A 2-0 victory over reigning champions France wasn’t enough to see Denmark book their spot in next summer’s UEFA Nations League finals.
Despite all the possession and such a good start, France were unable to break the deadlock and were punished as the home side worked their way into the game, deservedly pulling ahead on the half-hour mark and doubling their lead shortly after.
Kasper Hjulmand’s side produced a professional display of game control after the break, dealing with waves of French pressure and enjoying spells of possession themselves. Croatia, locked in a stalemate with Austria, had Denmark top of the group and cruising for most of the evening, but it was not to be as they bounced back to hold on to top spot.
France started at an electric pace and their desperation for an early goal showed, with Kylian Mbappe regularly getting behind Denmark’s back line. Despite all their intentions, however, Kasper Schmeichel showed his class to keep things goalless.
Denmark looked a threat from set-pieces thanks to Eriksen’s deliveries and after surviving France’s early possession-based surge, they brought the game to Didier Deschamps’ side. Andreas Skov Olsen finds himself in the 20th minute, but the ball is stuck right in front of the goal.
Crucially, the home side managed to recalculate their pressure and punished France by taking the lead in the 34th minute. Eriksen’s diagonal ball released Mikkel Damsgaard wide, who headed low for Kasper Dolberg to head home at the near post.
Things quickly deteriorated for France as Denmark doubled their lead five minutes later. Eriksen’s corners caused France another problem in the box and Olsen fired a half-volley past Alphonse Areola to send the hosts into half-time with a deserved lead and put them top of Group 1 as it stands.
The changes at the break put France back in charge of possession and the break helped them ask more questions of Denmark’s defence. Olivier Giroud takes a free kick in the 51st minute from a dangerous distance. However, Antoine Griezmann easily catches Schmeichel’s attempt.
Denmark looked stretched on occasion but never looked too panicked and still saw more than enough of the ball as the game grew. Schmeichel helped them with a fine stop in the 67th minute to deny Mbappe after a wonderful pass behind the defense from Griezmann.
However, France seemed to run out of steam in the closing stages of the match, with the substitutes giving no hope of a comeback. Denmark saw things out comfortably to secure second place in the group, while Croatia won in Austria.
Denmark vs France: Player ratings – UEFA Nations League
1. Denmark (4-3-3)
GK: Kasper Schmeichel (c) – 8/10 – Bailed Denmark out after a slow start with a catalogue of important stops. Down well to deny Griezmann early on in the second half.
RB: Rasmus Kristensen – 6/10 – Didn’t add much attacking thrust but kept things tidy and, crucially, kept Mendy very quiet.
CB: Joachim Andersen – 7/10 – Grew into the game as the pressure mounted and occupied France’s forward players well.
CB: Andreas Christensen – 7/10 – Key in bringing composure in possession to Denmark’s defence. Made the correct passing decisions and was positionally disciplined.
LB: Joakim Maehle – 7/10 – Ought to have scored with the rebound from Olsen’s saved shot in the first half. A positive influence from deep.
CM: Thomas Delaney – 7/10 – Combative and composed. His experience showed throughout the evening.
CM: Christian Eriksen – 8/10 – Plays football with his slippers on. His range of pass is a joke. Completely dictated the game in midfield.
CM: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg – 6/10 – Let his midfield colleagues do the heavy lifting when it came to passing, but an important presence regardless.
RW: Andreas Skov Olsen – 8/10 – What a delight of a footballer Olsen looks to be. Sharp touches and brilliant movement, finished off with an exquisite strike.
ST: Kasper Dolberg – 7/10 – Proper poacher’s goal to open the scoring. More of that, please.
LW: Mikkel Damsgaard – 6/10 – Seemed to dip in and out of the game, but also had Pavard’s number when in possession.
SUB: Jesper Lindstrom (60′ for Damsgaard) – 6/10
SUB: Rasmus Hojlund (60′ for Dolberg) – 6/10
SUB: Simon Kjaer (72′ for Delaney) – N/A
SUB: Martin Braithwaite (72′ for Olsen) – N/A
SUB: Alexander Bah (90′ for Kristensen) – N/A
2. France (3-4-1-2)
CB: Dayot Upamecano – 5/10 – Lost his bearings when trying to defend for Denmark’s opener. Should’ve dealt with the cross.
CB: William Saliba – 4/10 – For someone so tall and imposing, Saliba should’ve taken the lead at the back. An underwhelming display.
CB: Benoit Badiashile – 5/10 – Also sub-par on a poor night for France’s defence.
RWB: Benjamin Pavard – 6/10 – Went to sleep on occasion when tracking runs from out wide, but tidier after the initial error.
CM: Aurelien Tchouameni – 5/10 – A mediocre display for a typically exciting young talent. Wasn’t productive enough in possession.
CM: Eduardo Camavinga – 4/10 – Swallowed up by Denmark’s industrious midfield three. Hooked at half-time.
LWB: Ferland Mendy – 5/10 – Wasn’t involved enough and made defending too easy for Denmark. Given the run around by Olsen.
AM: Antoine Griezmann (c) – 6/10 – He tried to impose himself and played nice passes when found in space, but simply didn’t see the ball enough to be able to really put his stamp on things.
ST: Olivier Giroud – 5/10 – A victim of the aimless, French possession. Marked out of the game, too.
ST: Kylian Mbappe – 6/10 – Bright in patches, but lacked service and – crucially – composure. Got to take his chances with more quality.
SUB: Jonathan Clauss (45′ for Saliba) – 6/10
SUB: Youssouf Fofana (45′ for Camavinga) – 6/10
SUB: Christopher Nkunku (65′ for Giroud) – N/A
SUB: Adrien Truffert (65′ for Mendy) – N/A
SUB: Randal Kolo-Muani (81′ for Griezmann) – N/A