Australia v Denmark
Following a historic victory against Tunisia which marked the Socceroos’ first at a World Cup since 2010, Denmark now lies as the final test standing in the way of Australia’s shot at a first World Cup knockout appearance since 2006. A draw against the Danes would likely be enough for the Socceroos to progress from the group.
What Arnold’s Socceroos don’t have in terms of technical quality or skill, they make up for with intensity, physicality and intent and this was evident in the way that they overpowered their Tunisian opposition in front of a largely partisan crowd at Al Janoub Stadium. Australia return to that exact venue for their final group match and will need to assert a similar level of physical superiority against a Danish side that are ranked 10th in the world and were semi-finalists at the Europe Championships.
After collecting one point in the first two fixtures, it is do or die for Denmark against Australia. The Danish team needs three points in order to advance to the Round of 16, and there is no room for excuses. It will be seen as a massive failure by the national team if they fail to advance, so the expectations from the media and the public are clear.
Denmark have predictably struggled at this World Cup as it has previously been stated in these previews. Several key players are lacking regular playing time at their clubs, which has been obvious. The team lacks endurance, and they are clearly struggling with keeping the pace up in Qatar. To make things worse, Kasper Hjulmand is yet to find his starting striker.
Anything but a victory will be a failure for Denmark. 3 points are expected also, and Denmark should, despite the struggles mentioned above, be the better side on the pitch.
The Heart of Midlothian right-back endured a torrid time up against Kylian Mbappé when the Socceroos met Les Bleus as Atkinson struggled to contain the Frenchman in 1v1 situations. Defending has never been the strong suit of the 23-year-old who is more often lauded for his qualities on the ball rather than off it.
Despite his defensive deficiencies, Atkinson is likely to return to the starting XI after missing out against Tunisia due to injury. Fran Karačić did not set the world on fire in his place but knowing that a draw is all that they need to progress, Arnold could easily opt with playing Miloš Degenek or Thomas Deng, nominal centre-backs, out of position at right-back. Should Atkinson start, he is likely to commit a foul when trying to defend the likes of Mikkel Damsgaard and Joachim Maehle who maraud down Denmark’s left hand-side.
Jesper Lindstrøm has been one of the most exciting young players in the Bundesliga, since he joined Eintracht Frankfurt from Brøndby before last season. He helped the side win the Europa League last season, and he is quickly establishing himself as a part of the Danish national team. He delivered a nice performance against France Saturday, and he should be able to build upon that against Australia.
Lindstrøm has had two shots on targets so far this World Cup, and he is getting in some dangerous positions. He had Denmark’s best chance against France, and it seems only a matter of time before he gets his first goal on the national team.
He’s been in great form for Frankfurt this season with six goals in the Bundesliga, one goal in the German Cup and one goal in the Champions League so far. Lindstrøm has plenty of confidence as well, so he isn’t afraid to finish from the distance.
Brentford winger Mikkel Damsgaard played a great match against France, and he was one of the key players at the Euro last year too. Damsgaard is a great winger, although he hasn’t had much chance to showcase himself for Brentford this season.
The former Sampdoria player is fast, has good vision and then he has a dangerous shot. Damsgaard scored ten goals for FC Nordsjælland in the 2019/2020 season before leaving the Danish Superliga for Sampdoria, and he scored twice in the European Championship last year.
Damsgaard has a great shot from the distance, and with Denmark playing with wingbacks he is expected to play as an inverted winger that plays narrow and attacks the goal. This should give him opportunities to finish on multiple occasions. Normally he isn’t afraid to take them, and I think we’ll see him be dangerous against Australia as well.
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