Tag Archives: Denmark

FIFA World Cup 2018: Group C and D Second Matches

Denmark 1-1 Australia: This was the back-and-forth, evenly matched game I expected it to be. Both teams play a combination game, putting passes together to work their way up the field in attack. The Danes did a better job of staying composed, closing down, maintaining pace, keeping the ball, and finding angles. The better quality shots were taken by the Danes. Both teams play a similar attacking style; get the ball forward, play up-tempo, make the other team uncomfortable when they don’t have the ball. A surprising amount of this game was played on both ends despite the lack of counterattacks and quick long balls from end to end. Aggressive pressure in the box by both teams led to either team being 6’s and 7’s on their goals in the first half; first by a lapse in judgment in the Australian backline leading to a quick goal by Dane talisman Christian Eriksen, then later a handball in the box by Yussuf Poulsen leading to a Mile Jedinak penalty for Australia.

The Socceroos were at their best defensively when they kept Eriksen off the ball. The last 45 minutes saw the Socceroos putting more pressure on the Danes, closing them down more when they had the ball. Denmark was at their best when first Poulsen and then his substitute Martin Braithewaite made strides down the right side on the attacking end. Australia still wasn’t making long passes into the attacking end, but they were getting downfield more with quick combination passing. Kasper Schmeichel came up big for Denmark in goal, living up to his famous father’s name. Don’t be fooled by the score; this was a battle from beginning to end.

France 1-0 Peru: I was surprised to see that for the first time in years, French midfielder Paul Pogba did not have some kind of colored dye in his hair. Peru can certainly create a lot of chances, but they just can’t seem to find the net. Peru’s tactics are simple; get the ball down the flanks long, hold up play and hope a trailing attacker will fill the space up front to put the ball on. It kind of make Les Bleus tentative at the beginning, staying back in a tactically rigid 5-4-1. France were noticeably better in the air on headers and 50/50 balls. When Olivier Giroud was linking up with Kylian Mbappe, France was much more fluid and coordinated in the final third. Good defensive resistance from Peru, but you kind of got the sense that Pogba-Mbappe-Greizmann linkup would eventually break through. It happened when Mbappe got free in the center.

A more controlled attack by Peru in the second half, as they played with a sense of urgency, keeping Les Bleus pinned in their own end trying to stave off the furious Peru attack. French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris stepped up, keeping the many Peru chances out of the net. With about 25 minute left, Peru played a little more direct, getting the ball into the attacking third a lot faster, trying to find the equalizer. To withstand the onslaught, French coach Didier Deschampe brought on fresh legs in Ousmane Dembele, Nabil Fekir, and Steven N’Zonzi. I kept waiting for forwards Paolo Guerrero, Christian Cuevo, and Andre’ Carrillo to put the ball in the back of the net given how many chances they all had in this and the previous game against Denmark, but they just couldn’t seem to finish. A surprisingly quiet game from Antoine Greizmann. France didn’t win; they survived.

Argentine 0-3 Croatia: The key to this game was the play on the wings, because Argentina used a rigid center back three, the Croatians looked to move the ball forward quickly on the flanks. Nobody does a better job of finding space for himself in the box than Lionel Messi, but in this tournament he his having issues finishing, highly unusual for him. The best way for Croatia to interrupt the otherworldly creativity of Messi and Kun Aguerro was to get physical and disrupt their rhythm and flow. Obviously the point of attack for Croatia was talisman Luka Modric, so every time he got the ball on his feet, there was defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano to close him down. Argentina didn’t seem to play the nervy, one-two combination game that characterizes them, seeming to be just a little too conservative, leaving some good playmakers on the bench. It just looked like Messi was having a hard time getting off the schneid. That goal by Croat Ante Rebic was a gift, a fatal error by Caballero. That got Argentine coach Jorje Sampaoli to bring on Gonzalo Higuain in place of Aguerro. Aguerro was playing up high in the box, trying to split the Croatian defenders but not getting enough space to get a shot off. Huguain moved around a little more off the ball.

As an aside, I love the sight of spectator Diego Maradona biting his fingernails nervously after Argentina went down by a goal. In an attempt to get more finishers up front, Argentina brought on Paulo Dybala and crowded the forward attack with as many as five players, dropping Messi back in support. Argentina just weren’t playing with any width; they have among the best wingers in the world and they just aren’t utilizing them. They totally lacked creativity on the ball, finishing up front, and their talisman, Messi, practically disappeared in the second half. On the second goal by Modric, it looked like Argentina just gave up. To say that Croatia’s midfield just ran over Argentina is an understatement. After that Argentina was 6’s and 7’s, unorganized and unmotivated, getting caught too far upfield on Croatia’s last goal by Ivan Rakitic’. How Argentina gets out of this is beyond me. Just no heart.

Nigeria 2-0 Iceland: Nigeria employed a more adventuresome 3-5-2 scheme for this one, looking to get flankers Bryan Idowu and Victor Moses more into the attack going forward and relying on Oghenekaro Etebo and Wilfred Ndidi to interrupt the Icelandic attack in the center of midfield. What’s more telling is that Nigeria went with a 19-year-old in goal, Francis Uzoho. Nigeria has the youngest team in this tournament, while Iceland has the tallest. The game plan for Iceland is simple: use their size to win the ball – especially on 50/50 balls – then get the ball quickly to their linkup player Gylfi Sigurdsson. Nigeria’s game plan was to play the ball diagonally, stretching Iceland on the wings and in the back. The referee in this game as a lot less rigid in calling physical play than in other fixtures.

Nigeria caught Iceland with too many players forward early in the second half; Moses got the ball on the right flank with only two Icelandic players back and quickly got the ball in to target man Ahmed Musa in the box, who finished off a one-timer. I don’t think Iceland is built to play any differently when they get behind. If Iceland was going to get back into this game, they had to stop giving up significant possession to the Super Eagles. Predictably, Iceland started sending numbers forward, which left them vulnerable in the back and on the flanks, which gave Nigeria ample opportunities on goal. Musa’s second goal proved this. Wow! Iceland got a lifeline with a penalty and Sigurdsson misses wildly (Uzoho didn’t even have to do anything). The Super Eagles stuck to their tactical rigidity in the back and it paid off.


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World Cup 2018: Group C First Matches

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Group C favorite France began its group play against the always tough Socceroos of Australia.  As expected, the French dominated the ball early with the Aussie goalie having to make four early saves.  The Aussies settled down though and were able to sustain some controlled marches downfield.  However, the Australians’ habit of bringing everyone back on defense stunted their counterattack ability.  Throughout first half, both teams managed some scoring opportunities, but good defense prevailed.  Early in the second half, we got our first look at the new video replay rules that allow the referee to retroactively call penalties in the box that were missed at first.  France got a penalty kick after the review and Antoine Griezmann easily converted for the lead.   Minutes later, French defender Samuel Umtiti commits a stupid handball in the box giving the Aussies their own penalty kick.  The big-bearded Mile Jedinak tied the game firing the kick past the goalie to the right.  The game remained evenly played until the 80th minute when French star Paul Pogba managed a give and go around defenders and delivered the game winner on a shot that bounced off both a defender and the crossbar.  The ball bounced out of the goal, but video showed that it clearly crossed the goal line before doing so.  Despite the loss, the Aussies looked good and frustrated the French.  Their solid defense prevented the French from scoring more.

In the other Group C first match, Peru and Denmark faced off, each hoping to deliver a crushing blow to the other’s advancement chances.  Denmark is the tallest team in the tourney and Peru the smallest, but it was Peru who pressed the early attack.  Peru had a speed advantage that they were using on the wings and on through balls.  Peru was unable to capitalize and Denmark settled down midway through the first half and began to push forward with their own attacks.  For the second time on the day, a video penalty review resulted in a penalty kick being retroactively awarded, this time for Peru.   Christian Cueva was perhaps too pumped though and launched the penalty kick over the goal.  The first half ended with no score on the board, but with Peru the clear aggressor on the field.  Early in the second half, Peru continued their assault on the Danish goal and some fancy in the box passing resulted in a great opportunity, but they could not get a good foot on a shot.  Soon thereafter, a quick Danish counterattack resulted in a 3-on-3.  All three Peruvian defenders converged on the ball, a critical mistake that allowed an easy pass to a wide open Yussuf Poulsen on the wing, who drilled it under the goalie for the lead.  Following this goal, Peru’s offense shifted into an even higher gear and they repeatedly bombarded the Danish box.  Peru’s offense showed a lot of creativity, bringing the attack from the wing, down the middle, with deft passing into tight spaces, lofted passes into the box, and even a back heel shot from Paolo Guerrero that barely missed.  Despite numerous scoring opportunities, the Peruvians could not find the back of the net.  Although Peru suffered the loss, they look like they can give the French and Aussies a run for their money.  Group C as a whole looks like it may be the Group of Death, as any of the four squads look like they could advance out of the group.

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25. Denmark

What Went Right?  Benefited from an organized and quick midfield that attacked with vision and exuberance. Denmark actually did a surprising job of opening things up by switching play from side-to-side, making diagonal runs and finding open space, succeeding in getting the ball into the box to their front men and taking lots of quality shots. Even though this was a very midfield-intensive squad the front men got into the act also, getting on the end of a lot of service. Denmark was going to make it plain to everybody they played that they were going to spend a lot of time in their penalty area. Quick-twitch attack pounded the ball downfield and kept teams on their heels. Forward players showed good ball skills with their ability to break down defenders and get behind opposition backlines on their own. Great movement off the ball also opened up space for their forward players to make those effective runs with the ball.

What Went Wrong?  Their defense was surprisingly disorganized. The Danes failed to mark well at all, and they allowed the opposition attack to practically set up shop in their penalty area. A reactive more than a proactive defense that failed miserably at anticipation, reading of the game and cutting off opposition passing. Once they got down their backline just simply fell apart. Despite all of their ball skills they gave up way too much possession, and were probably the worst team in the tournament at defending set pieces and free kicks, most of which found their way into the box an inordinate number of times.

Who Stepped Up To The Plate?  Credit needs to go to Christian Poulson for an extremely well-organized Danish midfield in attack. Dennis Rommedahl and Martin Jorgensen were just a revelation creating space down the wings and switching play effectively. Nicklas Bendtner and Thomas Kahlenberg finished well up front and were ever-present getting behind the opposition backline with regularity. Thomas Sorensen did the best he could under the circumstances; he clearly wasn’t to blame for all the play inside his box.

Who Didn’t Show Up?  It didn’t matter if it was Jesper Gronkjaer, Jakob Poulson or Thomas Enevoldsen at defensive/holding midfielder; all three couldn’t stop anybody from getting through to their backline. It was just hard to believe that a backline consisting of Simon Poulsen, Lars Jacobsen and Simon Kjaer and anchored by a center defender as good as Daniel Agger could be as bad as it was.

How Was The Coaching?  Morten Olsen should have lost his job years ago. Why did it take so long? This guy’s acceptance of mediocrity from a side that should be making waves on the international stage is just infuriating.

Did They Finish Where They Were Expected?  Depends on who you talk to. Some folks had them getting out of a group this relatively easy, while other had Cameroon taking advantage of home continent (Everybody had the Netherlands finishing first). We all totally discounted Japan.

Now What?  Denmark is ordinarily a pretty exciting team to watch. Getting rid of Olsen should cure a lot of ills.