Denmark travels to Qatar as a tight-knit team with great ambitions for the World Cup. A good year after the team reached the semi-finals of the European Championship after Christian Eriksen's collapse, big things are to follow. But the decisive appearance against Australia failed.
Outsiders Australia knocked out secret favorites Denmark at the World Cup in Qatar. After a goal by the former Bundesliga pro Mathew Leckie, it is not the semi-finalists of the European Championship, but one of the supposedly weakest teams of this World Cup in the round of 16. Leckie made it 1-0 (0-0) with a fine individual performance in the 60th minute on Wednesday. "We worked for it for four years. I'm so proud of the boys. I saw in their eyes today that they are ready for a game like this," said Australia coach Graham Arnold after the 1-0 win, which also took place in caused great euphoria at home.
Australia reached the knockout stages for the second time since 2006, sparking great euphoria in their home country. Denmark, on the other hand, performed even less well than their goalless opener against Tunisia in front of a crowd of 41,232 in Al-Wakra. Aside from their defensive but unsuccessful performance in the 2-1 draw with France, coach Kasper Hjulmand's team lacked everything that had made them so strong over the past two years at this World Cup.
It lacked speed, intensity and obviously the feeling of togetherness that was so often invoked at the last European Championship. Half an hour into the Australia game, former Bayern pro Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg from Tottenham Hotspur was gesturing at his team-mates to be more dynamic and use different body language.
In the Al-Dschanub Stadium, at least in terms of the sporting starting position, a lot reminded of the last group game at the European Championship - even Hjulmand had mentioned it in the past few days. Last year the Danes even started the tournament with two defeats after the collapse of their best player Christian Eriksen and urgently needed a win against Russia at the end of the preliminary round.
Back then, they won 4-1 and then marched through to the semi-finals. But this time? In the eleventh minute, Mathias Jensen was saved by Australian goalkeeper Mathew Ryan, who was playing for FC Copenhagen. After that, the performance got worse by the minute. Even playmaker Eriksen passed the ball unchallenged into the feet of an Australian in midfield (39').
The Danes didn't pick up the pace in the second half either. Characteristic of this game was that the Italian professional Joakim Maehle from Atalanta Bergamo let the former Ingolstadt, Hertha and FSV Frankfurt player Leckie dance out of the game at the decisive goal.
The Australians played exactly as announced and could also be seen against Tunisia (1-0): with a lot of energy and the necessary stability in defence. And Denmark coach Hjulmand failed to give his side a working strategy against this bulwark. The 50-year-old fielded the third center forward in the third game of the tournament. He already corrected the 4-1-4-1 tactic he had chosen for this game at half-time.
The sporting collapse of the Danes after reaching the European Championship semi-finals, a sovereign World Cup qualification and two Nations League victories against world champions France is puzzling to this extent. But Hjulmand's decisions also play their part.