Fluid attack, key to Denmark’s World Cup bout?

Viraj Nerurkar
By Viraj Nerurkar
7 Min Read

The FIFA World Cup is just around the corner and excitement for the tournament ahead is building up. A few nations come into the tournament as favorites, tipped to make a deep run, while some are considered as dark horses, a little-known contender that has the potential to make an unexpectedly good showing. One such nation who have been predicted to make it through and back-up on their recent fabulous semblance, Denmark.

Denmark have experienced a bitter sweet road leading to Qatar; The heart-wrenching moment in their premier Euro fixture in 2021 where Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest was followed by a tournament run that saw them go all the way to the semi-finals – losing to England, yet the strength and courage that the Danes showed to recover won hearts all around the world. They continued similar momentum into the UEFA Nations League tournament beating reigning world champions France twice which led to them topping their qualifying group with nine wins out of 10 games and finished 4 points ahead of second placed Scotland to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The team looks well-balanced on paper and there is harmony between all three departments of the team. Manager Kasper Hjulmand has instilled an attacking style since his appointment in 2020, in stark contrast to his predecessor’s pragmatic style. Since he took over charge, Hjulmand has preferred a 3-4-3 formation, which he used extensively in the Euros, but also leans towards a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 – he has shown his tactical flexibility over time.

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Critics and pundits have mused over what could be the key to a good World Cup for Denmark, and the general consensus has been their fluid attack will have a very important role to play. Hjulmand prefers a lone striker, either of Kasper Dolberg usually or Andreas Cornelius in recent times, with supporting flank. The supporting wingers are much more than finessing in crosses – as seen on numerous occasions, either winger drops inside to create space for the fullback to overlap which eventually creates an overload in the midfield and four players are now in line with the opposition defense.

Christian Eriksen, the preferred Danish number 10 will drop a bit deeper to receive short passes from the back, supported by the midfield pairing of Thomas Delaney and Tottenham Hotspur star Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Once Eriksen receives the ball in space, he will play a trademark long pass to runners on the flank, which often catches out opposition defenses. Once the ball is on the flanks, and the opponents are recovering to get their shape on, Denmark attackers floods the box complemented with late runs into the box, the cross from the flank often proves lethal. This is backed up from the Euro 2020 stat, where Denmark had the most shots from crosses out of all nations.

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Alternatively, Denmark also deploy the high press when out of possession. The team presses opposition high either forcing them into mistakes or compel them to send aimless long balls forward. They have been drawn into a quite tricky group with France, Australia and Tunisia. France and Australia are familiar foes having battled the two quite regularly. Tunisia are a newer a opponent and it will be interesting to see how Hjulmand deals with them.

The expectation heading into the group stages is that Denmark will lineup in a 4-3-3, with a midfield three of Delaney, Hojbjerg and Eriksen in a more advanced role just behind the attack of Mikkel Damsgaard, Kasper Dolberg and Andreas Skov Olsen. Damsgaard is one of the players to watch out for this tournament as the 22-year-old is all set to show his talent again on the biggest stage. He stepped into the role of Eriksen at the Euros and put in dazzling displays.

There were questions about how Eriksen and Damsgaard would work together, but those doubts were put to rest after the 22-year-old Brentford starlet moved to the left flank. His performances did not slow down and against France he & Eriksen worked in tandem to take the World Champions apart.

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Christian Eriksen has been Denmark’s talisman in the past and all eyes will be on him once again. The Manchester United man has been in imperious form this season and his ability to make things happen in attack will be needed for the trio upfront. His vision, range of passing and ability in set-piece situations continue to make him Denmark’s key creator. With 38 goals, he is also the leading scorer in the current squad and sits in the country’s all-time top five. He will be vital to Denmark scoring goals, and they will need him to be at his best.

Another of those who can come critical in creating as well as rocketing the ball into the net is Jesper Lindström, Frankfurt starlet has been in some form this season and is been scouted by the likes of Arsenal going into the World Cup.

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Overall, Denmark’s squad has a lot of quality and talent. They have shown they have the quality on the pitch to overcome superior teams like France but are also equally good enough to not get complacent against the weaker teams.

Manager Kasper Hjulmand has experimented a lot with his attacking options, but whatever front three he chooses, there is no denying the fact that with players like Kasper Dolberg, Andreas Cornelius, Mikkel Damsgaard, Lindstörm, and others that Denmark attack has the potential to cause quite a few upsets in Qatar.

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