- Denmark want first win in Qatar after Tunisia draw
- France enjoyed storming start against Australia
- No fear for Danes’ coach Hjulmand after double French success in 2022
Kasper Hjulmand insists the prospect of containing electrifying France forward Kylian Mbappe on Saturday holds no fears for his redoubtable Denmark team.
Paris Saint-Germain hotshot Mbappe was crowned FIFA Best Young Player at the 2018 Russia World Cup when the teenager’s four goals, included one in the final victory over Croatia. Mbappe, who turns 24 two days after the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 final, began this year’s tournament in irresistible style, contributing one goal and one assist in a 4-1 victory over Australia.
Denmark started their competition with a tense scoreless draw against Tunisia. But Hjulmand’s side defeated France home and away in this year’s UEFA Nations League, shutting out Mbappe in both fixtures.
I don’t think it’s good to be frightened [of Mbappe],” said Hjulmand. “We have plans to stop him. At Parken [Denmark’s 2-0 victory in in September] we had a good plan, a good structure. He had two or three chances and no matter what plans you have against top players, you can’t keep them down.
“We have carried out plenty of analysis to try to minimise his impact, we don’t want him to show the talent he has. We have tested France a couple of times [this year] but this is a different tournament.
“But we know if we play our best we have a chance of getting a good result. To be able to do that, we have to take a big step forward in quality from the first match.”
Hjulmand is keenly aware his side is set for a trial by an assortment of gifted France attackers. Didier Deschamps’ team were in ominous form after recovering from the shock of falling behind against Australia. Adrien Rabiot equalised and Olivier Giroud struck a double either side of Mbappe’s goal. Indeed, the accusation of pragmatism frequently aimed at coach Deschamps doesn’t tally with the 11 goals his victorious side scored in four knockout matches in Russia.
So far as the threat of Giroud goes, Hjulmand is counting on defender Simon Kjaer for inside information on his AC Milan teammate.
“I hope it’s an advantage, a player like Giroud is very good at what he does,” added Hjulmand. “It’s a pleasure seeing so many strikers in the latter stages of their careers showing how to move in the box, showing how to be dangerous in their positioning and how to finish in the box.
Giroud is better now than he was before [at any point in his career], he is very dangerous. Simon knows him very well and we have been talking about the small details.”
Denmark have something on an Indian sign over the French. In addition to those Nations League victories, the Scandinavians defeated defending champions France at the 2002 World Cup and the teams shared a goalless draw in the group stage four years ago.
Hjulmand, however, is planning to adapt his team’s strategy in response to the result of the Australia-Tunisia fixture earlier in the day.
“I won’t watch that game, but I will obviously know the outcome as it will influence how we approach our game,” added Hjulmand. “I am only really talking about the last 25 minutes. We are focused on winning the match, but the other game will influence our approach.”