Four months to the day from Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest, Denmark can book a place at the World Cup… but their utter dominance in qualifying shows this team is about far more than just togetherness in adversity
- Denmark are on the brink of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar
- Denmark have scored 26 goals in seven wins and not conceded once on the way
- Now they meet Austria at the Parken Stadium where a win seals a World Cup spot
- The game falls four months on from Christian Eriksen’s shocking cardiac arrest
They were the team that captivated the continent in the summer but it was as remiss then as it is now to solely credit Denmark’s surge to the Euro 2020 semi-finals with the togetherness forged from the horror of Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest.
Memories of Eriksen’s collapse in Denmark’s opener against Finland at the Parken Stadium are best left in the past. It was distasteful, to say the least, to assess the footballing consequences of Denmark’s 1-0 defeat that day but when they lost their next match 2-1 to Belgium, an exit at the group stage was a real possibility.
Instead they rallied, thrashing Russia 4-1 with Andreas Christensen scoring one of the goals of the tournament to reach the knockout stages, and from there they made the semi-finals before losing to England – despite threatening an upset by taking the lead at Wembley through Mikkel Damsgaard.
Denmark are on the brink of a World Cup place after a ruthless qualifying campaign
Four months from Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest, Denmark can seal their place in Qatar
Now, exactly four months to the day from Eriksen’s collapse, the Parken Stadium could host a far brighter moment in the history of Danish football. Kasper Hjulmand’s squad stand on the brink of sealing a flawless qualification to next year’s World Cup, with three points against Austria needed to confirm their place in Qatar.
Denmark sit at the summit of Group F with seven wins from seven, scoring 26 goals without conceding a single one. It is as authoritative a position as you can get and underlines just how impressive a team it is at Hjulmand’s disposal.
Granted, critics will say that the group around them isn’t the hardest in Austria, Scotland, Israel, Faroe Islands and Moldova – and, yes, you could certainly get tougher. But a look across all the groups show that there isn’t exactly a group of death in World Cup qualifying for Europe and more esteemed sides than Denmark haven’t dominated in the same way.
Seven wins from seven and no goals conceded is simply what a very good, in-form side does. Assessing Denmark’s ruthlessness in qualifying alongside their run to the last four of the Euros demonstrates how this is a team that means business and is not to be underestimated.
Scoring 26 in seven matches equates to an average scoreline of 4-0. That was indeed the result of their last match, against Moldova on Saturday.
Denmark rallied after Eriksen was taken ill – Andreas Christensen’s stunner (pictured) helped them to the Euro 2020 knockout stages and they made it all the way to the semi-finals
And in qualifying, Denmark average a 4-0 win in each of their group games so far
Denmark manager Kasper Hjulmand has refused to get carried away until qualification is done
Hjulmand’s side raced into their four-goal lead in the first half with strikes coming from Andreas Skov Olsen, Simon Kjaer, Christian Norgaard and Joakim Maehle. Prior to that, they rounded off the last international break with an emphatic 5-0 victory away to Israel.
But Hjulmand is not one for getting carried away with his team’s position.
‘We have put ourselves in a really good position and have performed at a good level for a long time, but it is mega difficult to get to the World Cup,’ he said. ‘Let’s talk about how we qualified when it has happened.
‘We are very much focused on playing a football match, and until that is over, nothing is certain.
‘It won’t be an easy match at all. Austria have been an excellent team for a long time. They looked really strong at Euro 2020, and have talented players from the Bundesliga.’
Yet for all Hjulmand’s caution, Austria have been deeply underwhelming in their own bid to make the World Cup. They sit fourth in Group F going into Tuesday night’s encounter and a win for Denmark would also be a help for Scotland, who are bidding to reach their second consecutive tournament.
If Austria are defeated, it will be impossible for them to finish second as long as Scotland also beat Faroe Islands in a game where Steve Clarke’s men are overwhelming favourites.
Denmark have faced Scotland, Israel, Austria, Moldova and Faroe Islands in Group F
After a tumultuous year, Denmark have positive reasons for looking ahead to 2022
But the night will belong to Denmark if all goes as expected. There has been no suggestion either way as to whether Eriksen will attend the match – he has understandably kept a low profile in recent months to focus on his recovery.
‘I met him, but I will say the same things as before – when he is ready to say something, he will. For now the situation is this, he is fine,’ Denmark captain Kjaer said of his team-mate Eriksen last week.
This year will always be remembered for what happened to Eriksen but one more commanding victory for Denmark will provide fruitful reason to look ahead in the most positive of ways.
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