WORLD football obsessive James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) shares his thoughts on Friday night's Nations League match-up between Wales and Denmark.
Wales v Denmark | Friday 16th November 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Wales welcome Denmark to the Cardiff City Stadium on Friday night knowing that victory for Ryan Giggs’ side ensures promotion into Group 3 for the next UEFA Nations League campaign.
For the Danes, they would leapfrog Wales with a win, with another game to spare. However, a draw on Friday, combined with three points against Ireland in their final group match means they would be promoted.
Finishing top of the group would confirm a play-off place for Euro 2020, should they fail to do so via their respective qualifiers.
The two sides have already met in the group, when Denmark ran out 2-0 victors when they met at Ceres Park, back in September. It was a deserving success for Age Hareide’s men, a brace for Tottenham attacking midfielder Christian Eriksen being enough to secure the win on the night.
Denmark could only muster a 0-0 draw away in Ireland however, meaning they travel to the Welsh capital knowing exactly what they have to do. They will fancy their chances of defeating Ireland at home, but Wales won’t rollover and accept a draw, knowing a win is needed from themselves as well.
An intriguing contest is anticipated at the home of Cardiff City.
A blow for Denmark heading into this is that they will be minus their captain Simon Kjaer. The Sevilla centre back may be missing, but Eriksen is recalled after sitting out the last international meeting.
As usual, there is a strong English league presence in the Denmark squad. Along with Eriksen, there is Kasper Schmeichal, Mathias Jorgensen, Andreas Christensen, Henrik Dalsgaard, Jonas Knudsen, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Martin Braithwaite.
As for Wales, James Lawrence of Anderlecht has been called into the squad for the first time. Although born in Henley-on-Thames, the 26-year-old qualifies for Wales through his grandmother.
After a fine season to date, Swansea City forward Daniel James is added to the group by Giggs. Ben Davies of Spurs is missing due to suspension.
Goals aren’t certain
Giggs might have been one of the best forward players of his generation in his playing days but he is still taking time turning this Welsh outfit into a side of his mould. To date, he has taken charge of seven international matches, yielding three victories, one draw and three defeats. Two of those wins were in emphatic fashion, 4-1 to Ireland and 6-0 in China in the China Cup, which was Giggs’ first match in charge.
Whilst there have been some high-scoring matches in that short period, there have been plenty of closer contests as well. Wales did feel the might of Spain when losing 4-1 in Cardiff in a friendly match last month, and besides the Ireland and China matches, they have been closer run affairs.
1-0, 0-0, 2-0 and 1-0 being the end results in the other four matches. There has therefore been an average of 2.86 goals in that time, but those three high-scoring contests certainly increases that figure considerably more.
It took eventual finalists Croatia to knock Denmark out of the World Cup last summer, needing penalties to progress into the next stage. Whilst it looks a decent performance from the Danes at the World Cup, the reality is that they only won one match, that being in their group opener to Peru, who probably deserved something from that game.
Their political issue were well documented not that long ago, when Futsal players and those from the lower leagues in Danish football made up their squad for a 3-0 friendly defeat to Slovakia. It is best to ignore that match when assessing this clash with Wales.
They have essentially had three games since the World Cup with the squad they want. The 2-0 win in Wales was followed by the 0-0 draw in Ireland and then a 2-0 friendly triumph over Austria. Even at the World Cup, during 90-minutes, their matches ended 1-0, 1-1, 0-0 and 1-1.
Despite having some top attacking talent, they don’t tend to witness too many goals in their matches. In their four friendlies building up to the Russia World Cup, those scores read 1-0, 0-0, 0-0 and 2-0.
Denmark missing Kjaer may weaken them defensively, but they do have adequate cover to cope for this solitary match, albeit an important one.
Still, it is hard to ignore the figures on the goal count heading into this one. Wales probably view this as an important game, given how Denmark will probably expect to qualify for Euro 2020 anyway, nevertheless, it will be a close one.
Under 2.5 Goals is available at 3/5 (Marathon). Clearly it isn’t the biggest of prices, but it is that way for a reason. This could be a slow burner of a game.
A tactical first-half expected
The section above offers clarity on the lack of goals these two teams seem to be playing in of late, certainly in the case of Denmark. There is another avenue we can explore on the goal front and have a little bit of additional value in the process.
This is likely to be quite a tactical game. As the home side, Wales shall try to enjoy periods of possession, but it was on the counter attack where they seemed to have more joy in the opening game, even if they did lose.
The possession stats for Wales’ games under Giggs make for interesting reading. It is only really Spain who have seen a lot more of the game in any one match. Spain are obviously great at doing so, but the other games give some indication to what Giggs is trying to do.
It was 50-50 in the opening match with Denmark, whilst even with Uruguay it was 51-49. Despite being 6-0 winners over China, the possession figures were much tighter too. They dominated the ball in both matches with Ireland, but Martin O’Neill’s seems to like his sides to sit back more often than not. Wales will again look to counter attack, and they may have to be patient in doing so.
Denmark played for a draw in the World Cup with France in an almightily boring contest. I don’t think they will attempt anything quite like that here, even though a draw isn’t the end of the world for them. Wales however do need the win, but they may not necessarily go gung-ho right now.
Denmark have proved very assured defensively for some time now. They’ll be quite content to sit back for the first half at least, and pick and choose their moments. If the games remains at 0-0, they themselves may get chances on the break as Wales would need a winning goal.
In Denmark’s last 12 fixtures, they have earned eight clean sheets. Kjaer was most likely a big part of that, so they’ll look to really show off this defensive stance for the first half at least. Wales will look to start brightly and try to avoid Denmark getting too comfortable behind the ball. This Danish wall however often proves extremely tough to break down.
Therefore, a 0-0 Half Time Score looks worth a play at 31/20 (Betstars). It should begin to open up in the second half, in what is Wales’ final group match.
Wales v Denmark – Under 2.5 Goals (3/5 Marathon)
Wales v Denmark – 0-0 Half Time Score (31/20 Betstars)