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Denmark will be one of the underdogs to triumph at the World Cup and they will give France a tough game on Friday.
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Since its introduction in 2018, the UEFA Nations League has been a success. The tournament gives European countries the chance to play similarly-ranked teams on a regular basis. It is more competitive than international friendlies, which have largely been eased out of the calendar. And it has been welcomed at all levels of the game, from powerhouses like France and Germany all the way down to the continent’s minnows, such as Andorra and San Marino.
Yet the Nations League remains firmly in third place as far as national teams’ priorities go. It is unlikely to ever surpass the World Cup or the European Championship, which have decades of history behind them. Consequently, the Nations League matches being played in June will be used as World Cup warm-ups as much as anything. Managers like Didier Deschamps could use these fixtures to experiment ahead of the tournament in Qatar in November and December.
France will be looking to avoid a repeat of Euro 2020 at the World Cup. Les Bleus, the pre-tournament favorites, were eliminated by Switzerland in the round of 16. It was a surprising outcome but no one who watched the game could argue that the Swiss did not deserve to win. France played brilliantly for 20 minutes of that match but, despite their superior talent, were beaten by a well-organized, well-coached side.
On paper France have the strongest squad on the planet, with enviable depth in virtually every area of the pitch. Yet they must show they can at least be equal to the sum of their parts. Deschamps’ tendency towards caution means he still has his share of critics despite leading les Bleus to glory four years ago. Six months out from the tournament and there are still questions for this France team to answer.
Denmark were the surprise package of Euro 2020, which was held last summer after a one-year delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic. After the horror of witnessing Christian Eriksen suffer a cardiac arrest in their first game, Denmark battled their way through to the semi-finals. They even took the lead in that match, but ultimately lost 2-1 to England at Wembley Stadium in London.
Denmark played some glorious attacking soccer at the European Championship. They were undoubtedly one of the best teams at the tournament, even if they did lose their first two matches (albeit in mitigating circumstances).
Kasper Hjulmand’s side subsequently proved their run to the semi-final was no fluke by qualifying for the World Cup in style. They booked their spot in Qatar by winning nine out of 10 qualifiers, registering the joint-highest points tally in Europe alongside Germany. Denmark will not be heading to the tournament to merely make up the numbers: they have already been widely tipped as potential dark horses to lift the trophy and can give anyone a game on their day.
Before then, Denmark have the chance to test themselves against some of the best teams in the world, with two Nations League matches against each France, Croatia, and Austria to come in Group A1 across June and September. Those can only aid their World Cup preparations.
The big news surrounding Denmark’s squad selection is the inclusion of Eriksen, who had a tremendous few months with Brentford in the Premier League. He returned to the fold in March – the attacking midfielder scored within two minutes of coming on against the Netherlands – but is set for his first competitive appearance for his country since that fateful match against Finland.
Having Eriksen available again is a huge boost, but anyone who watched Denmark at Euro 2020 knows they are not a one-man team. Further creativity and firepower is provided by Mikkel Damsgaard, Yussuf Poulsen and Kasper Dolberg, while there is talent in defense too – even though captain Simon Kjaer is out injured.
For one reason or another, the France squad for the upcoming Nations League games does not feature Paul Pogba, Ousmane Dembele, Thomas Lemar, Olivier Giroud or Dayot Upamecano; you could make a pretty strong XI out of the eligible players who will not be playing for France in June. That goes to show how much quality it is available to Deschamps, who will be focused on finding the right balance in the coming months.
Denmark are a front-foot, attack-minded team, and they will not simply sit back and look to soak up the pressure at the Stade de France. Five of their last seven matches have featured more than 2.5 goals, as have five of France’s last six outings. That suggests goals could be on the cards when the two teams go head-to-head on Friday.
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|France vs Denmark Information|
|Teams||France vs Denmark|
|Location||Stade de France, Saint-Denis, France|
|Time||Friday, 3 June 2022, 2.45 PM EDT|
|How to watch||fuboTV|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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