DOHA: Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand says he has no fears about facing World Cup holders France on Saturday having twice beaten them in the Nations League this year.
The Danes drew 0-0 with Tunisia in their opening game but know a positive result against France at Stadium 974 will leave them well placed in Group ‘D’ before playing Australia in their final match.
“It’s an important game for us after the start we had. They’re opponents who belong at the very top of world football, they’re the reigning champions,” Hjulmand told a news conference Friday.
“The quality and talent they have in France at the moment is spectacular. I have great respect for them but we also know how strong we are.” Euro 2020 semi-finalists Denmark defeated France home and away in the Nations League and arrived in Qatar as one of the pre-tournament dark horses.
The two teams also met in the group stage at the last World Cup, playing out the only goalless draw four years ago in Russia.
“We know if we play our very best we know we have a chance of getting a good result against France. “To be able to do that we have to take a big step forward from the first match,” said Hjulmand.
Having lost twice to Denmark recently, France will be taking nothing for granted when they look to secure their qualification for the knockout stages.
“I’ve said on a number of occasions that they are underrated as a team. We’re talking about just a four-month period, we’re not talking about a long period, it’s between June and September where they beat us twice,” France captain and keeper Hugo Lloris told a news conference on Friday.
Even if the World Cup is another tournament altogether, Les Bleus have a fair idea of the problems Denmark, who back in 2002 struck the final blow in France’s terrible campaign with a 2-0 group-stage win, can cause them.
France started the Qatar tournament in style with a 4-1 win against Australia, but Denmark will be a sterner test.
“It’s a different competition, but it gives you and idea of the level of this Danish team, it’s an excellent side and they are capable of beating the best. So it’s been a wake-up call for us and we can’t say that we don’t know them, and we don’t need any extra motivation at this stage of the tournament,” said Lloris.
France welcome back centre back Raphael Varane, who has fully recovered from a hamstring injury and could bring his calm manner and experience to bear in the back four.
Coach Didier Deschamps, however, stopped short of saying the Manchester United player would start after staying on the bench against Australia.
“He was fit for the first one, he is not less so, or even a little more so, for the second. These are choices. He has the experience, that’s for sure,” he said.
Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2022