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Dark horses Denmark exit World Cup as attack fails to fire

AL WAKRAH, Qatar: Denmark's remarkable run in international football ended with a whimper as they exited the World Cup at the first hurdle after failing to recreate their free-scoring qualifying form, netting only one goal in three games.

A scoreless draw with Tunisia and a 2-1 loss to France followed by a 1-0 defeat by Australia was a poor return from a side tipped to be Europe's dark horses in Qatar.

Since Christian Eriksen's collapse from a heart attack in their opening game at last year's European Championship, the Danes made the semi-finals of that tournament and beat France twice in the Nations League.

They rattled in 30 goals in 10 World Cup qualifiers, winning nine straight games to book their spot in Qatar, but once they got there, the wheels came off as the rest of the world found ways to blunt their attacking weapons.

Blessed with skill, vision and intelligence all over the pitch, what the Danes lacked most was a reliable goal-poaching striker, and it came back to haunt them.

Coach Kasper Hjulmand tried a different man up top to start each game, with Kasper Dolberg, Andreas Cornelius and Martin Braithwaite all given the chance, but none of them delivered.

In part, it was because they were forced to work off scraps, but neither did they do much to pull their opponents out of position and create space for team mates, many of whom under-performed.

Marauding wing back Joakim Maehle, who netted five times in qualifying, never got going and he had a torrid time against France's Ousmane Dembele in the second group game.

Mikkel Damsgaard, who shouldered much of the creative responsibility in the immediate aftermath of Eriksen's collapse, was a shadow of himself as he constantly ran up blind alleys with his mazy dribbles.

The Danes had plenty of possession, but their build-up play was ponderous and seldom incisive enough to create danger for their opponents.

Eriksen did his best, but with neither the space to play in nor forwards to play to, he and Denmark came up short of expectations, and Hjulmand will have to call on all his undoubted tactical knowledge to revive them.

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Source: Reuters


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