled players, a few world-class players, and a cohesiveness as a squad that is the envy of every team on the planet. The team’s coach, Hjulmand, has been at the helm for under two years and in 2022 he led his charges in eight matches. Six of those eight games were against World Cup-bound teams, and Hjulmand coached them to a 5W-3L record. Pretty good news for a small, giant killer team.
The better news is that when this cup expires (including Papa’s World Cup 2022 predictions), Hjulmand will have coached his team 38 games and gone 25W-9L-2D—drawing or winning 76% of the time. As he prepares for the Qatar trip, he will be contemplating leading a team that has the potential, on any given day, of beating any team on the globe.
Hjulmand will also know that the skill his charges have is multiplied by their cohesiveness as a squad on and off the pitch and is enhanced by the raw adrenaline that they can summon, seemingly at will, simply by recalling their summer of 2021. That raw energy will eventually dissipate but the team’s collective memory will live on and also spur the upcoming generations to high levels of accomplishment.
The best news is that small Denmark has a team to be proud of that will likely reach at least to the last sixteen at the current cup and who has a good coach in Hjulmand. That coach and the veterans of this cup will likely be at the 2026 one in the USA, Canada, and Mexico, and at that cup, they will also be among the better sides biding their time and nurturing their team cohesion in hopes of surprising a few of their betters on the way to unexpected results and another gratifying international outing.
Photo: Danish flag, Dreamstime.com Photo ID: 128656229, by Vladm.