Denmark’s World Cup qualifying campaign started abysmally, losing 1-0 at home to Montenegro as new coach Age Hareide struggled to implement his ideas into the team’s play. They finished the campaign in stark contrast to how they began it, defeating the Republic of Ireland 5-1 in the play- offs, with star man Christian Eriksen scoring a hat-trick in the second leg. This gradual improvement in the team’s performances over the course of the campaign showed that Hareide was managing to impose his ideas and style of play on the team, and that it was succeeding in securing impressive results.
The finals in Russia this summer will be Denmark’s fifth World Cup finals. The furthest they have progressed in the competition was to the quarter finals in 1998, however arguably their most impressive tournament performance was in 1986, where their ‘dynamite’ team shocked the world, winning every game in their group, including a 6-1 demolition of Uruguay, before being beaten by Spain in the second round. Although this current team as a whole do not possess the quality of that dynamite team, in Christian Eriksen they have an individual talent that is capable of striking fear into opposition teams. Based on how they finished the qualification campaign, the Danes must be feeling highly optimistic going into the finals this summer, and with Eriksen on his game, they are more than capable of causing some upsets in Russia.
- Christian Eriksen (Spurs) – Eriksen scored an unbelievable 11 goals during Denmark’s qualifying campaign, including a hat-trick that dumped Republic of Ireland out of the play- offs. His club coach Mauricio Pochettino has developed him into a world class playmaker over the last number of seasons, and he is undoubtedly Denmark’s talisman. He will be the team’s inspiration and creative leader in Russia this summer, and he is a player that has the capabilities to turn a game in an instant. Opposition teams must focus on finding a way to keep Eriksen from controlling the game.
- Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City) – Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel is following in his famous father Peter Schmeichels’s footsteps, and has long established himself as the main man between the sticks for Denmark. Adept at keeping an organised defence and with the athletic awareness and agility to pull off some top class saves, the 2015/16 Premier League winner can play a key role in ensuring Denmark’s progression out of the group and into the knockout stages.
Age Hareide – The choice to appoint Hareide as Denmark’s head coach and replacement to the long serving Morton Olsen in March 2016 was met with surprise and scepticism. The Norwegian, who admittedly had a lack of success in managing his home nation a decade ago, silenced these sceptics with the impressive crescendo of results he got out of his team in 2017, which culminated in their qualification for Russia. The nation will now be watching with optimism to see what he can produce in the summer.