Denmark accompanied Group C victors France into the knockout stage with the first goalless draw of the World Cup at the Luzhniki Stadium on Tuesday.
France had already qualified while Denmark needed a point to be assured, although a 2-0 victory for already eliminated Peru over Australia sent them through mindless of their result. Didier Deschamps, marking his 79th game in charge to level Raymond Domenech’s France record, rested key players such as Paul Pogba and Hugo Lloris and kept Kylian Mbappe on the bench for the majority of the game with an eye on their knockout campaign.
Deschamps’ six changes presented a lack of coherence that prevented France from ending the group stage with maximum points. After topping Group C thanks to a flat draw, Les Blues are on track to face Argentina in the first knockout round after Lionel Messi inspired his side to victory against Nigeria.
And the award for the worst match at the 2018 #WorldCup goes to…
— Goal (@goal) June 26, 2018
Denmark faces Croatia in their round of 16 matches and doesn’t seem much of a threat pertaining to their performance yesterday. The Danes seldom threatened and seemed content with a 0-0 draw that sent them into the last 16 for the first time since 2002.
Giroud and Varane sent their initial efforts off target. Ousmane Dembele directed a presentable shot wide as a low-tempo match proceeded to await a shot on target. And when it eventually came in the 38th minute the strike from Griezmann was straight at Kasper Schmeichel and efficiently dealt with by the Leicester City keeper. Griezmann set up Giroud, but a late offside flag spared the blushes of the Chelsea striker after he blazed over the crossbar.
Steve Mandanda became France’s oldest World Cup debutant and the goalkeeper almost cost his side, dropping a long-range Eriksen free-kick before recovering to claim the loose ball ahead of prowling striker Andreas Cornelius. Eriksen drilled astray in the 59th minute as Age Hareide‘s side took command of the game, although France substitute Nabil Fekir rippled the side-netting with a formidable drive soon after his introduction. The Lyon attacker also forced a clever stop from Schmeichel in the 82nd minute, while Giroud had a late penalty appeal rejected by referee Sandro Meira Ricci as the match ended in a stalemate for the first time in this World Cup.
If you missed France Denmark because you are at work, you are very lucky.
— Max Rushden (@maxrushden) June 26, 2018
France must discover their form
France had won their first two games without playing their best game and Didier Deschamps’ choice to make six changes meant that was doubtful to happen here either.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) June 26, 2018
There were a few short flashes of the quality that Deschamps has at his disposal, thanks to Griezmann’s creative movement behind the Denmark defence, and right-back Djibril Sidibe‘s runs up the right flank.
Nabil Fekir also displayed some fine techniques when he replaced Griezmann for the last 20 minutes and did come close to breaking the deadlock when he fired into the side-netting. But otherwise there was a light rather seriousness on the show, and no sense the France players had any urge to secure their third successive victory.
Denmark qualify but without fashion
Denmark is into the last 16 of a World Cup for the first time since 2002 and is unbeaten in their last 18 games, but this performance will not have pacified the critics of their head coach Hareide. His utilitarian strategy has already annoyed Danish fans and media alike, and a display like this one is unlikely to make him any more lovable.
A brilliant start, that saw Middlesbrough’s Martin Braithwaite execute some penetrating runs down the right wing, soon snuffed out as Denmark defended in numbers.
Even with Australia 2-0 down and Denmark’s qualification essentially assured, The Danes dropped deeper as the second half proceeded and made their intentions obvious.