New Telegraph

Denmark vs France: Kasper Hjulmand’s men dream of finals

On the final matchday of League A Group 1 in the UEFA Nations League, a Denmark side gunning for the Finals will welcome a France outfit determined to avoid demotion to League B. Kasper Hjulmand’s men went down 2-1 to Croatia last time out, while Les Bleus got the better of Austria 2-0 ahead of their trip to Copenhagen on Sunday. Victory for Denmark over Croatia would have guaranteed them a place in the Finals of the Nations League, but Hjulmand’s XI had no answer to the Chequered Ones’ superiority in a 2-1 defeat on Thursday evening.

After a drab and goalless opening 45 minutes, efforts from Borna Sosa and Lovro Majer either side of Christian Eriksen’s response got the job done for Croatia, who have now usurped Denmark into first place in the rankings. However, there is just the one point in it, and Denmark know that anything besides victory over Les Bleus will consign them to a second-place finish – a draw would not be enough as Croatia lead the way on head-to-head points.

Even if the Danes were to produce a seismic shock against France, their fate will be sealed if Croatia overcome basement side Austria this weekend, but Hjulmand’s side can boast the honour of being the top scorers in League A Group 1 with seven strikes to their name. The Finals dream may not materialise for Denmark, but firmly establishing themselves as League A contenders marks another significant progression for the Red and Whites, who will do battle with France in their World Cup group two months after Sunday’s game.

The prospect of reigning Nations League champions France packing their bags and being sent down to League B was very real prior to the visit of Austria, with on and off-field issues plaguing the French Football Federation and Didier Deschamps. Despite losing an array of star names to injury before the international break and seeing even more players come off to physical problems against Ralf Rangnick’s side, France still ran out deserved 2-0 winners courtesy of Kylian Mbappe and OlivierG iroud’s goals. Back in the Bleus XI with a bang, Giroud was lauded by teammates, fans and journalists alike as he set up Mbappe before scoring his 49th goal for France, and he is only three shy of breaking Thierry Henry’s all-time men’s record of 51.

France have now elevated themselves to third spot in League A Group 1 – which is the highest that they can finish – and three points in Copenhagen would see them successfully stave off relegation, but any other result will open the door for Austria to usurp them. Les Bleus faithful can breathe an early sigh of relief knowing that their side have not lost away from home in any tournament since June 2019, but they were defeated 2-1 by Denmark three months ago, with the absent Andreas Cornelius bagging a brace. Denmark did not pick up any fresh injury concerns in the midweek defeat to Croatia, where in-demand playmaker Jesper Lindstrom was forced to miss out due to illness, but Hjulmand is confident that the Eintracht Frankfurt man will be availableh ere.

Martin Braithwaite was given the nod to lead the line against Croatia but lasted just 59 minutes of that match, and Kasper Dolberg will therefore have a glint in his eyes for the visit of France. Mikkel Damsgaard and Rasmus Kristensen are among Hjulmand’s options for change in the wide areas amid the quick turnaround, while Eriksen will go in search of his 40th goal for the national team. Denmark’s ranks may be at full strength, but a depleted France side witnessed Jules Kounde and Mike Maignan both come off with injuries in the win over Austria, with the former damaging his thigh while the AC Milan goalkeeper picked up a calf issue. William Saliba and Alphonse Areola came off the bench to replace the duo in midweek and should now be drafted into the first XI, as Dayot Upamecano and Alban Lafont accept spots among the replacements.

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