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Women’s Euro 2022 team guide No 5: Denmark


This article is part of the Guardian’s Women’s Euro 2022 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 16 countries who have qualified. theguardian.com is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 6 July.

Overview

Having finished as runners-up at the 2017 Euros, it hurt not to see Denmark at the 2019 World Cup. A pay dispute with the Danish FA (DBU) led to the team forfeiting a game against Sweden, finishing second in the group behind their neighbours before losing a play-off against the Netherlands.

Missing out on the World Cup seems to have lit a collective fire in the squad, however and in the qualifiers for this summer’s Euros and next year’s World Cup they have been ruthless. For the Euros they walked Group B ahead of Italy. The Danes impressed with a particularly strong defence, conceding only one goal, while at the other end they scored 48 goals in 10 games. The Chelsea star Pernille Harder explained: “[The manager] Lars Søndergaard has given us a distinctive and attractive way of playing and it is important for us that we play beautiful football.”

Sødergaard also moved away from the more traditional 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 to a 3-4-3 formation with wingbacks, allowing players such as Sofie Svava, Sara Thrige and Janni Thomsen to thrive on the flanks. As crossing is a particular speciality of this team, Denmark crowd the penalty area with attacking players – as well as the opposite wing-back – to get more players into scoring positions.

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The one-year delay of the Euros could give Denmark an advantage. They have just qualified for their first World Cup since 2007 and confidence is high. Denmark also have, like several other countries, a host of young players coming through. Søndergaard even said at the time when the tournament was postponed: “This team has a great mix of experience and haven’t reached their peak yet. There are a lot of players who are only going to get better.”

And, indeed, the past 12 months have seen players such as Svava, Signe Bruun, Kathrine Møller Kühl and keeper Lene Christensen develop further and become even bigger assets for the team.

The coach

The 63-year-old Lars Søndergaard has been in charge of the national team since December 2017. Having coached Danish clubs sides such as AaB, Viborg FF and SønderjyskE, as well as a couple of Austrian clubs, since 1996, this was his first time coaching women. He admitted early on that he did not see any major differences between coaching a women’s and a men’s side, apart from perhaps one. “The female players ask a lot more questions and want to talk everything though,” he said. “It is very positive, but it was something that I needed to get used to.” He is well-liked by the players and staff and it was no surprise that he signed a new contract to take in the 2023 World Cup.

Star player

Pernille Harder has so many individual prizes that those not on display at her parents’ home are stored under her bed in London. The attack-minded Chelsea star has won the league in every season she has played since 2016 (with Linköping, Wolfsburg and Chelsea). She is the all-time scorer for the Danish national team – men and women – with 67 goals (as of 7 June). She is the captain of the side and a delight to watch in a free role. She seems to find spaces and passes like no one else. Harder is not only a role model on the pitch but off it – she is a member of Common Goal and known for her LGBTQ+ rights campaigning.

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Pernille Harder poses for an official portrait.
Pernille Harder is Denmark’s all-time top scorer. Photograph: Oliver Hardt/Uefa/Getty Images

Wildcard

Kathrine Kühl will turn 19 on the day before the tournament starts, and is the youngest member of the Danish squad, but this super talent knows how to up her game when it is needed. She is a locksmith that can open up the tightest of defences with clever passes and mesmerising technique. She will make an impact whenever she is on the pitch. The Nordsjælland midfielder has been a rising star in Kvindeligaen for a couple of years now and will be the one to watch this summer, and for many years to come.

Probable lineup

Denmark women probable lineup

All-time hero

Katrine Pedersen spent more than 25 years with the Danish national team, first as a player and then as assistant coach. Active between 1994 and 2013, she won a remarkable 210 caps, more than any other Dane. She is, more than anyone, synonymous with “Kvindelandsholdet”, controlling games from her defensive midfield role. She led Denmark in five Euros and three World Cups as a player and is a role model for the current group having been there for most of their debuts, whether as player or assistant coach. She is now the now head coach for Danish women’s side AGF.

Women’s football graphic Moving the Goalposts

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Euro history

Denmark are no strangers to this competition, the 2017 runners-up having participated in the first ever tournament, in 1984. They have qualified for every tournament since 1991. The red and whites have never won the Euros but they have four bronze medals (1991, 1993, 2001 and 2013) and reached their first final five years ago, losing 4-2 to the Netherlands. In 2013 they nearly reached the final without winning a single game in normal time. Two draws in the group stage meant they were one of the two best third-placed teams before a draw and a penalty shootout win against France put them in the semis. There, however, their luck ran out and they lost against Norway on spot kicks.

Realistic aim this summer

Semi-finalists in 2013 and beaten finalists in 2017, Denmark will have hopes to go all the way this time but Group B is incredibly tough – they have drawn with Germany, Spain and Finland – and the likelihood is that their adventure will end after three games.

Sofie Engberg Munch writes for TV2 in Denmark.



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