Previous World Cup appearances: 1986, 1998, 2002, 2010, 2018
Best finish: Quarter-finals (1998)
World Cup record: W9 D5 L6
World Cup goals: 30
Biggest win: 6-1 vs Uruguay (1986)
Player to watch: Christian Eriksen
Group stage fixtures: Tunisia (November 22), France (November 26), Australia (November 30)
There is a distinct air of optimism surrounding the Danish team heading to Qatar.
Last year, it demonstrated remarkable tenacity in recovering from an opening-day defeat to Finland in the delayed 2020 European Championships, a game marred by the on-field cardiac arrest suffered by their star player, Christian Eriksen.
The same team would reach the semi-finals, where it would eventually be knocked out by a controversial extra-time Harry Kane penalty.
This year, the Danes have recorded impressive results in the Nations League, including two wins over current world champions France. FIFA currently ranks them 10th in the world.
For a country of fewer than six million people, Denmark’s men’s national football team has punched above its weight.
The team, and the nation, announced themselves on the world stage in the ’80s and ’90s, earning the nickname “Danish Dynamite” and picking up a bronze in the 1984 European Championships before eventually winning the tournament in 1992.
It was also during this period that several Danish players broke onto the international scene, including the Laudrup brothers, who between them won five La Liga titles and two Seria A titles, as well as Peter Schmeichel, widely considered one of the best goalkeepers of all time.
However, success at the European Championships failed to translate to the World Cup. The Danes first qualified for the tournament in 1984 but would only make it past the round of 16 once in 1998 when they were beaten by a star-studded Brazil team 3-2 in a scintillating quarter-final.
Combination of experience, new talent
The current Danish squad boasts a healthy balance of experience and exciting new talent.
In goal, they have the ever-reliable Kasper Schmeichel, who plays for Premier League side Leicester City and is the son of legend Peter.
At centre back, Denmark’s manager Kasper Hjulmand will likely pick the tried-and-tested duo of AC Milan’s Simon Kjaer and FC Barcelona’s Andreas Christensen. Joakim Mæhle, the Atalanta full-back who impressed during the 2020 European Championships with his trademark lung-bursting runs down the touchline and precise passing, is also expected to make the starting XI.
In defensive midfield, Denmark can call on their stalwart Thomas Delaney, who currently plies his trade for Spanish side Sevilla. He will be joined by Tottenham Hotspur’s Pierre-Emile Kordt Højbjerg and Manchester United’s Eriksen.
Upfront Hjulmand has regularly fielded Kasper Dolberg, a 25-year-old forward currently on loan at Sevilla. Mikkel Damsgaard, who plays for Premier League side Brentford, will likely be deployed as a traditional winger on the left side. Veteran striker Martin Braithwaite, who recently moved from FC Barcelona to rivals Espanyol, is also likely to make an appearance.
Denmark should progress from Group D, which includes Australia, France and Tunisia.
They can draw confidence from recent victories over France and will fancy themselves against Australia.
Tunisia could prove formidable opposition depending on what team turns up on the day. The Eagles of Carthage have experienced an unpredictable form of late, reaching the 2021 Arab Cup Final but then crashing out of the African Cup of Nations quarter-finals to Burkina Faso a month later.
If Denmark progress as runners-up in Group D, they could face Argentina, one of the tournament’s favourites.