It’s just over a year now to the World Cup in Qatar. And with most of the qualifying going to be sorted out this November, we will get a fair idea of who the main protagonists will be next year. However, while there will be a few new faces at the finals, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that it’s more of the same. In Europe, in particular, all of the heavyweights – Spain, Germany, France, England, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium – look like qualifying with the minimum of fuss. Portugal, perhaps, are the only team that face some jeopardy, and they will likely go through the Playoff route.
But if we were to talk of the form team in world football, it is none of those eight mentioned above. Nor is it one of the South American teams like Brazil or Argentina. In fact, there is one team with a perfect record in qualifying – Denmark. Eight games and eight wins. Twenty-seven goals scored and, perhaps most impressive of all, zero conceded. The Danes have stamped their ticket for Qatar, and we wonder whether their chances should be seriously considered?
If you were to place your football bets today, the odds of Denmark winning the World Cup are 40/1. That’s far behind the favourites, Brazil and France (both around 5/1), but neither of those has had a smooth a passage as Denmark. The odds are big for a mid-sized footballing nation, yet if you have seen Denmark in action over the last year or so, it’s tempting to believe in their chances.
Danes were impressive at the Euros
Of course, some of that scintillating form was on show at Euro 2020, where Denmark reached the semi-finals, pushing England all the way to extra-time. The Danes performances were all the more impressive after the sight of Christian Eriksen collapsing on the pitch during the opening game against Finland. The Denmark players were visibly shocked and lost the game, but they bounced back to qualify and go on that run to the semis.
Every successful national team needs a blend of youth and experience. Denmark have that, with players like Kasper Schmeichel, Simon Kjaer and Yousef Poulsen providing the latter. Young players, such as Mikkel Damsgaard, Andreas Olsen and Kasper Dolberg, are also bedding in nicely. Look out for Damsgaard, in particular. The Sampdoria winger is just 21, but he already has five international goals and is considered one of the hottest prospects in world football. Liverpool are said to be keeping tabs on him.
A top marksman is needed
In saying that, Denmark are far from perfect. They are crying out for a prolific goalscorer. Dolberg might grow into that role, but there is still a question mark over whether he can become a truly lethal striker. The good news is that Denmark’s style of play means many of the midfield personnel – and some defenders – chip in with goals. But if they had someone in the vein of Robert Lewandowski in the line-up, they’d be all the more potent.
In addition, some might say that Denmark have come up short when faced with tough tests. While they battered Belgium for 45 minutes at the Euros, they still lost the game. Later, in the semis, most would say that England deserved to win. While they waltzed through World Cup Qualifying Group F, it was arguably one of the weakest groups.
Still, nobody will be able to tell Danish fans that miracles are impossible in football. Next year will be the 30th anniversary of Denmark’s Euro ’92 triumph. That team, while having the star power of Brian Laudrup, did not have the squad depth of the current Denmark set-up. It would be surprising to see football lightning strike twice, but not altogether impossible.