Verdict: France win
Best odds: 3/4
France and Denmark are set to do battle against each other at the Stadium 974 on Saturday evening, in what will be the second round of matches in Group D.
Les Bleus started their title defending campaign in an impressive manner. Having gone down to Australia in the first round when Craig Goodwin struck in the ninth minute, they bounced back by putting four in the back of the opposition net, courtesy of Adrien Rabiot, Olivier Giroud (twice), and Kylian Mbappe.
With those two goals, Giroud has risen level in the all-time goalscorers list in the history of his national team with leader Thierry Henry, with 51 goals to his name. Meanwhile, France are now the first title defenders to have won a World Cup opener since Brazil in 2006.
Among the favourites to win the tournament, Didier Deschamps’ team will fancy themselves to do it again against Denmark, thus securing a place in the round of 16 already with the game against Tunisia to spare.
France will, of course, be without Karim Benzema, after this year’s Ballon d’Or winner was forced to leave the squad through injury.
In his absence, Giroud will lead the line again, with Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele in support. Rabiot will be joined by Aurelien Tchouameni in the middle of the park, ahead of the back four where the only question is whether Liverpool’s Ibrahima Konate keeps his place ahead of Manchester United’s Raphael Varane. The remaining three placed will likely be taken by Benjamin Pavard, Dayot Upamecano and Theo Hernandez.
Hernandez will come in for his brother Lucas, who tore his ACL against Australia and faces a very long time out of action.
Denmark were held to a frustrating goalless draw by Tunisia in the opening round, and their own chances of reaching the knockout phase of the tournament, considered very good before that, took an unexpected hit. If they are beaten by the reigning champions and Tunisia manage to overcome Australia, which appears likely enough, they will face a desperate struggle in the final round and may well end up going home. It’s very likely that the final stretch in this race turns out an extremely nervy affair.
Kasper Hjulmand’s men took fewer shots than Tunisia (11-13) despite enjoying the ball for 62% of the time, though more of their efforts went on target (5-1). All in all, they were the better team, but that won’t be of much use if they end up missing out on round of 16. They were the favourites to finish second to France; now it seems a very tight race.
Denmark also have a player out of the tournament after the opening round, with Sevilla midfielder forced to leave the squad by a knee injury that will have him recovering for a while, though it reportedly isn’t quite as bad as that of Lucas Hernandez.
With Delaney out, Hjulmand could pull Christian Eriksen into a deeper midfield role alongside Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, which would in turn leave a spot for Mikkel Damsgaard to join the duo of Kasper Dolberg and Skov Olsen upfront.
Simon Kjaer, Joachim Andersen and Andreas Christensen are all likely to keep their places at the back, ahead of goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
On good form, this Denmark side would likely be capable of giving France a good match, but they simply must do a lot better than against Tunisia for that to happen. France are still likely to win this match, and with some comfort.
Verdict: France win
Best odds: 3/4
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