At the time of the World Cup draw, Group C looked like a relatively straightforward section for France, and so it has proven, although they have had to work hard to pick up their two wins against Australia and Peru. But although France have booked their place in the Round of 16, the second qualification spot is still up for grabs.
A draw in this game would be enough to secure Denmark’s progression out of the Group phase for the fourth time in five World Cups, but defeat could leave the door open for Australia to snatch second.
Victory for France would give them a maximum nine points from their Group games, a feat that they have achieved only once before, in 1998; the year when they won the World Cup.
Denmark v France Prediction and Preview
The first ever meeting between these two nations occurred in London at the 1908 Olympics. Denmark beat a France B side 9-0 in the First Stage and then crushed France 17-1 in the Semi-Final, a score that is unlikely to be replicated this time! Overall, France have had the better of this fixture, winning 8 and drawing 1 of their 15 matches.
They have twice met in the World Cup, at the Group Stage. France won 2-1 in 1998, en route to their World Cup win, but Denmark had their revenge four years later, winning their Incheon encounter 2-0 to top Group A and send the French home.
For France, victory would complete a welcome perfect start, and with Group D in turmoil, it is possible that they could end up facing an out-of-sorts Argentina, Iceland or even Nigeria in their Round of 16 game. For Denmark, the aim is simple: avoid defeat and go through.
Denmark’s biggest threat, and the player who provides a cutting edge, is Christian Eriksen. He plays in the central attacking position of their 4-2-3-1 formation and is not only their most creative player, but their likeliest source of goals. It is surprising then that Denmark have not built their team around him, instead preferring to concentrate on keeping things tight at the back and using direct balls to striker Nicolai Jorgensen or the giant Yusuf Poulsen, who nominally plays wide but functions effectively as a second target man.
While Eriksen can sometimes prosper picking up the second balls from Poulsen and Jorgensen, Denmark are not making the most of his world-class talent. The Danes were out-passed by Peru and even lowly Australia managed to show a touch more guile with the ball at their feet than Age Hareide’s side. With a draw enough to guarantee qualification, we can’t expect a change in tactics, and Denmark are likely to offer minimal threat with the ball.
France have been much-criticised in the tournament so far, particularly after their sluggish opening game performance against Peru, but much of that criticism has been unwarranted. The team is blessed with prodigious pace and individual skill, and they are not best suited to breaking down lesser opponents determined to earn a point.
Didier Deschamps changed the line-up for their second game, with Olivier Giroud providing a focal point for the attack, which gave Antoine Griezmann more freedom and made France more effective going forward. He is likely to stick with that set-up for this match, although Ousmane Dembele may be preferred on the left to Blaise Matuidi, given that Denmark are likely to offer less of an offensive threat than Peru.
Without the ball, France will sit relatively deep, with N’golo Kante covering the back-line and keeping an eye on Eriksen. They will aim to break quickly through Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe when the Danes give the ball away. We can expect Denmark to be even more conservative, with Thomas Delaney and Lasse Schone patrolling in front of their back four, and if there are no early goals, this game could turn into a war of attrition, with France struggling to find space in the final third and Denmark defending stoutly.
Denmark managed just 3 shots on target against Peru and 4 against Australia, and they are likely to be even less ambitious in this game, while France will find it difficult to break their opponents down. An early French goal might change things and force the Danes to commit more players to the attack, but this looks set to be a low-scoring encounter, and since a draw would be a satisfactory outcome for both sides, that could be the best betting option.
Griezmann First Goalscorer?
One of the most deadly strikers in Europe, Griezmann is at his best if he has a stronger target man to play off, and with Giroud in the side, he looks much more dangerous. Since Denmark are likely to offer little going forward and Giroud will be tightly marked, Griezmann looks a good bet to score the first goal of the game.
Denmark are one of a number of mid-ranking European sides to adopt a cautious, defence-orientated approach and while they would argue that their methods have so far proven successful, they would surely be even more effective if they found a way to get the best out of Eriksen. With a first Round of 16 qualification since 2002 within their grasp, they are unlikely to adopt a more adventurous approach here and will aim to keep things tight at the back, hoping to snatch a goal on the break or through a moment of Eriksen brilliance.
With tougher challenges ahead, France will want to put on more of a show than they have managed so far, but the fact remains that they don’t need to win this game, so if the Danes can offer enough resistance in the first half, that lack of French motivation may enable Hareide’s team to claim the point they need to secure qualification. Either way, the final game of Group C is likely to be tense, scrappy and not a spectacle that will delight the purists.
* Please note – odds mentioned above are subject to change, so always check the latest published odds to be fully certain before betting.
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