Denmark produced an impressive display to beat France 2-0 on Sunday but missed out on a place in next summer’s UEFA Nations League finals.

France produced a lazy and lacklustre performance in Copenhagen on Sunday, unable to build on their victory over Austria and will now start their World Cup defence later this year off the back of only one win from their six UEFA Nations League games.

France got off to a strong start and had several openings in the first 20 minutes. Kylian Mbappe forced Kasper Schmeichel to make a brilliant save before Dayot Upamecano’s goal-bound header was deflected wide. s defenders made a series of blocks to keep the French onslaught at bay.

However, a promising first 20 minutes quickly turned into a defensive catastrophe as Les Bleus’ inexperienced back three struggled to handle the hosts’ inventive combinations on set-pieces. Christian Eriksen, who orchestrated the midfield with sublime skills and elegance and was the player to watch in our preview, sent a lovely diagonal ball to Mikkel Damsgaard out wide on the left.

The Brentford playmaker then crossed to Kasper Dolberg, who beat Alphonse Areola at his front post. Soon after, Andreas Skov Olsen doubled the lead on the volley for the hosts after France were yet again unable to deal with a set-piece situation.

After a raft of substitutions at half-time, the visitors dominated the game and had better chances to get back into the game. But France could not find their way past Kasper Schmeichel, who made three saves in the span of five minutes to deny Mbappe from scoring.

The only silver lining at the end of a dismal campaign was that Les Bleus escaped relegation to League B, with Croatia beating Austria 3-1 in Vienna, while Denmark were left with mixed emotions as they failed to qualify for the next summer’s Nations League finals despite a famous win over the reigning world champions. The Hard Tackle will now rate Didier Deschamps’s troops in what a heavily rotated side from the Austria clash.

Alphonse Areola: 7.5/10

Areola looked shaky at making high claims, especially from Christian Eriksen’s tricky corners, but he made several smart reflex saves to keep the scoreline low towards the end of the first-half. In total, he made five saves from inside the box, crucially preventing Thomas Delaney’s goal-bound header, and got across and low to deny Joakim Maehle’s drive.

He could have done little to prevent any of the two goals as he was left helpless by his backline. Areola was France’s best player, which speaks volumes of how poorly the rest of the team fared on the day. On the flip side, with this display, Areola has probably locked his place for Qatar as France’s third goalkeeper.

William Saliba: 4/10

 

In Raphael Varane’s absence, Saliba, who is usually superb, seemed noticeably clumsy and had a night to forget. After a shaky recovery, he did make a crucial intervention in the box. But he then lost track of Joachim Andersen in the build-up to the second goal and never looked comfortable. Hooked off at half-time. He now faces an uphill battle to secure a place in Didier Deschamps’s starting XI for the World Cup after this disaster-class performance.

Dayot Upamecano: 5/10

Upamecano was not up to his usual high standards in the game and was not convincing at all. He started well and had an early header deflected wide at a corner. But as soon as Denmark started to dominate and attack, he found himself in great difficulty. The Bayern Munich defender was all over the shop and missed a crucial intervention when trying to defend against Denmark’s opener.

For someone with a towering and imposing presence, he should have dealt with the crosses better, as France typically struggled with set-pieces. Upamecano made a fool of himself after getting easily nutmegged by Eriksen.

Benoit Badiashile: 5/10

After a brilliant audition against Austria last time out, Badiashile put on a sub-par performance here and showed his inexperience on several occasions. The young centre-back blends exceptional physical, positional awareness, and athletic attributes with a sound technical base. So, there is a lot to like about him, and he has a promising future with the national team, but this was a lacklustre performance.

Benjamin Pavard: 5/10 

Pavard had his fair share of problems in the wing-back role and endured a difficult outing. He did not offer a great deal in the final third, apart from a shot that was blocked, with poor crosses a constant theme. He was better in the second half after switching into a more familiar right-sided centre-back position and made a key block and last-ditch tackle, but still looked shaky.

Aurelien Tchouameni: 5/10

In the absence of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, Tchouameni was the undisputed starter in the middle of the park. The exciting Real Madrid star is going from strength to strength with each passing game, but this was a largely mediocre display. He was good in possession and made two key passes, but he lost track of Thomas Delaney but luckily went unpunished, while Eriksen was allowed to run the show from the middle of the park. He also lost possession 15 times.

Eduardo Camavinga: 6/10 

While Camavinga was clearly not at his best in his first France outing in over two years, he still put up a respectable showing. He looked more comfortable playing alongside his club teammate Tchouameni in the pivotal midfield position and even came close to scoring when his long-ranger went narrowly wide. But he was overrun by Denmark’s tenacious midfielders. Hooked off at half-time as he looked fatigued.

Ferland Mendy: 5/10 

Mendy, who was playing as the left wing-back, had no effect whatsoever on the game. Olsen had him on his toes, and he lost all of the ground battles he engaged in, which was only one. He did have a few positive moments on the ball but could not provide an outlet and pump in crosses into the box.

He tried to be more offensive than against Austria but without much success. Theo Hernandez fits this profile like a glove, putting Mendy’s starting position at the 2022 FIFA World Cup under threat.

Antoine Griezmann: 7/10

Griezmann did his best to make an impact against Denmark. He was France’s playmaker and played three key passes in the match, the most of any French player on the pitch. He attempted three shots, with all of them on target, including a dangerous free-kick that was saved well by Kasper Schmeichel.

Olivier Giroud: 6/10

Giroud tried to impose himself on the Danish backline with some good instances of hold-up play in the opening exchanges of the game but was a victim of lack of service and directionless French possession. He had the lowest number of touches of any outfield player starting the game (21).

Kylian Mbappe: 6/10

Mbappe blew hot and cold throughout the game. In what was largely a misfiring and frustrating performance, especially off the back of a man of the match display versus Austria, he had a decent 20 minutes or so as he drove at defenders in a bid to unsettle Denmark’s backline, but he lacked service and poise to take his chance.

SUBSTITUTES

Jonathan Clauss: 6/10

The Marseille man replaced Saliba at half-time and switched positions with Pavard, who shifted to the right centre-back role. He definitely looked more composed on the ball and forayed forward to put a few good balls into the opposition box.

Youssouf Fofana: 6/10

Introduced in place of the struggling Camavinga, Fofana displayed his combative style of play in midfield. He easily maneuvered out of tight spaces thanks to his centre of gravity, which stabilised the French midfield to an extent and laid the foundations of an improved second half.

Christopher Nkunku: 6/10

France desperately needed a game-changer, and while the visitors created a host of scoring opportunities after Nkunku’s introduction, he could not create enough to spark a comeback.

Adrien Truffert: 5/10

The 20-year-old Rennes wonderkid replaced the experienced Mendy at left-back. While he got up and down the flank well enough, he could not impact the game and made a mistake that almost cost France a third goal.

Randal Kolo-Muani: N/A

Did not play enough to warrant a rating.

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