This article is part of the Guardian’s World Cup 2022 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 32 countries who qualified. theguardian.com is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 20 November.
Denmark have continued on the same path that took them to the semi-finals of the European Championship in 2021 and the only real worry is the long search for a centre-forward to fit Kasper Hjulmand’s 4-3-3 system. Denmark may have lost twice to Croatia in the Nations League but they beat France twice. In Paris they won 2-1 against a full-strength French team with a couple of late goals from the substitute Andreas Cornelius and, in the final game before the World Cup, they beat the world champions 2-0 at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen.
“We have a fantastic squad and we are full of confidence because we know what our players can do,” Kasper Schmeichel said. “But when we play France at the World Cup, it will be a different match.”
Christian Eriksen, who, of course, had a cardiac arrest at Parken during Euro 2020, was magnificent against France, leading Mikkel Damsgaard to say: “We have great self-confidence going into the World Cup. We will make some noise, we aim to go far and hopefully win the whole damn thing.”
Hjulmand often deploys a 3-4-3 formation against strong opponents but switches to a more attack-minded 4-3-3 against weaker teams. He is adept at changing tactics during games, either through a switch of formation or substitutions.
Denmark topped their qualifying group four points ahead of Scotland, winning nine of their 10 games and with a goal difference of +27.
The open minded and eloquent 50-year-old Kasper Hjulmand has restored the public’s affection for the national team since taking over from Åge Hareide in 2020. From day one he has, almost like a missionary, talked about the team belonging to every Dane. For a long time friendlies in Copenhagen were far from sellouts but now they are always full, no matter the opposition. He was widely praised for how he dealt with the fallout from Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest, and his contract runs for another two years.
Christian Eriksen literally came back from the dead in June 2021 when he suffered a cardiac arrest four minutes before half-time in Denmark’s first match at the Euros. He has shown incredible willpower to continue his career at the top level and is now at Manchester United after a successful six-month spell at Brentford. An efficient, reliable player who wants to succeed at a major tournament after missing out last year.
Thomas Delaney is often praised by Hjulmand, who is keen to point out the Sevilla midfielder’s incredible work rate and efficiency at set pieces. It is quite easy to be overlooked when you are playing in a midfield also comprising Eriksen and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg but Delaney adds something important to the team and contributes with the odd crucial goal, as he did in the Euro 2020 quarter-final against the Czech Republic. “We had a plan, but my goal was not part of the plan,” he said with a chuckle after the game.
“Ask any football player and he will call it a disaster,” Thomas Delaney said in a documentary about the Qatar World Cup last year. “And that’s how I see it. No one here thinks it is a good idea.” Kasper Schmeichel added: ”I’m glad that I will be playing at a World Cup, but am I content with where it’s being held? No, I am not. But I can’t change it, only voice my dissatisfaction.” The Danish Football Federation chief executive, Jakob Jensen, has said it will not host any fan areas in Qatar – “We don’t want to support the country” – and Denmark’s kit manufacturer, Hummel, has made shirts that criticise the human rights record of the host nation, with a black option to honour migrant workers who died during construction for the tournament.
Der er et yndigt land (There is a lovely country) from 1819 is an anthem full of praise for Denmark, its nature and history. The lyrics were written by Adam Oehlenschläger, a famous poet and playwright and one of the principal pioneers of the romantic movement in Europe. The music is written by Hans Ernst Krøyer. Der er et yndigt land is actually one of two national anthems, the other being Kong Christian (King Christian), a bombastic song about the bravery of the king and other war heroes at sea.
All-time cult hero
The 1984 European Championship semi-final between Denmark and Spain went to penalties and the last Danish player to take his spot-kick was Preben Elkjær. The forward was already a hero back home after scoring the winner against Belgium in the final group game. He had a strong attitude and a big mouth – but in a charming way – and for the shootout against Spain his shorts had been torn so his backside was showing. The No 10 missed his penalty but no one blamed him. He was also part of the successful team at the 1986 World Cup and is now a TV pundit.
Jesper Engmann writes for Jyllands-Posten. Follow him here on Twitter.