Denmark coach unafraid of 'spectacular' France at World Cup

Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand says he has no fears about facing World Cup holders France on Saturday having twice beaten them in the Nations League this year.

AFP , Friday 25 Nov 2022,
Denmark s head coach Kasper Hjulmand follows the action during the World Cup group D soccer match be
Denmark s head coach Kasper Hjulmand follows the action during the World Cup group D soccer match between Denmark and Tunisia, at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. AP

The Danes drew 0-0 with Tunisia in their opening game but know a positive result against France at Stadium 974 will leave them well placed in Group D before playing Australia in their final match.

"It's an important game for us after the start we had. They're opponents who belong at the very top of world football, they're the reigning champions," Hjulmand told a news conference Friday.

"The quality and talent they have in France at the moment is spectacular. I have great respect for them but we also know how strong we are."

Euro 2020 semi-finalists Denmark defeated France home and away in the Nations League and arrived in Qatar as one of the pre-tournament dark horses.

The two teams also met in the group stage at the last World Cup, playing out the only goalless draw four years ago in Russia.

"We know if we play our very best we know we have a chance of getting a good result against France. To be able to do that we have to take a big step forward from the first match," said Hjulmand.

France lost Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema to injury on the eve of the World Cup, but Didier Deschamps' side thrashed Australia 4-1 to launch their title defence.

Olivier Giroud struck twice to equal Thierry Henry's all-time goals record for France, while Kylian Mbappe scored and grabbed an assist in a commanding performance from Les Bleus.

Asked if there was a particular plan to counter Mbappe, Hjulmand replied: "I don't think it's good to be frightened of anything.

"In the last game we played in Copenhagen (against France in September) we had a good plan. He had two or three big chances.

"No matter what plans you have against top-class players such as Mbappe, you can't keep a top player like that down.

"We have plenty of thoughts about how to minimise the chances he'll get. We don't want him to unleash the fantastic talent he has."

Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen played the full 90 minutes against Tunisia in his first match at a major tournament since suffering a cardiac arrest on the pitch at last year's European Championship.

"It's been quite a while. It's more about me as a player now. I'm just happy to be back as a footballer," said Eriksen.

Check the 2022 World Cup schedule and groups standings.

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