Emotional Denmark focused on must-win clash with Australia

Kasper Hjulmand leaned into the microphone, arms folded on the press conference table in front of him, impassive, borderline serene. Then, softly and with little intonation, he explained that emotions in the Denmark camp are running “very, very high”.

“It is a World Cup,” he said. “With football you can multiply your feelings by 10, and the fear of losing is very, very much involved. How can we best handle that? These considerations you have to make.”

These are considerations Hjulmand is making right now – or perhaps has made already, in the days since Saturday’s 2-1 loss to France left his team contemplating an imminent exit from a group they were anticipated to roll through with no fuss.

It was a World Cup like no other. For the last 12 years the Guardian has been reporting on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is gathered on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football home page for those who want to go deeper into the issues beyond the pitch.

Guardian reporting goes far beyond what happens on the pitch. Support our investigative journalism today.

On pre-tournament form, which included two Nations League wins over Didier Deschamps’ World Cup holders, they might have even advanced in top spot. Now a place in the last 16 requires at the very least a win on Wednesday over Australia, the 38th-ranked nation sitting above them in second, and also a prayer that Tunisia do not simultaneously upset already-qualified France.

“Of course there’s pressure,” Hjulmand says. “But we are very solid and a very good group. We are never alone – we do things together. We win, we lose, we fight … but we are together. I think the best way to focus on what we have to do is prepare just like normal. These players are very, very used to big games.”

Hjulmand, in his half-hour media conference on Tuesday, expressed the whole gamut of emotions, all in that dispassionate voice – the sound of stability amid the uncertainty. One minute he is discussing the pressure of an expectant nation barely 18 months after they almost went all the way at Euro 2020, and the next “solving a football-related task” against an Australian side he expects to “attack and run at us”.

“It will be a surprise for me if that doesn’t happen,” he continued. “Like all football games, there will be times where we have to [solve a task], to break down a very strong defensive unit.”

Despite his even temperament Hjulmand is surely not unaffected by the wobble in Qatar, the place of Christian Eriksen’s second coming which quickly morphed into a tit-for-tat over human rights statements and a scoreless draw with unheralded Tunisia.

But he does not bite on a question about the OneLove armbands fiasco he had lamented only a week ago was a distraction. “We’re focused and we are ready,” he simply said. “Right now we are totally focused on this, we don’t have any other thoughts.”

From a personnel perspective, Hjulmand declared no fitness concerns but also revealed nothing in terms of lineup or tactical approach, apart from the fact Jesper Lindstrøm sat next to him.

Instead he spoke about the collective. “The more experience you have of these kinds of events, from maybe feeling the pressure, [the more] you feel pride,” he said. “It is a dream since you were a kid and now you are actually in a position where you can go out and play football for something. It is privilege.”


Emma Kemp in Doha

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Denmark face test of nerve as Australia plan for Eriksen’s quality | Emma Kemp
With distractions off the pitch, and a lack of goals on it, the Danes must overcome a bouncing Socceroos to qualify

Emma Kemp in Doha

28, Nov, 2022 @6:19 PM

Article image
Mat Leckie strike stuns Denmark and sends Australia into World Cup last 16
Goal in 60th minute proves decisive as Socceroos qualify for knockout phase for first time since 2006

Emma Kemp at Al Janoub Stadium

30, Nov, 2022 @5:17 PM

Article image
How Denmark has helped shape the Socceroos’ World Cup campaign | Michael Huguenin
The Danish Superliga, with its strikingly similar culture, has become a popular destination for Australian players

Michael Huguenin

28, Nov, 2022 @1:15 AM

Article image
Australia 1-0 Denmark: World Cup 2022 – as it happened
Minute-by-minute report: Mathew Leckie’s brilliant second-half goal took the resolute Socceroos into the knockout stage. Scott Murray was watching

Scott Murray

30, Nov, 2022 @5:20 PM

Article image
Australia braced for tournament-defining meeting with Denmark
Bert van Marwijk and his squad go into the meeting with Denmark knowing defeat could spell the end

Kieran Pender in Samara

20, Jun, 2018 @1:31 PM

Article image
Mikkel Beck: ‘Australia must improve offensively to beat Denmark’ | John Davidson
The former Danish international identifies Tom Rogic as the key to Socceroos success in Samara

John Davidson in Samara

20, Jun, 2018 @1:16 AM

Article image
Mile Jedinak’s controversial penalty earns Australia draw against Denmark
Australia benefitted from a controversial VAR decision to earn a crucial 1-1 draw against Denmark in Samara and keep alive their hopes of progression from Group C

Martha Kelner at the Samara Arena

21, Jun, 2018 @2:11 PM

Article image
Denmark 1-1 Australia: World Cup 2018 – as it happened
Minute-by-minute: The Socceroos earned a creditable draw in Samara but it might not be enough to keep their World Cup hopes alive

Jonathan Howcroft

21, Jun, 2018 @2:35 PM

Article image
‘They’ll come out strong’: Denmark wary of early Australia threat in World Cup clash
Denmark are braced for a Socceroos onslaught, with coach Kasper Hjulmand expecting ‘they’ll run against us’ early and hard

Emma Kemp in Doha

30, Nov, 2022 @3:00 AM

Article image
Graham Arnold calls for more resources and reform in Australian football
Graham Arnold has expressed ‘massive concerns’ over the state of football development in Australia on the eve of the Socceroos’ decisive World Cup group match with Denmark

Emma Kemp in Doha

29, Nov, 2022 @5:39 PM