Three players of Denmark’s squad for the Qatar World Cup were from one of the Premier League’s newest competitors, Brentford. Mathias Jensen, Mikkel Damsgaard and Christian Nørgaard all graced the surface of football’s biggest event for their nation. Whilst the Danish were tipped to be the tournament’s ‘dark horses’, the Euro 2020 semi-finalists crashed out of Group D, bringing only a single point back to their country. The Brentford Danes though, now just have three weeks until they’re back in Premier League action against Tottenham Hotspur.
As the Bee’s look to gain their first top-ten finish from England’s top flight, here’s how some of their stars fared in their final game of the Qatar World Cup.
Denmark’s loss to Australia may have sent them home from a World Cup after three games for the first time since 2010, but throughout the first half they looked favourites to progress. Martin Braithwaite had serval chances to pull the trigger whilst Andreas Skov Olsen looked a major threat from the right-hand channel. But at the heart of their dominance before the break, was Mathias Jensen.
Jensen was deployed within a midfield three of Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and former Brentford teammate Christian Eriksen. Whilst Højbjerg was instructed to sit deep and protect the Danes’ back-line, Jensen was clearly the most advanced out of the trio, making constant forward runs and linking up with the attackers. Meanwhile, Eriksen was allowed to just stand off from the attack, as a maestro to the build-up.
As a progressive central-midfielder, Jensen looked to the propel the ball forward every time he received or latched onto a pass. Similarly, to his style in England, the 26-year-old Brentford Danes first instinct was to unlock his sides’ attack with quick, unexpected passes. Five minutes from kick-off, Jensen intercepted a miss-controlled pass and before he even made contact with the ball, looked up and assessed his options. After he immediately passed to Braithwaite, moments later, Jensen run and shot at the near post almost opened the scoring for his nation. A fine example of how Jensen can instantly transform from a progressor of the ball, to another option in the box.
The Brentford Dane that was a former Celta Vigo man also showed his ability to instantly transition a passive piece of play into a goal scoring opportunity. 11 minutes into the match, Jensen spotted a pass coming into Braithwaite and launched himself in behind the Aussie defence, knowing full well his teammate would chip the ball into his path to send him one on one with Matthew Ryan. Once in the box, Jensen eventually forced a good save from the former Arsenal goalkeeper, but the chance would never have occurred, if he didn’t have the awareness to create something out of nothing.
Jensen’s weakness in his first ever World Cup start however, was his tendency to release the ball too much and too quickly after receiving it. In one instance towards the end of the first half, Jensen had the chance to feed a loose ball back to his defence and regain possession. Instead, he opted to try and flick a pass behind him without even looking for his target. At the time, it seemed extremely irregular for the number seven when compared to the previous portion of the game. However, as he etched closer to his eventual substation in the 59th minute, this pattern repeated itself.
The mistakes from the first Brentford Dane could have been repaired if he kept a level head and reminded himself of the patience required in these high-pressure moments. Either side of half-time though, Jensen began to fling his arms to the sky in frustration, whenever he couldn’t successfully progress Denmark’s play. Whilst this does portray his passion for attacking football, Denmark needed someone at the centre of the team to keep their head. In the end, Hjulmand had seen enough, and replaced Jensen with his Bretford colleague in Mikkel Damsgaard. Whilst Jensen walked away from Qatar with life-long memories, only managing 60 minutes in his nation’s most important match of the tournament, left a sour taste to what started out as a fantastic performance.
Denmark were in desperate need of someone to re-spark the fire of their attack when Hjulmand decided Jensen needed to be replaced. The Euro 2020 semi-finalists had produce some great opportunities, but Australia were starting to pull the match in their favour. Damsgaard was chosen from the Danish bench but just a minute after he entered the pitch, Matthew Leckie struck an opener for the Aussie’s and tripled the pressure now on 22-year-olds shoulders.
Unlike Jensen, Hjulmand seemed to have instructed the final Brentford Dame to follow a similar role to Eriksen, which awarded no benefit to his country. The beauty of Jensen’s performance in the first half was how involved in the attack he was, springing a chance out of thin air and making dangerous runs into the box. Damsgaard though, sat off the attack on almost every occasion, waiting for his chance to full for him rather than going after it.
Denmark’s strongest chance of the second half fell to Kaspar Dolberg in 88th minute. The current Sevilla striker should have shot as soon as Jesper Linstrom poked him into space, but Dolberg hesitated and wasted the opportunity. Meanwhile, Damsgaard could be seen on the other of Australia’s box, floating around and waiting for a chance. However, not once did the number 14 change his pace or tried to engage with play as it as building. He simply watched from a distance.
Jensen had been replaced with a player that offered none of his qualities shown in the first half. Whilst Hjulmand would have intended to strengthen his side with more quality, the attitude from his substitute significantly hindered the aggression in Denmark’s attack. This Brantford Dane was merely but a shadow of the player who scored that stunning free-kick England last year.
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For Thomas Frank, hopefully, the eventual poor performances from Jensen and Damsgaard will have been worked out of them by the time Brentford host Tottenham Hotspur on Boxing Day, whilst Christian Nørgaard was left on the bench against the Socceroos.
Jensen finished his Qatar World Cup disappointingly and struggled to sustain his impact on the match as he has done throughout the current Premier League season. Perhaps the occasion got to him. Maybe when it was dawning on him that his country was losing control over Australia, the frustration interfered too much with his concentration. Nevertheless, if Brentford are to continue move up within the intensity of the Premier League, Jensen will have to leave his recent international troubles behind him.
There was a reason Damsgaard was so highly sort after by Brentford after the Euros and an impressive career in Italy and Denmark. It was not his direct goal-scoring (having only scored 15 in his career) but it was for his attacking creativity. An attacking creativity he didn’t show when it mattered for his nation. If he wants to continue at Brentford for the future, he’ll need to relight the ambition he showed at Euro 2020 or he might find himself behind Josh Dasilva at Brentford. Or even, Jensen himself.
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