Last time out, we’d taken the USA to the World Cup quarter-finals and only narrowly missed out to hosts Italy with a 1-0 defeat. But now, having taken the States as far as I thought we could realistically take them, a new opportunity had arrived with Denmark.
This opportunity fits the mold of this Journeyman, which is only managing sides that have gone 20 years or more without winning a title. As the World Cup concluded we could have taken jobs with the likes of England, Portugal, Spain and even Italy, but then that wouldn’t have been as interesting would it?
So, here we find ourselves as manager of Denmark who, on the face of it, aren’t really that good and luckily don’t really expect too much of us.
An opportunity to experiment
I inherited a pretty veteran looking Denmark squad that currently had very little to play for. We’d be getting started in the Nations League B Group 3, in which we were up against Albania, Greece and Russia, but the FA didn’t care what we did in that tournament. After all, it’s glorified friendlies that restrict substitutions, aka a waste of everyone’s time. But I took it as an opportunity to experiment.
So out went ageing players like Pierre-Emily Hojbjerg (35), Pedro Silva and Mikkel Duelund (33), Magnus Kofod (31) and Nikolas Nartey (30). I also considered ditching Kasper Dolberg, who’s now 32, but he can stick around for now.
And instead the focus will move to a whole host of young talent including our former Valencia defender Jacob Frandsen, who we’d given his first call-up and was already considered our best centre-back. There’s also Roma striker Kasper Voss Eslund, Arsenal winger Mark Knudsen Brinksby, Chelsea centre-back Steffen Lind who I try to sign a few years back with Valencia, and Dortmund midfielder Nick Granskov.
In total, the squad has 11 players with 4.5-star potential, 9 players who are teenagers, and only 8 of the 23 are older than 25. It’s a little different for an international side, but I think it’s more exciting. And, I’ve just turned on the Danish leagues as of the summer of 2031.
First Denmark squad
Heading into my first game, the Danish media labelled my first squad as manager as “radical squad selection.” I can get on board with that! I also named Kasper Dolberg, who now plays for Young Boys in Switzerland, as the new captain of Denmark, which the public and media were apparently happy with.
And here is the squad in full:
And this is the tactic I’m initially going with:
Nations League action
We started off away to Albania and, in truth, weren’t very good. Nothing happened in the first half then a terrible piece of defending allowed them to open the scoring. We struck back immediately with vice-captain Jonas Wind teeing up captain Dolberg, then did nothing else for the rest of the match. So a 1-1 draw to start, but it was good to see a player of the match performance from midfielder Matt O’Riley – who I didn’t know was eligible for Denmark and Norway!
Next up was Greece at home and we got off to a great start with Knuden Brinksby, who’d come into the side on the left wing, scoring a screamer inside 4 minutes of his debut. But from there on, Greece dominated and got back into it with a free-kick that our goalkeeper did well to save only for it to fall straight to one of their players.
We struggled to make anything happen and did very well to keep Greece out as they rained in 16 shots on our goal. So another 1-1 draw had us looking OK enough after a couple of games.
Nations League round 2
The next set of Nations League fixtures was hampered by several injuries, which saw even more young, untried players step up to the main squad.
Our first game of the second round was away to Russia and, bizarrely, the Russians offered me their job a couple of days before! It was an interesting offer but would just have been rude, so I rejected.
Russia were favourites and I feared the worst when striker Zaur Lunev waltzed in behind our defence to open the scoring inside 2 minutes. But we bounced back with Knudsen Brinksby setting up O’Riley to score his first goal for Denmark with a long-range screamer.
Lunev then put them ahead on 26 minutes after some terrible defending by Leverkusen left-back Kristian Hagelskjaer, who is supposedly our best player. But that man Knudsen Brinksby got us level 2 minutes later. This kid looks like a great find!
After a thrilling first half, barely anything happened in the second and we earned a third draw from three matches with a 2-2 in Moscow.
I changed up the tactics for a home game against Albania, moving to a 4-2-4 with Wing playing up top alongside Dolberg and Andreas Skov Olsen coming in on the right wing. And the new formation worked a treat as we got our first win as Denmark manager.
Knudsen Brinksby was at it again to finish off a brilliant team goal after 11 minutes. We dominated the first half and went in at the break 1-0 up. But Dolberg doubled the lead just after half-time then Skov Olsen finished things off with a brilliant long-range strike. A first win and still unbeaten.
Nations League round 3
We opened up the third lot of games with a dreadful first half in Greece but got back into it with a Wind goal in the second. But it wasn’t enough and we lost 2-1. And the same result came as we hosted Russia, with Fedor Chalov scoring twice in a minute but Voss Eslund came off the bench to get his first goal for his country in injury time.
That meant we finished 3rd, which clearly isn’t great, but the FA don’t care so it doesn’t really matter! What does matter is that we had loads of young players in the squad getting their first taste of international football.
Euro Qualifier group
Despite being 3rd seeds in the European Championship qualifying draw, we got handed a relatively decent group. We’ll be going up against Poland, Scotland, Faroe Islands, Kosovo and Malta, with only the top team qualifying and I think the second-placed sides go through to another round of games somewhere or other.
Join us next time as we push on into the European Championship qualifiers with Denmark!