With matches against the USA and then France the Danes were able to show that football really is a game of both winning and losing in equal measure
Football is, according to legend and commentator’s cliché, a game of two halves, but quite honestly that’s not how I remember it. My experiences with the beautiful game stem entirely from the few years at school when I was forced to play as part of my physical education before I learned how to forge my mother’s signature and adequately fake preventative illnesses. “No sir, sorry sir, dodgy ankle sir” I would manage sounding as if in pain and limping just enough to fool the teacher involved.
Danes Denied In France
• Football’s friendly contrasts
• Danes beat the USA 3-2
• Then lose against France 2-0
Typically the teacher accepted this manifest and evident piece of skiving only because they themselves were no more pleased to be stuck out on the school games field in the freezing cold attempting to goad a bunch of geeks and freaks into playing a sport none of us had any interest in. Whilst those actually able to play football were in the top group, and represented the school in matches against other educational establishments, we were the bottom group, the group without hope, skill or enthusiasm.
Of course the “real” Sports teachers would be assigned the groups that could actually play, who knew what a ball was, almost how to control it and had some idea of what passing, dribbling and shooting actually were, which meant that those of us of a non-sporting character, and no physique whatsoever, were left with whichever hapless member of staff had been caught in the staffroom the day before and harangued into believing it was part of their job by the headmaster and was thus gambling news of a blizzard would prevent him (or us) actually having to do it.
USA Collapse But The French Prevail
Ever watch a Geography teacher try to keep warm as a bunch of 14 year old boys jog halfheartedly about a half-sized snow dappled pitch with all the team cohesion of an anarchist art festival and all the enthusiasm of a death sentence victim? The wind whipping around his corduroy trousers, ice forming on his elbow patches, hatred for us, the school and the game burning in his eyes brighter than the sun that was always, but always, entirely absent from the grey cloudy skies. He didn’t want to be there, and neither did we.
Of course my footballing experience at school bore as much resemblance to the real thing as Copenhagen does to Beirut, and indeed those who like to bet on sports in Denmark, and particularly on football at sites like ComeOn! Sportsbook, would dismiss my attitude to the game as being one born out of apathy, a lack of team spirit and a distinct laziness that continues as a personal character trait even to this day. Ours was not a game of two halves, it was a game of one big pain in the backside for all concerned.
The Danes however have recently had cause to reflect on the truth of this aging cliché, how it really is a game not just of two time periods, but of both winning and losing, with their national side experiencing the ecstasy of victory and the sad disappointment of defeat. The question remains, however, just how much they were masters of their own destiny in either case, as the results seem to have been dictated not by their play but that of their opponents, in this case first the USA and then France.
Home Win, Away Loss
Against the Jurgen Klinsmann’s Team USA on home turf the Danes seemed quite together, their spirit not bowed by going one down early on and indeed they battled back admirably keeping their enthusiasm up and feeding the right balls through to Nicklas Bendtner at just the right times to not only level the game at 2-2 in the 83rd minute but to grab a fabulously late winner in stoppage time, once more dooming the US to lose to a late goal foolishly given away.
Bendtner’s hat trick on the night, the Spurs player’s first International trio of goals in one match, gave the team great hopes going into their friendly with France a few days later, but if you’re Danish gambling laws of form and prior performance would see them beat Les Bleu in as stylish a manner you were to be sorely disappointed in the outcome of that next game. Of course the French and the US are as similar, in footballing terms, as chalk and cheese, and that showed in the game and result.
The first half was all France, with Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette putting the home team ahead in the 14th minute and Arsenal’s Oliver Giroud adding a second 38 minutes into a scrappy game. France, who lost to Brazil earlier in the week, were obviously keen to bounce back, and by half time it was clear they were putting in the effort required to do just that with many expecting further goals in the second 45 minutes. Denmark, however, weren’t going to make it easy.
The second half saw the spirited Danes fight hard to reinsert themselves into the game, but Ruffier denied them even a consolation goal turning away Eriksen’s efforts and brushing aside Bendtner’s booted balls, snuffing out even a glimmer of a chance at the feet of Krohn-Dehli in a performance that is worthy of one of the world’s best keepers of goal. Football might be a game of two halves, if you can actually play the game, but for Denmark it was a game of two very different results.