Denmark, a secret favorite for many at this World Cup, struggled in the first game of Group D against bold and passionate Tunisians and were held to a draw. When it was 0-0, Denmark’s playmaker Christian Eriksen celebrated his tournament comeback.
As expected, Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand put his trust in Eriksen, 30, right from the start. It was his first appearance in a major tournament after his collapse at Euro 2021. On June 12, his heart stopped during the group game against Finland. Paramedics had to revive him. Since his recovery he has been playing with a defibrillator. He said ahead of the World Cup: “I now fully appreciate the simple fact of being alive and being with my family.” And coach Hjulmand stressed before the game against Tunisia: “He is our heart, our heartbeat. He is a fantastic player and an even better person. He gives us so much.”
Tunisia with the better chances and an offside goal
Eriksen came face to face with passionate Tunisians in his 118th international match. Less than two minutes were played when he was separated from the ball by Aissa Laidouni with a hard but fair tackle. Laidouni then drummed his chest and whipped up the audience. Tunisia started with momentum, not only because of this action. It became dangerous for the first time when Tunisia’s right-back Mohamed Dräger tried it from a distance (11′). His shot was deflected and just missed the left post. Around ten minutes later, striker Issam Jebali, who plays for Odense BK in Denmark, scored the lead. However, the goal was rightly disallowed due to Jebali being offside. It was Jebali who tried to lob Denmark keeper Kasper Schmeichel just before the break, but Schmeichel responded brilliantly. Jebali was probably offside again.
Denmark hardly succeeds in the first round
Denmark, for many one of the secret favorites at this World Cup, seemed surprised by the confident appearance of the Tunisians. The 2021 European Championship semi-finalist did nothing in the first round apart from two harmless shots and a dangerous free-kick that could be fended off. Coach Hjulmand had to replace Thomas Delaney with Mikkel Damsgaard before half-time through injury. The 22-year-old midfielder, who had already impressed at the European Championship, is predicted to have a great future.
Denmark’s goal doesn’t count either
The character of the game initially did not change even after the break. Closely staggered, Tunisia hoped for counterattacks. Denmark struggled. And almost took the lead out of nowhere in the 55th. Andreas Skov Olsen’s goal didn’t count because of an offside position in the formation. Around half an hour before the end, Hjulmand made three changes and brought in the fast winger Jesper Lindström from Eintracht Frankfurt.
Double chance for Denmark, controversial handball
Then Denmark got into the game better and had two great chances to take the lead. First, Tunisia’s goalkeeper Aymen Dahmen parried a dangerous shot from Eriksen (69′). Then Andreas Christensen climbed up after the resulting corner and headed the ball to the right post (70′). Substitute Andreas Cornelius tried to steer Christensen’s header into the goal. At the other end, the Tunisians called for a penalty after a handball by Danish defender Andersen. The ball hit his arm from a short distance and he continued with a corner.
Video proof in stoppage time
In added time, Lindström tried a cheeky shot on target from long range, but Dahmen saved. Because the ball had jumped into the hand of a Tunisian player at a corner shortly before, the scene was checked again. Referee César Ramos from Mexico watched the scene again on the monitor and decided against a penalty – the last thrill of a turbulent but goalless game.
Denmark vs France, Tunisia vs Australia
Denmark meets France in the second game of Group D (26/11, 17:00 CET). Tunisia, who have never survived a World Cup preliminary round, play against Australia (26/11, 11 a.m. CET). With a similarly passionate display, success is possible against the Socceroos.