Denmark vs Australia

World Cup 2018, Australia v Denmark: Socceroos confident heading into huge clash

Simon Hill: Is it fair to say that the Danish national team coach, Age Hareide, wasn’t the most popular choice?

Thomas Sorensen: I know there were a few others – Michael Laudrup was top of the list, he certainly had the popularity vote. People were looking for a Danish manager to take over after Morten Olsen.

Outside of Laudrup, there were a few domestic options, but I don’t think the FA thought they were experienced enough to take over, so they had to look abroad. Hareide was very familiar with Danish football – but most would have preferred a Danish manager.

Simon Hill: Is it fair to say that the Danish national team coach, Age Hareide, wasn’t the most popular choice?

Thomas Sorensen: I know there were a few others – Michael Laudrup was top of the list, he certainly had the popularity vote. People were looking for a Danish manager to take over after Morten Olsen.

Outside of Laudrup, there were a few domestic options, but I don’t think the FA thought they were experienced enough to take over, so they had to look abroad. Hareide was very familiar with Danish football – but most would have preferred a Danish manager.

TS: They had a few hiccups early on in qualifying – they were under pressure to beat Poland at home, which they did convincingly.

Then they had to go through the play-offs at the last moment – but beat Ireland fairly convincingly. They took time to adjust to a new way of playing, but it (Hareide’s 4-3-3 system) has benefited Christian Eriksen in particular – he was a bit tied up in Morten Olsen’s system, but has a freer role under Hareide.

You can see in his displays he has become instrumental. They are trying to play out from the back – and are very dependent upon wingers.

The guy who plays in Spain, Pione Sisto, is very explosive, and he needs good support from the full-backs. They are fairly attacking and versatile, which is why Hareide prefers a big striker. He went with Nicolai Jorgensen against Peru. However, that’s one area where they could potentially struggle, because none of the strikers have lit up the domestic season – they lack a prolific striker, a bit like Australia.

SH: It appears the team is developing along similar lines to previous generations of Danish teams – I’m thinking back to the likes of Dennis Rommedahl and Jesper Gronkjaer on the wings, and Jon-Dahl Tomasson as the focal point of the attack?

TS: Yes, and all the national teams play the same way. That’s been one of the strengths of the system – during his 15-year reign, Morten Olsen was instrumental in ensuring everything ran with the same philosophy throughout the age levels. The youth teams are now doing well – the Under 21’s went to the Olympics and they are competing a lot better. So we are reaping the rewards.

SH: Christian Eriksen is the teams big star – at 26 he’s at his peak; is this going to be his World Cup?

TS: Denmark is hoping so! A lot of the dreams of the nation are on his shoulders – he is by far our best player and the biggest name.

He has carried the team in qualifying, so we need him to be in top form. If he can carry his Spurs form forward he will be a tough player to stop. He has great vision, a great strike, is dangerous from set pieces – there are so many ways he can affect the game. He will be a focal point. Teams will need to shut him down.

TS: He is very clever, mobile and seems to find space where there isn’t any, so it’s tricky to stop him.

The Danish team have a lot of good players around him, so you can’t just put a man on him and say if we eliminate him we stop Denmark – it’s about finding the right balance to limit him.

SH: Who are the standouts in the supporting cast?

TS: The spine is important – goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and defender Simon Kjaer are both very experienced. William Kvist and Thomas Delaney in midfield – though they are both in and out of their club teams.

But they have a big build-up to get into step, lots of friendlies – those players have the quality to be important. Sisto on the left flank scored in the recent win over Panama – he is very unpredictable, and doing well in Spain, so he is highly regarded.

SH: And the team’s rising star? Andreas Cornelius? Kasper Dolberg?

TS: Cornelius will be in that mix for that striking spot with Jorgensen and Bendtner – he has been preferred in some of the qualifiers. But Cornelius hasn’t played as much for Atalanta. A lot depends on the warm-up games – that’s the spot that is up for grabs, along with right-back. They are the question marks.

Dolberg had a breakout season last year but has struggled to live up to the hype this season. He was the same as Eriksen when he broke through – there was so much expectation on his shoulders, and he was only young. It was hard to handle. So he needs to take a little step back for now.

SH: Which leads us on to Australia, and the hype around Daniel Arzani, who you see on a daily basis at Melbourne City. How good is he?

TS: It’s how you deal with the hype – some get carried away – I hope that Daniel can cope with it, he certainly has the confidence.

But he’s one of those who needs to stay grounded, as he has a lot to learn and a lot to improve on.

He should be regarded as someone who could be the future of the national team, and he can be the difference maker, especially because not a lot of people know about him. When you need something out of nothing, he can do that – not as a starter, but as a wildcard.

SH: What’s the feeling about the Socceroos generally in Denmark?

TS: There’s not a lot of knowledge about Australia – when they look at the group they think if they want to go through, then they have to beat Australia.

I see Australia on par with Peru – the Aussies have shown strength when they have had time to prepare, and they have gone into the camp environment to build togetherness.

Against the odds they seem to have exceeded expectations in the past – and this time around, not much expected from them.

In the past, they have had players in the big leagues – now it’s more of a grey area, so they can surprise people. You’d be stupid to underestimate them.

SH: There were some rather unflattering headlines in the Danish media after the 4-1 friendly loss to Norway…

TS: I’ve played in those March friendlies – it’s in the middle of the season, short preparation time. You have a new manager who is trying new things – by the next friendlies they are different games, with a different focus. The press will make things out of it, but you could see there were weird results all over the place. I’ve been there – when you have a lot of substitutions, new players being tried in different positions. I’d focus more on the Czech Republic and Hungary games. If it goes pear shaped then, I’d really be worried – they are the test. You want to see progress and results.

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