Denmark will be keen to keep their good run going as they prepare to face Tunisia in their World Cup opener at the Education City Stadium.

An in-form Denmark will be keen to keep their good run going when they take on African minnows Tunisia in their FIFA World Cup Group D opener at the Education City Stadium in Qatar.

Denmark go into the game as the favourites and will be expected to secure all three points on the night. Having reached the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and gone unbeaten in their qualification stage, Denmark have every reason to be optimistic.

More so, the Danes also got the better of defending champions France in the last international break, further adding to their credentials. Possessing a team that has abundant quality and experience, qualification for the knockout stages would be the least expected of them.

Controversy marked the months leading up to Tunisia’s participation in the competition following issues concerning the nation’s government and the Tunisian Football Federation. The African nation can now ease its breath and concentrate on the job at hand.

Despite being ranked higher than Australia in the FIFA ratings, they face a tough task in finishing even third. Having won just two games in five World Cups, history is not on Tunisia’s side either.

But then the World Cup has a habit of throwing up surprises, and an opening-day win against Denmark will certainly get tongues wagging. Given the teams in the group, neither nation can afford to take half chances and promises to be an intriguing contest. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter ahead as both sides prepare to kick-start their campaigns with a bang.

Team News & Tactics

Denmark

Denmark come into the tournament on the back of an unbeaten run in qualification and a successful Euro 2020 campaign. Kasper Hjulmand’s side defied the odds to make it all the way to the semi-finals in the European Championships in the summer of 2021 and will hope to pull off another miracle, this time at the world stage.

The Europeans have qualified for the tournament six times in their history and have never made it past the quarter-final stage. They impressed at France in 1998 before being beaten in the last eight by an impressive Brazilian side.

Denmark will be boosted by the return of Christian Eriksen to their roster. The veteran collapsed on the field at UEFA Euro 2020, and his future in the game was suspect. However, he has since impressed with Brentford and Manchester United, displaying his ability to continue playing at the highest level.

Drawn in Group D alongside defending champions France, Tunisia and Australia, Denmark can consider themselves capable of making it through to the knockout rounds. Having defeated France 2-0 in the last international break, the Danes have every reason to be optimistic about their chances.

Hjulmand is likely to set his side up in a 3-4-1-2 formation that will offer both flexibility and solidity in the middle of the park. Kasper Schmeichel is expected to start in goal behind a back three of Joachim Andersen, Simon Kjaer and Andreas Christensen. The trio are well experienced and will bring it to the fore against Tunisia.

The duo of Thomas Delaney and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will form the crux of the central midfield, adding both muscle and athleticism to the middle of the park. They should provide a solid base for Daniel Wass and Joakim Maehle to push forward on the wings. The formation also allows for the latter two to drop back into a five-man defence should Tunisia counter.

Christian Eriksen is likely to start in the number 10 role, orchestrating attacking moves for strikers Martin Braithwaite and Kasper Dolberg. Mikkel Damsgaard and Andreas Skov Olsen will both provide the Danes with able options off the bench should they be forced to chase the game.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Schmeichel; Andersen, Kjaer, Christensen; Wass, Delaney, Hojbjerg; Maehle; Eriksen; Dolberg, Braithwaite

Tunisia

Tunisia will be taking part in just their sixth World Cup tournament in Qatar. They have never made it past the group stages so far and have won a mere two out of 15 games in the showpiece event.

Drawn alongside Australia, Denmark and France, Tunisia certainly have their work cut out and will need more than one miracle to secure a win, let alone ensure qualification to the knockouts. Their opening game against Denmark is a tricky one given that the Europeans will arrive with their swagger intact following a couple of years of good results on the international stage.

Jalel Kadri’s side will be inferior in terms of quality to the Danes and will hope to keep things tight on the night. A 4-3-3 formation appears to be the way forward for the Africans as they hope to spring a surprise or two in Qatar. Manchester United sensation Hannibal Mejbri has also been named in the squad, but it remains to be seen f he will play an active role in the starting XI.

Aymen Dahmen should start in goal behind the back four of Mohamed Drager, Montassar Talbi, Dylan Bronn and Ali Abdi. Ellyes Skhiri will be tasked with holding the line in the defensive midfield with the duo of Ghaylen Chaaleli and Aissa Laidouni providing support.

The trio of Wahbi Khazri, Youssef Msakni and Anis Ben Slimane will be tasked with scoring goals and putting the Danish defence under pressure. A major weakness could prove to be Kjaer’s lack of pace but the AC Milan star will still prove to be a tough nut given his experience.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Dahmen; Drager, Talbi, Bronn, Abdi; Laidouni, Skhiri, Chaaleli; Slimane, Msakni, Khazri

Key Stats

  • Denmark and Tunisia have never faced off in a competitive fixture before. Their only previous meeting was a friendly ahead of the 2002 FIFA World Cup that Denmark won 2-1.
  • Denmark have played African opposition four times in the World Cup and are yet to lose a single fixture., They have drawn two and won two matches apiece.
  • Tunisia have faced European opposition ten times at the World Cup, drawing three and losing seven. They are yet to win a single game.
  • This is only the second time that Denmark have qualified for back-to-back World Cup tournaments.
  • Denmark have scored 30 goals in the FIFA World Cup, none of which have come from outside the box. This is the longest such run without a long-range strike for any side in the tournament’s history.

Player to Watch

Christian Eriksen

Denmark will be keen to keep their good run going as they prepare to face Tunisia in their World Cup opener at the Education City Stadium
Christian Eriksen will once again be key for Denmark at the World Cup vs Tunisia (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

The Danish veteran is the beating heart of his side’s creative aspect and has rediscovered his mojo at Manchester United. The ability to not just have a pop at goal, but also craft opportunities for others makes him one of the best number 10s appearing in the tournament.

Eriksen’s wide passing range coupled with his ability on the dead ball make him a major threat to opposition defences. The 30-year-old is arguably playing in his last World Cup and will be keen to make up for lost time from Euro 2020. As long as Tunisia give him the freedom of the pitch, Eriksen will prove to be a game-changer for the Danes.

Prediction

Denmark 2-0 Tunisia

Tunisia will be keen to make a mark and will be competitive. But Denmark have the experience and the quality to boot. Add to it their optimism following a good run of results, the Europeans will be favourites to prevail 2-0 on the night.

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