Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand has named 21 players from the 26-man squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar with the final five to be declared after the last round of European fixtures this weekend. This is done due to the uncertainty of players pulling out of injuries from this mid-season tournament. The World Cup in Qatar will be a feel-good factor for Denmark as they will have their talisman Christian Eriksen with them in another major competition after suffering a cardiac arrest on the pitch in the European Championship last year.
Denmark entered the World Cup for the first time in 1986 after starting to play the qualifiers of the tournament in 1958. In that edition, the Danes remarkably beat West Germany in the group stages but went out to Spain in the round of 16 stages. Since then, Denmark have gone on to participate in four World Cups between 1998 and 2018 making this edition their fifth. Their best finish has been the quarterfinals in the tournament held by France 24 years ago. Goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel guarded the sticks in that period and the Manchester United legend is the most capped player for his nation. Other heroes for Denmark include all-time top goal-scorer Jon Dahl Tomasson who scored the most number of goals for his nation in the 2002 World Cup, midfielder Michael Laudrup considered the best player of his nation and Preben Elkjaer bagging the most number of goals for Denmark in 1986 among others.
Back in 2018, Denmark shared the group with France, Peru and Australia and came out second. They finished two points below France and the same points above Peru to seal a place in the knockouts. Yussuf Poulsen struck as his side began with a narrow 1-0 win against the South American nation before they draw 1-1 against Australia with Christian Eriksen getting on the scoresheet. Hence, the last game became a dead rubber between the two unbeaten teams in the group against eventual winners France as the game ended 0-0. In the last 16 stages, Denmark lost to finalists Croatia narrowly on penalties after the final score after extra time read 1-1.
Denmark had a qualification to remember as they lost only one game in their qualifiers group although sealing a place in the finals unbeaten, scoring 30 goals and conceding just three. They picked up nine wins from 10 which was joint-most by any team in the European qualifiers. The Danes also shared the goals amongst each other so there was no outright scorer in the team yet Club Brugge’s Andreas Skov Olsen managed the highest with five and also got the most number of assists with three. Denmark finished top in their qualifiers with 27 points bettering Scotland in second by four.
Preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup
Denmark played two friendlies against Netherlands and Serbia in March this year, losing against the Dutch 4-2 but registering a win in the next one. The rest of the games they played were in the UEFA Nations League during international breaks in June and September. The Danish Dynamite began that campaign with a fascinating 2-1 win away against France going on to do the double over Les Bleus and Austria. Their two defeats in the competition came against league leaders Croatia as they fail to get a place in the semifinals of the Nations League next year. The tournament was shifted in that period due to the World Cup happing in November so players were tired after the conclusion of an intense club season so the results were irregular for the nations involved. Still, Denmark managed to have a noteworthy campaign and decent preparation for the World Cup in Qatar.
Denmark FIFA World Cup squad 2022:
Goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel (Nice), 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), Daniel Wass (Brondby)
Midfielders: Thomas Delaney (Sevilla), Mathias Jensen (Brentford), Christian Eriksen (Manchester United), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Tottenham)
Forwards: Andreas Skov Olsen (Club Bruges), Jesper Lindstrom (Eintracht Frankfurt), Andreas Cornelius (Copenhagen), Martin Braithwaite (Espanyol), Kasper Dolberg (Sevilla), Mikkel Damsgaard (Brentford), Jonas Wind (VfL Wolfsburg)
Kasper Hjulmand has named an unfinished squad as five more players will be included before the tournament but most of the star names are included. None as refreshing as Christian Eriksen who will be donning his national shirt for a big tournament again with the Manchester United midfielder already netting three goals in eight matches for the Danes on his return from the health scare in the Euros. Simon Kjaer, who was first to Eriksen’s aid when he collapsed on the floor last June and comfort his partner following the incident, will captain the national team having earned 121 caps for his nations and only seven behind record appearance maker Peter Schmeichel. Peter’s son Kasper will guard the sticks after ending a 12-year stay at Premier Club Leicester City to move to Nice this summer where he has had an unconvincing start. However, he is the most trusted custodian for Denmark in between the sticks like his father used to be by keeping the most number of clean sheets in the European qualifiers with eight. Defender Andreas Christen recovered in time from a sprained ankle he suffered with Barcelona last month to make the squad.
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The strength of Denmark is their unbelievable team spirit and unity which they showed in the European Championship when their talisman was stricken in the very first game of that tournament. The team had each other’s back and roared into the semi final stages making themselves a watchable side for everyone. The grit, determination and energy were on a different level for the side and with Eriksen back now Denmark is looking to make the most of this tournament. Kasper Hjulmand’s side’s solidity at the back is another factor which keeps the team on the front foot with three at the back system allowing wing-backs to push up assisting in attack, especially Joakim Maehle of Atalanta who chips in with important goals from the left-hand side. The midfield pair of Thomas Delaney and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is as constructive as it gets with both sharing their turns in holding out the defence and attack. In all, Denmark looks to be one of the most robust sides to play in Qatar.
The only weakness for the team will be getting the edge over nations not only having a better FIFA ranking than them but also quality, particularly in the knockout phases of the tournament. Denmark have looked well and zeal in the group stages of major competition recently failing to translate it to the latter rounds although the last Euros could serve as a motivation to go deeper in the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Also, the deficiency of a proper goal-scorer could bite the team with neither of the strikers included enjoying the best time in front of the goal either due to poor form or lack of minutes at their club. Hjulmand has chosen Yussuf Poulsen as the go-to guy to lead the forward line for his productivity in national colors but he has stayed injured for most parts of this season with his selection uncertain at the moment. Mikkel Damsgaard could bring a lot of youthfulness to the team like in the Euros but he too has not received enough game time at Brentford.
Key Player: Christian Eriksen
Denmark have shown they are a wonderful team even without their star playmaker pulling out the strings in midfield, however, one simply cannot argue the massive role Christian Eriksen will have to take this team forward in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The competition will be a stuff of dream on a very personal front for him in an unlikely comeback from his battle with life on the football pitch a year ago and then getting a chance to don the same national shirt again on international football’s biggest stage. The willpower of Christian Eriksen to fight his way back when his career seems to stall will be the greatest power he can offer for Denmark. Signed with Manchester United for free this summer after a remarkable six-month spell with Brentford, released by then club Inter due to ineligibility for a footballer to play with a heart transmitter in Serie A, Eriksen got his groove back in becoming an orchestrator for the Old Trafford club looking better than ever. For Denmark too, he contributed massively in the Nations League this year with his experience from the previous World Cups becoming key for the side. He will be influential in giving Denmark the upper hand in games against the heavyweights so he can make a rightful statement for his nation at the tournament.
Opponents & Fixtures
Denmark vs Tunisia - 22 November, Education City Stadium (6:30 PM)
France vs Denmark - 26 November, Stadium 974 (9:30 PM)
Australia vs Denmark - 30 November, Al Janoub Stadium (8:30 PM)
Denmark begins their World Cup against Tunisia who are likely to frustrate the Danes in the opening game having no dominant strikers in the rank yet can spread goals in other areas of the pitch. Kasper Hjulmand knows his side cannot think of anything other than a win in this game before taking on the defending champions France three days later at Stadium 974. Even though the Danes won both the games against Les Bleus earlier this year with their opponents also missing some key players due to in this tournament, France will be a force to reckon with their immense quality and depth. A draw will be helpful for Denmark as they move into the last game against Australia at the end of this month in a bid to secure qualification to the last 16 stages.
How Denmark will Lineup at FIFA World Cup 2022?
With 86 caps earned for his nation, Kasper Schmeichel will start in goal having kept two clean sheets in four games in the 2018 edition of the tournament. If Denmark deploys a back three then all of Simon Kjaer, Andreas Christensen and Joachim Andersen could start with Rasmus Kristensen and Joakim Maehle will earn the spots in their respective flanks. The midfield pair of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Thomas Delaney cannot be detached with the Spurs man a lynchpin for his club and country capable of scoring crucial goals while the latter is the unsung hero for the team for his incredible work rate on the pitch. They will create the balance in midfield so Christian Eriksen could unfold his passing range and also find the net more often. Andreas Skov Olsen is an important figure on the right of the forward line for his ability to chip in with necessary goal contributions whereas Damsgaard will bring his pace, dribble and trickery from the left. The head scratcher for Kasper Hjulmand will be to put the ideal striker in the mix which could possibly be Kasper Dolberg like in the Euros or Andreas Cornelius who can be the big physical striker in the box offering headers and also hold up the play for others to exploit spaces in behind if Yussuf Poulsen is not called up to the national side by the time the tournament begins in Qatar. However, the duo has not found the net this season.
Stance on Qatar
Denmark are one of the few nations that have publicly voiced their dissatisfaction regarding the ill-treatment of migrant workers in the host country of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Thomas Delaney and Kasper Schmeichel have voiced their concerns about the matter with the midfielder calling the tournament a ‘disaster’. Kit manufacturer for the national team, Hummel has toned down the branding of the shirt as a mark of protest of the human rights records in Qatar and for the tournament they ‘do not wish to be visible that has cost thousands of people their lives’. They have produced two jerseys, an all-red and an all-black one hiding the national team badge, Hummel logo and decorative white chevrons which is a famous feature on Danish shirts dating back to 1980. The Danish federation has also joined the One Love European campaign to call out the homosexuality law in Qatar.
Denmark could be the dark horses in this World Cup like they did in the European championship despite other teams falling into the same category. If the squad is able to bring the same cohesion from the last summer’s tournament anything could be achieved. Kasper Hjulmand will try to guide his side as far as they could go pulling all their gears, stopping in the round of 16 stages simply cannot be in their plans with what they have. A similar display of their first-ever World Cup in 1980 or better will increase the reputation of the team otherwise this will be a missed opportunity for the Danish Dynamites.