The who, what and how of Danish football
AUSTRALIA tackles Denmark at 10pm (AEST) in tonight's crucial World Cup clash. Here's everything you need to know about the Socceroos' opponents.
Who's the star?
Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen is a world-class talent and the crucial figure in the team. In the playoff against Ireland to make the World Cup, the playmaker scored a hat-trick in Denmark's 5-1 demolition of the Irish at Lansdowne Road.
Anyone else famous/semi-famous in the team?
Tricky winger Pione Sisto plays for Spanish club Celta Vigo and only three players, including Barcelona duo Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, provided more assists in La Liga last season. Captain Simon Kjaer plays for Sevilla, which knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League, and midfielder Thomas Delaney has just been transferred between German clubs Werder Bremen and Borussia Dortmund for $46 million.
Best player ever?
It has to be Michael Laudrup. Possibly not only the greatest Danish but the greatest Scandinavian player ever (sorry Zlatan). Won titles with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and Ajax. In 1999 was voted the greatest foreign player in Spanish football over the previous 25 years, which put him ahead of even Dutch master Johan Cruyff.
Who's the coach?
The 64-year-old Age Hareide is a highly experienced manager. The former Manchester City player was in charge of the Norwegian national team for five years from 2003 but never guided them to a major championships. Still, he has won club titles in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. He has been in charge of the Danish national team since 2015 after replacing the long-serving Morten Olsen.
What will be their game plan?
To get the ball to Eriksen and hope for the best? That's simplistic but he is the talent the team revolves around. They line up as a 4-2-3-1, and the two wingers, Sisto and (who scored against Peru), are highly mobile and can cover a lot of ground. They are fast, physical and direct and love a set-piece - usually delivered by Eriksen. But they can also play a bit as well.
How we can expose them?
Take out Eriksen? In a legal sense of course. But if the Socceroos can restrict the involvement of the Spurs man, who scored 11 goals during qualifying, it will go a long way to winning the game. Sisto, Poulsen and Delaney are dangerous but big striker Nicolai Jorgensen was terrible against Peru. Peru also made a lot of headway attacking left back Jens Stryger Larsen, who struggled with the pace of the Peruvian attacks, so Mathew Leckie could be pivotal for Australia.
Greatest World Cup moment?
The furthest the Danes have progressed in the World Cup was in 1998 when they made it to the quarter-finals. They emerged from a group stage against France, South Africa and Saudi Arabia, and beat Nigeria 4-1 in the round of 16 before losing 3-2 to eventual World Cup finalist Brazil in a thriller.
Worst World Cup moment?
Denmark has been to the World Cup four times before Russia and failed to qualify from the group stage only in 2010, when it lost to Holland and then 3-1 to Japan. But probably its most embarrassing moment was to lose 3-0 to England in the round of 16 in 2002. It's usually England who is embarrassed at that stage.
Denmark is also known for?
According to several UN reports the Danes are the happiest people on earth, which is nice for them. Maybe it's something to do with their diet, they have a fondness for pickled herring and salty liquorice with a cold glass of milk. Half the people in the capital Copenhagen cycle to work and Lego is a Danish invention. Also does a good line in TV drama, see The Killing and Borgen.