Rot-white floppy hats, large green Carlsberg bottles and appropriately printed T-shirts – the Danish football professionals were in a celebratory mood after their 1-0 victory over Austria on Tuesday evening. For the sixth time, the first selection of the Dansk Boldspil-Union (DBU) will take part in a soccer world championship. As part of the qualification, numbers emerged that turned into World Cup dreams: eight games, eight wins. 27-0 goals. Who is currently playing more convincingly than Denmark?
The last two games in Group F against the Faroe Islands and in Scotland in mid-November are coach Kasper Hjulmand’s first preparatory games for the World Cup in 13 months in Qatar. The fact that skepticism was mixed in with the cheers across the country speaks for the attitude of the Danes towards sport: fans and managers would much rather see their national team at a summer World Cup run by a classic host.
But FIFA’s mistake is irreparable and the Danish professionals shouldn’t have to pay for what screwed up sports politics. “Of course our national team will start at the World Cup,” said Denmark’s social democratic minister for culture, Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen. However, she announced a public debate about future venues for major sporting events. The representatives of the Danish association tried to classify what they had achieved – and had to use superlatives to do so. “In the name of Danish football we should pinch ourselves,” said Hjulmand, “the quality with which we played is fantastic. We managed to put together a game that is difficult to crack. “
Eriksen remains an issue
In fact, Hjulmand managed to refine the successful style of the Danes from the European Championship. The mechanisms work. The ball presentation rarely comes to a standstill. In the not so easy group, the Scandinavians dominated at will. In the meantime, their games have become coveted delicacies. The national park stadium was sold out days before the game.
The win then came about through a co-production by Thomas Delaney and Joakim Mæhle. Assist Delaney, Tor Mæhle (53rd minute). This time it wasn’t a big chance festival, but a pragmatic win. Hjulmands Elf earned some of them in this campaign. The whole thing is based on the sovereign rear axle consisting of goalkeeper Schmeichel and the triple chain Kjær, Christensen, Vestergaard. Up front, the Danes always come up with something even without their best player, Christian Eriksen.
Eriksen remains an issue. Also because the team keeps talking about him. Before kick-off, the national team was awarded the prize of the International Fair Play Committee. Eriksen had collapsed on June 12 in Copenhagen during the European Championship group game against Finland and had to be resuscitated. “On that day we showed who we are and what values this team is based on,” said captain Kjær. The team had shown care, solidarity and respect on the pitch, the committee justified the award ceremony.
“In Moldova the place was ten times better”
It was also impressive how the Danes had freed themselves from the moment of shock and advanced to the semi-finals of the continental championship. If you look at the qualification, the Danes did not break apart from this challenge, they grew. In any case, the victories in the summer were not a flash in the pan.
Sports director Peter Møller is one of the association’s winners. A good two years ago, he courageously and against resistance decided to part with the successful Norwegian coach Åge Hareide and try something new with Hjulmand. Even then, there was hope that with him he might perhaps shape an era. The Danes have now set out on this path – with a football that often reminds us of the Danish Dynamite of the 1980s.
Kasper Hjulmand goes ahead and often finds exactly the right words. He discusses socio-political issues in Denmark, but he also keeps an eye on football details: He was annoyed by the poor grass in the parking lot, which did not allow a fine game: “In Moldova, the place was ten times better,” he said – and linked the criticism with it a demand: “We need good greenkeepers. They are more important for football than boxes and VIP seats. “
In Austria, meanwhile, they have completely different problems. Although coach Franco Foda’s team can still reach the World Cup via the back door called Nations League (participation in the authorization games in March 2022 is very likely), past performances were not nearly as good as at the EM. Since Austria reached the last sixteen. There was no tailwind: only three wins in eight games, unsightly football despite well-known professionals, no chance against Denmark (0: 4/0: 1). However, they recently missed many injured regular players. Foda is hoping for them in March. He said: “We’re just missing the flow. The Danes have it. “