They are no favorites, but Denmark might well be the team that surprises us all in the end. The Euro 1992 winners have some fascinating talent in their ranks, and one can expect them to turn on the style in Russia. There is no doubt Tottenham Hotspur wizard Christian Eriksen will be key, but the Danes aren’t solely a one-man team – Kasper Schmeichel joins a small group of father-son duos to have both played in a World Cup, in front of a defence likely to feature Simon Kjaer and Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen, while Thomas Delaney and Yussuf Poulsen will offer something going forward.
They are part of Group C, alongside France, Peru and Australia. They will be confident of making it to the knockout stages, and would even fancy their chances against the French and finish as the group winners.
Their last World Cup appearance was in 2010, where they finished third in the group. While the current crop isn’t nearly as strong as the star-studded side that reached the 1998 quarter-finals, they are being looked on in some quarters as a team more than capable of an upset or two.
Goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester), Jonas Lossl (Huddersfield), Frederik Ronow (Brondby)
Defenders: Simon Kjaer (Sevilla), Andreas Christensen (Chelsea), Mathias Jorgensen (Huddersfield), Jannik Vestergaard (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Henrik Dalsgaard (Brentford), Jens Stryger (Udinese), Jonas Knudsen (Ipswich)
Midfielders: William Kvist (FC Copenhagen), Thomas Delaney (Werder Bremen), Lukas Lerager (Bordeaux), Lasse Schone (Ajax), Christian Eriksen (Tottenham), Michael Krohn-Dehli (Deportivo La Coruna)
Forwards: Pione Sisto (Celta Vigo), Martin Braithwaite (Bordeaux), Andreas Cornelius (Atalanta), Viktor Fischer (FC Copenhagen), Yussuf Poulsen (RB Leipzig), Nicolai Jorgensen (Feyenoord), Kasper Dolberg (Ajax)
Christian Eriksen, Tottenham Hotspur
There is no doubt spurs man will be key. He is the reason Denmark are at the World Cup, having scored a hat-trick in the second leg of the play-off match against Ireland. At Tottenham, he has become irreplaceable and that is the case with his country too. From the number 10 role, he is a vital part of the attack, scoring goals at will and also setting them up. Denmark will be pinning all their hopes an him and he must deliver.
Andreas Christensen, Chelsea
Chelsea’s league season was fairly glum, however one player managed to stand out for the right reasons and the Blues may finally have a player from their academy who can step up to the first team in the long term. He is a calm presence in the defence and is very good in the air. He will be pivotal part of the Denmark setup.
Simon Kjaer, Sevilla
Denmark’s captain plays centre back for Sevilla and was part of the side which knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League, winning 2-1 at Old Trafford in the last 16. Kjaer took a while to settle into the Denmark squad after making his debut in 2009, but with time his performances have improved and his accurate long range passing has been used as a tactic to find forwards from deep.
Yussuf Poulsen, RB leipzig
A long term part the Red Bull Leipzig project in Germany, Yussuf Poulsen, 23, will have to step up his goals return following Bendtner’s injury. The tall and speedy forward is often used out wide by Denmark and Leipzig but can line up through the middle.
June 16 – vs. Peru
June 21 – vs. Australia
June 26 – vs. France
Make it to the round of 16, and eventually bow out against Argentina.