The summer is a hot, humid season that can turn the sanest of humans into downright monsters. Decisions are rushed, tempers are tested, and clashes are escalated. Every four years, this season plays host to an epic battle between 32 nations: the FIFA World Cup. Yet, Denmark were never rushed, never temperamental in their quest for glory. And on the night of their departure from the world stage, we thank them. Our heroes of the night.
Thank you for all of the glory, you will be remembered.
Thank you to all of the heroes of the night.
They gotta repeat the coloUrs, the lie is wearin’ off.
Reality is upon us, colors drippin’ off.
Colors drippin’ off.
— Kanye West: Violent Crimes
The Round of 16 encounter with Croatia was a duel to be remembered for its moments, not its excitement. The goal by Mathias “Zanka” Jørgensen before the clock struck 1:00. The quick reply by Croatia, beating down the Danish elation like a chef rolling dough. Kasper Schmeichel’s miraculous penalty save in the second half of extra time, just minutes before an eventual penalty shootout.
A trio of saves by Danijel Subašić to deny Denmark a World Cup quarter-final with a great chance of progressing beyond that.
These memorable actions will overshadow the nearly two hours of lack of…anything really. Denmark implemented their traditional, pragmatic style. Take your opportunities when they come, but rarely venture out of position to the point of major risk. Luckily for the Danish, Croatia’s technical midfield were off their game and failed to create much of anything on the other end.
The early goals were just about the worst thing to happen from a neutral view. Croatia had been exposed early on via a Jonas Knudsen long throw. Knudsen was taking part in his competitive debut for Denmark, with only three prior friendly caps, somewhat of a strange selection choice by Åge Hareide. It paid off beyond the early goal, as the drained Knudsen would jog across the width of the pitch to take throw ins to test Croatia’s defence for 120 minutes.
Croatia found a hole early on, before the fourth minute in fact, but failed to exploit it with an accurate cross. The clearance was wayward, but fortune was on Mario Mandžukić’s side. The striker pivoted and volleyed the football onto the turf, watching it bounce into an exposed side of the goal.
Christian Eriksen acted as Denmark’s driving force but wasn’t able to create anything clear-cut. A lofted cross/shot (shloss?) pinged off the woodwork, but the number ten’s notable contribution will be his missed penalty as the shootout commenced. Pione Sisto’s extra time emergence from the substitute bench breathed life into a match desperately crying for it, but his dazzling dribbling and quick runs seemed to leave his opponents and teammates behind him.
Like the earlier match in the day, neither side was able to break the 1-1 score after two hours. Schmeichel – fresh off a victorious bout with the world’s best midfielder, Luka Modrić – was unable to prevent anyone besides Milan Badelj from scoring in the penalty shootout. Eriksen, Lasse Schöne, and Nicolai Jørgensen had their shots saved, condemning Denmark to a hard-fought defeat.
The Croats emerged from the group stage as the strongest team in Russia, perhaps besides Belgium, so a defeat at their hands is nothing to be down about. It’s their best finish since 2002, when the Danish Dynamite made it to the same stage. The conservative style displayed in Russia this summer means that they won’t stay long in the memories of everyone, but the Danish mentality, teamwork, and determination over the past few weeks is a lesson to everyone.
The lie of Denmark’s pragmatic success wore off in Nizhny Novgorod. Reality imposed itself and proved too strong, melting the red and white colour off the backs of the Danes with the tears of 5.7 million. So close they could barely taste it, but just too far away.
For instilling the keyboard code for “Å” in my mind forever, I thank you. For your controlled disregard of the modern footballing style, we thank you. For being written off as a one-man show and proving that teamwork and intelligence breeds success, the world thanks you.
Thank you, Denmark. Tak, Danmark.