Denmark went into the game knowing a point would seal their spot in the playoffs – unless Montenegro somehow managed to beat Poland by a decent margin, for Romania the game was a dead rubber, with no chance of qualification.
Denmark lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with only 2 changes to the team that beat Montenegro earlier on in the week. Nicklas Bendtner recalled to lead the line with Andreas Cornelius dropped to the bench, with Andreas Christensen coming into the side with Andreas Bjelland being the player dropped.
România used the game to experiment, playing a 4-4-1-1 with a total of 5 changes from their 3-1 win over Kazakhstan with Alexandru Baluta, Mihai Balasa, Nicolae Stanciu, Ovidiu Hoban and Ciprian Deac coming into the team for Alexandru Chipciu, Romario Benzar, Rzvan Marin, Mihai Pintilli and Gheorghe Grozav.
A Dire First Half
Forty-six minutes and 5 seconds read the clock as the referee blew the whistle for half-time. Of those 46 minutes, the ball was live (in-play and the game going) for roughly 30 minutes and 45 seconds. Of those 30 minutes and 45 seconds, the ball was above head height for roughly 5 minutes and 2 seconds, which is an astonishingly high figure. This led to such passages of play such as:
Both teams seemed reluctant to play a possession game, with each team largely content to smash the ball up the pitch, inevitably lose it, before seeing the other team smash it up the pitch back to them.
It was such a poor half, even the usually most reliable and consistent player on the pitch – Christian Eriksen could only muster a 67% pass success rate for the first half.
As the half went on, however, both teams seemed to settle in the game and play a bit more, but it was still 45 minutes I’m in a hurry to forget!
The Eriksen Show
Despite the largely poor first half, one man was the bright spark trying to make things happen – Christian Eriksen. The Tottenham playmaker has been invaluable to the Danish side during the qualification round, chipping in with 7 goals and 3 assists prior to the game against Romania, and it was again up to him to save the day with a penalty to ensure the Danes a point.
Eriksen’s eye for a pass, technique and ability to turn at the drop of a hat caused the Romanian midfield and defence all sorts of problems and was at the heart of everything the Denmark team created. Ovidiu Hoban who was playing as the deepest Romanian midfielder was assigned to man-mark him and Eriksen gave him a torrid time, sometimes pushing out to the flanks to help Pione Sisto or Youssef Poulsen yet often dropping deep – dragging Hoban out of position and allowing someone else to vacate his space in midfield as you can see in the video below (with Hoban then having to rapidly trackback).
Eriksen was unlucky not to get himself an assist as well, ending the match with 5 key passes and a pass success ratio of 78%, including this fantastic through-ball to play through Bendtner.
I’ve liked many of the Romanian players for a while and believe they have a good spine to the team with Vlad Chiriches, Stanciu and Florin Andone all good players, but I can’t help but feel they underachieved both in this game and in the entire qualification campaign. They ended the game against Denmark with just 2 shots on target and 34% possession (albeit not helped by a sending off with 27 minutes of the match left) and I can’t really remember them having a solid chance all game, bar the goal which in line with the rest of the match, was a bit scruffy and one to forget.