The final matchday of the UEFA Nations League group stage will see Denmark welcome France to the Parken Stadium on Sunday afternoon in a must-win encounter for both sides for very different reasons.
Denmark will square off with France at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen on Sunday afternoon, hoping to pip Croatia to the top spot and a ticket to the last four in the final round of the League A Group 1 of the UEFA Nations League.
Euro 2020 semi-finalists Denmark are no longer in control of their own destiny in Group A1 in the aftermath of a disappointing 2-1 defeat against Croatia on their last outing, which may well end up costing them a place in the finals.
They are currently second in the group standings, with three wins and two defeats from their five Nations League games. The Danes can still take the top spot if they overcome defending world champions France, and Croatia fails to beat Austria.
On the other hand, following in the footsteps of several bigger countries in the Nations League, France have fallen well short of their potential. They will not qualify for the knockout stage of this season’s Nations League, but they still have all to play for in the final group game as relegation to League B is a real possibility.
Didier Deschamps came under fire when he guided Les Blues to four matches without a win, including two home defeats to Denmark and Croatia. However, their comfortable 2-0 win over Austria in Paris last time out has lessened some of the burden on him.
Kaspar Hjulmand’s side won 2-1 in their last encounter with Les Bleus in the reverse fixture, but with the World Cup fast approaching, the defending world champions will be eager to gain some momentum. This game in Copenhagen could be seen as a dress rehearsal for both sides since they will be meeting again in Qatar later this year.
Team News and Tactics
Denmark remains without the services of centre-forwards, Jonas Wind and Andreas Cornelius, whilst centre-back Robert Skov also misses out. Midfielder Jesper Lindstrom sat out the 2-1 defeat to Croatia on Thursday, down with a bout of illness, but could be back in contention to feature on Sunday.
Otherwise, manager Kaspar Hjulmand has no fresh injury concerns from the midweek defeat to Croatia and is expected to field his strongest line-up on Sunday.
Kasper Schmeichel produced some brilliant saves to keep his side in the Croatia game and should continue between the sticks on Sunday, with the hosts lining up in a compact 3-4-2-1 formation in front of him.
No changes are expected to the back three comprising of captain Simon Kjaer with Barcelona’s Andreas Christensen and Crystal Palace defender Joachim Andersen on either side of the AC Milan stalwart.
Christian Eriksen will partner Spurs’ anchor, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, in the double pivot. The Manchester United midfielder will be key to the Danes controlling the tempo of the game with his passing ability. He could also be used higher up the pitch to offer his quality in the final third, allowing Hojbjerg to shore up the middle of the park.
The width in attack will come from the wing-back duo of Rasmus Christensen and Joakim Maehle, who will maraud forwards at every opportunity to overload their respective flanks. Mikkel Damsgaard and Martin Braithwaite are expected to take up the inverted winger positions, operating in the left and right half-space, respectively. Meanwhile, Kasper Dolberg is also expected to be given the nod to spearhead the attack.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Schmeichel; Andersen, Kjaer, Christensen; Kristensen, Hojbjerg, Eriksen, Maehle; Damsgaard, Braithwaite; Dolberg
— French Team ⭐⭐ (@FrenchTeam) September 24, 2022
Unlike his counterpart in the Danish dugout, Les Bleus boss Didier Deschamps has a very lengthy list of injuries, with Karim Benzema, Lucas Digne, N’Golo Kante, Lucas Hernandez, Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, and Kingsley Coman among those currently sidelined.
Mike Maignan (calf) and Jules Kounde (thigh) were both forced off the pitch through respective injuries in the midweek game. Ousmane Dembele is also a big doubt with a calf problem and could miss France’s trip to Denmark. That being said, the visitors’ squad is loaded with world-class talent, so much so that it would be foolish to discount them.
Despite the plethora of injuries, Deschamps is unlikely to change his 3-4-1-2 system after a stellar display from each of his front three against Austria.
Second-choice West Ham United goalkeeper Alphonse Areola is set to deputise for the injured Maignan behind the back three of William Saliba, Raphael Varane, and Benoit Badiashile. Jonathan Clauss and Ferland Mendy will keep their places as the wing-backs, as will the central midfield partnership of Youssouf Fofana and Aurelien Tchouameni.
This French squad has a wealth of attacking talent when everyone is fully fit, but Kylian Mbappe remains their biggest threat. The 23-year-old’s electrifying pace and skill can cause any defence nightmares while creating chances for both himself and his teammates.
Antoine Griezmann will resume duties in the No. 10 role. Olivier Giroud became France’s oldest-ever goal-scorer at 35 years and 357 days old with a trademark header last time out. He can surpass Thierry Henry’s record of 51 strikes to become France’s all-time leading scorer with just three more goals.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Areola; Saliba, Varane, Badiashile; Clauss, Fofana, Tchouameni, Mendy; Griezmann; Mbappe, Giroud
- France have a solid track record when coming up against Denmark, having won eight of the 15 meetings between the two sides (D2, L5).
- France have lost none of their last eight away matches but played out five draws.
- The visitors have won only one of their last five games (D2, L2).
- Denmark will be happy to be back in Copenhagen, considering they have not tasted defeat on home soil in over a year, winning seven of their last eight home games (L1), including international friendlies.
- The hosts have scored in six of their last seven home fixtures.
Player to Watch
After yet another beauty from outside the box, Christian Eriksen will undoubtedly be the player to watch for here. The Danish playmaker has been in outstanding form for his new club, Manchester United, in recent weeks, and his equalising goal in Zagreb demonstrated that. Eriksen got the ball 30 yards from goal, pivoted, and took a few steps forward before unleashing a beautiful, bending shot right into the back of the net.
This was Eriksen’s third international goal since making his return to football after that unfortunate episode at the Euros. The cultured playmaker is such a cool operator in the engine room, and he will hope to continue carrying his side here.
Denmark 1-1 France
This is a huge game between two teams with a lot riding on it as the UEFA Nations League group phase comes to a close. Denmark need to win and hope that Croatia drops points against Austria in Vienna to top the group and advance into the finals of the competition.
And if Austria do win their game against the Croats, that will leave France rock-bottom and relegated from League A. So, the 2018 FIFA World Cup winners and the defending Nations League champions cannot afford any slip-ups or face the prospect of playing in League B in the next edition of this competition.
Denmark have got a very robust squad and are a tactically astute side under Kasper Hjulmand. They will be confident of inflicting damage on a French side decimated by injuries, especially at home in Copenhagen. France looked much improved with Olivier Giroud in attack, providing Griezmann and Mbappe with more space to exploit, but they may have to settle for a stalemate on Sunday.