Tactics: set pieces, restarts and numerical superiority, place for the Danish puzzle

Usual adversary of the Blues on the roads of their world conquests, Denmark arrived in Qatar in the skin of an outsider with the look of an ideal son-in-law. After a spectacular last Euro and an almost perfect qualifying campaign, followed by two victories against the French team in the League of Nations, Kasper Hjulmand’s men are shaping up to be the main obstacle in Group D. That’s why.

Like their coach, Kasper Hjulmand, a man with the look of an engineer, the Danes present a modern, utilitarian and attractive football. Held in check (0-0) for their entry into the running against a boosted Tunisia in an electric Education City Stadium, the Scandinavians are now forced to win against the Blues on Saturday. A team that became the mascot of the last European championship thanks to exciting football, Denmark is one of the most anticipated and best prepared outsiders for this World Cup, whose versatility seems to be one of the main assets. With eight different organizations used in nine games (for seven victories) in the year 2022, the men of Hjulmand have several coats, and it is even common to see this cheerful band articulated in different ways according to the sequences and the timing of meetings. Asked before the clash against the France team, assistant coach Morten Wieghorst confirmed it and came to highlight the “flexibility” of his gang. The opposition between this liquid football and the more balanced one of the France team promises to be enticing, for several reasons.

Schmeichel’s foot and a repeated breach

First reason to take a look at this meeting: the Danish six-meter, who are starting to make their reputation as much for their quality as for their rarity caused by a realization often more interested in close shots on a player who is retying his laces than through a phase of the game that is nevertheless essential. Able to come out short by creating a numerical superiority, to play mid-length or to extend a notch higher, Kasper Schmeichel and his people often opt for pragmatism and the optimum. Facing Tunisia or during the two League of Nations matches against the France team, the Nice goalkeeper has thus regularly lengthened towards his target man, be it Kasper Dolberg or Andreas Cornelius. Three days ago, Peter’s son sent 14 long balls and was even at 19 during France-Denmark in June.

When Denmark entered the fray against Tunisia (0-0) last Tuesday: Kasper Schmeichel came to insert himself between Andreas Christensen and Simon Kjær to offer a precious +1 for his team. He then decides to extend…


Former Bordelais Andreas Cornelius then controls the ball with his chest and plays back towards Mikkel Damsgaard, alone between the lines. In this way, the Tunisian density was circumvented…


… and the Brentford player can face the game and take advantage of the latitude offered by his pistons launched in their corridors to attack the opposing goal.


During the first leg against the France team in June, the two centrals are in the area around Kasper Schmeichel to feign the short game and suck up the French block as much as possible. Nevertheless, the Danish goalkeeper chooses the long option…


… finds Kasper Dolberg, totally free, who also controls the ball with his chest towards Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, thrown back…


… the French block is fractured, while the Danes are launched at full speed towards the goal of Hugo Lloris. A four-against-four can then engage.

Whether in the air or on the ground, the Nordics display a constant: an ease in perforating enemy blocks to then progress quickly towards the enemy surface. This verticality persists according to the relaunch phases, the systems and the players lined up. A situation illustrates this particularly through the matches: regularly, a player, most often right-handed and with a certain technical quality such as Christian Eriksen, Mathias Jensen or Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, transplants from the Danish left side towards the axis to serve the inward movement of a partner to the opposite. This animation is most often set up for a player initially very eccentric – and therefore rarely followed -, thus offering him space between the lines when imposing a numerical superiority in the midfield.


In the first leg against the Blues, Højbjerg transplanted on his right foot and found the inside displacement of the right piston, Daniel Wass, then totally free…


… the tricolor block is perforated: Wass can then move forward and serve his partner wide. Denmark gains meters easily.


In the return match against France, in Copenhagen, Eriksen transplanted inside on his right foot and again found Rasmus Kristensen’s inside move on the opposite side. The right side benefits, among other things, from the weak defensive involvement of Kylian Mbappé and the three-color numerical inferiority in the middle …


… but the Leeds player will fail to capitalize on that forward opportunity following Youssouf Fofana’s good closing on Damsgaard.


Facing Tunisia, it is this time Mathias Jensen who orients himself on his strong foot and finds the internal displacement of Christian Eriksen…


…the Manchester midfielder then moves straight forward and attacks the space offered…


…until you can kick with your left foot on the edge of the box. This ball will be taken out of the frame by Tunisian goalkeeper Aymen Dahmen.

Sign language

One arm raised, two arms raised, arms crossed … All his choreographies are not yet another TikTok dance, but rather the signs of Christian Eriksen before taking a corner. While it may seem amusing to see the discreet midfielder of Manchester United wiggle, these movements clearly have an informative purpose for his partners a little further in the box. As a result, Denmark has a huge variety in the field and an exceptional shooter, capable of hitting the many large sizes of the workforce. Eleven players from the workforce of the twenty-six selected for the World Cup measure at least 185 centimeters.

During their last match played at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen against the Blues, the Danes had also been very dangerous on set pieces. Many were the effective combinations on this kind of sequence until making the difference thanks to Andreas Skov Olsen on a worked and well executed mechanical situation. When the players of Hjulmand entered the fray against Tunisia, the plurality of solutions from a corner was again demonstrated, without success this time, even if Andreas Cornelius missed a huge situation that he could have – even should have – exploit to propel Denmark ahead. The action also peaks on its own at 0.81 expected goal.


Facing the Tunisians, Christian Eriksen raises both arms to warn his teammates of the combination, result: a player hinders the opposing goalkeeper, while the Scandinavian buildings regroup at the penalty spot…

Finally, the targeted leading players, namely Christensen and Andersen, move to the far post following the long corner taken by their magician…


The Barcelonian thus recovers from where the ball comes to Andreas Cornelius at the near post. A very delicate situation to manage for the defenses…


But the Copenhagen striker will miss the ball a few centimeters from the goal. The corner converted by Andreas Skov Olsen against the Blues in the last clash between the two teams was the result of an almost identical combination.


During the match against the France team, Eriksen only raises one arm this time, showing a new combination…


The ball is this time tighter and hit at the near post. The large Danish jigs then move accordingly…


In this way, Thomas Delaney – forfeited for the rest of the competition following a knee problem against Tunisia – cut the trajectory and tried to uncross his head, but Alphonse Areola was vigilant.


Before the final corner of their first match of this World Cup, Joachim Andersen crosses his hands in the direction of Christian Eriksen…


The latter responds with the same sign, proof of yet another combination…


The ball is this time kicked, with plenty of height to find a Danish player far from the goal at the far post. But Cornelius will not be able to straighten the ball.

With 11 players on the list already present in 2018, 10 today following Delaney’s withdrawal, and 39 average selections – the eighth most experienced team in the tournament – the Danish Dynamite has a strong, united and durable group. More than a necessarily striking common experience, the Danes are today one of the symbols of an attractive yet rare selection football in an international scene where balance and individual quality often triumph. Faced in 1998 (2-1), in 2002 (0-2) and in 2018 (0-0), Denmark often takes the form of an uncompromising referee in the course of the French team in the World Cup. Let’s hope this time again that the end comes closer to the Russian and Ile-de-France coronation than to the Korean failure.

By Matthias Ribeiro

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