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Denmark’s Ready To Make Their Return To The World Cup Count

11:33 AM EDT on July 5, 2023

SCHAFFHAUSEN, SWITZERLAND - NOVEMBER 11: Signe Bruun of Denmark (C) celebrating her goal with her teammates during the international Women's friendly match between Switzerland and Denmark at Wefox Arena on November 11, 2022 in Schaffhausen, Switzerland.
Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

It’s almost time for the 2023 World Cup. To help get you ready, we will be providing you with precious information about every team in the tournament. You can read all of our team previews here.

After missing the last three World Cups, the Danes are back with a very live underdog team in a manageable group, which is to say they're not as good as the English but better than the Chinese and Haitians. What happens after that is them pushing uphill, but they'll be fun in the watching if they meet what are proper expectations for the 13th rated team in the FIFA rankings.

Not that the FIFA rankings are the be-all and end-all of anything save justifying the wall of nerds who do the FIFA rankings. That's what things like the World Cup are for.

But people in and outside the corruptoclique that is FIFA acknowledge that Denmark will be easy on the eyes both technically and tactically. The only thing it doesn't do well is the nickname, "De rød-hvide." The Red and White. That's like a guy named Bob announcing that he would rather be known by his nickname, Bob.

They have a deep reserve of veteran presences, starting with midfielder Sanne Troelsgaard (34 years, 176 caps), defender Katrine Veje (32 years, 144 caps) and captain and striker Pernille Harder (30 years, 140 caps, 70 international goals), and enough emerging youth on the edges to make them a fascinating alternative to the powers in this tournament, the U.S., Canada, Germany, Sweden, and England. Fascinating to a point, that is because the round of 16 stops being fascinating at the round of eight.

Denmark, though, has always been known as a team that eschews safety first as a style. Theirs is a mode of playing that will either win valiantly or lose valiantly but in all situations will be forward-leaning. That alone makes the Danes worth your attention, and now that they have some experience going deep in prominent competitions (Euro 2017 runners-up), it can be said with some justification that they play above their population.

To do so this time means running a fairly nasty gauntlet of opponents in the knockout stages, but the Danes don't go meekly. They won't pack the penalty area or try to win 0-to-minus-one. Of course, good intentions are never enough in this tournament, making it a metaphor for FIFA as a whole. You either grab the money or you don't, and valiant is for suckers when the other team has more skilled players. All we're saying is Denmark is a nice value bet if you have money you haven't earmarked for food, rent, dental bills, or bribing the kids to stop jumping off the dining room table and onto the couch closest to the living room window above the street.

Who Is Their Star?

That would be Pernille Harder, and by some distance. In addition to the caps and goals, she also won the UEFA Player of the Year award in 2018 and 2020. First a star at Wolfsburg, she was sold to Chelsea in 2020 for what was then a world-record fee in the women's game, and just last month she returned to Germany to play for Bayern Munich.

She rates out as one of the best attackers in the entire world, so the ball not only finds her but finds the goal once she has intervened. She scored 27 goals in 21 league matches for Wolfsburg during the 2019-2020 season, and left Chelsea with 24 goals and nine assists in 48 league games.

The only real issue is whether she is fully recovered from a significant hamstring injury incurred last November in a friendly against Switzerland, but if right Harder will be the magnet for a veteran group of forward-thinking players who blitzed their qualifying group by outscoring the field 40-2 in eight matches.

Tell Me About A Cool Youngster

You get to choose from a group of three midfielders, one of whom could wind up in the front. Either Kathrine Kuhl, the 19-year-old midfielder who made her name with Arsenal but has been part of the Danish side 40 times and is being compared to Harder at a similar stage, 22-year-old defender and midfielder Sofie Svava, or 23-year-old Mille Gejl (seven goals in 23 international appearances). All three have become mainstays for this aggressively attack-first side. We'll be sports and let you watch them all and then make up your own mind, though Gejl plays for the North Carolina Courage in the NWSL so you could pretend she's quasi American if you need that as a crutch.

Who Is Their Enemy?

Sweden, although in honesty it isn't a rivalry that explodes off the screen, in that the biggest argument between the two seems to be how many Ts are in Kattegat, the waterway that separates the two nations. The Swedes are the top team in Group G, so the two sides couldn't meet until the final, but they will actively loathe each other from afar until that happens—though we emphasize that nothing is more genteel than Scandinavian hatreds.

National Folk Hero Who I Think Is Cool

Not to needlessly insert the men's game into the women's time, but you can't go wrong with Christian Eriksen, the Ajax, Spurs, Inter Milan, Brentford and now Manchester United star who collapsed and effectively died momentarily during a UEFA Cup match with Finland and had to be revived on the pitch. That it happened in 2021 and he is still playing top flight football now tells you well it has all turned out for him.

Scran Or Not Scran: National Dish Edition

If it helps, the danish is not Danish at all but a cruel lie played by Big Pastry upon an unsuspecting world. In fact, if you're looking for proper Danish scran, you need fried meat, some starch, and an indistinct oleaginous topping, which brings you right to stegt flæsk—pieces of pork belly fried until crisp and served with boiled potatoes and parsley sauce. Your arteries will hate you as much as your taste buds will applaud you. One step forward, two steps back.

What Would A Successful World Cup Look Like For This Team?

Getting out of the group would seem to be the minimum standard here, but anything after the round of 16 (and probably Canada) would be playing with the casino's money given that the Danes would not be fancied against either France or Brazil. If that's where it ends, they could still find satisfaction in the Swedes and Norwegians not lasting any longer, but then again, that's that hot North Sea blood talking.

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