Denmark finish as 2017’s Best Mover in FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking
Danes reached 2018 FIFA World Cup via play-offs
Age Hareide’s side went unbeaten in calendar year
Denmark and Age Hareide will be wholly satisfied with 2017. The Scandinavian outfit secured a return to the FIFA World Cup™ for the first time since 2010 and went unbeaten throughout the calendar year. As a result, they picked up the title of Best Mover in the FIFA Coca-Cola World Ranking, seeing an increase in points of 456, ending the year in 12th place having concluded 2016 down in 46th.
FIFA.com takes a look back at the key factors in Denmark’s dynamic year.
Christian Eriksen has long been a key player for the Danes, but his importance to them was put into sharp global focus with his contribution during World Cup qualifying. The Tottenham Hotspur schemer registered 11 goals throughout the campaign – including a crucial hat-trick in the play-off against Republic of Ireland – meaning only Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo scored more in the European qualifying section. He grabbed nine goals in nine games for Denmark throughout a stellar 2017.
“I think mentally I’ve grown up. I’m thinking more like a striker. With the change of the manager, it has meant a lot for how we play, my position and how we keep me involved.”
Norwegian Age Hareide took the Danish reins in 2016. Pitted into a tough group alongside Poland, Montenegro and Romania, the Danes rallied after two defeats in their opening three games to finish second and qualify via the play-offs. The former Norway national team coach’s ability to get the best out of Eriksen while making the rest of the team greater than the sum of its parts were seen as key factors in Denmark reaching Russia.
“For us, I think it’s the ability we have to play in different ways. We have a physical presence up front but we also have players with good technical ability. The extraordinary skills of Christian Eriksen give us something extra in that respect.”
Denmark 4-0 Poland (World Cup qualifier, 1 September 2017)
It was a mismatch in every sense of the word. Poland were ranked fifth in the August edition of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, with Denmark down in 46th. More pertinently, in World Cup qualifying Group E, the Poles were unbeaten, sat atop the standings with five wins from six matches while Denmark were third, and in real danger of failing to make the play-offs. Then Hareide’s men ran riot in Copenhagen.
Thomas Delaney and Andreas Cornelius’s goals before half time were compounded by Nicolai Jorgensen and Eriksen’s efforts after the break to seal a shock result, not just in terms of the win, but the style and comfort with which the Danes earned it. The victory was the most profitable in terms of ranking points for Denmark in 2017 (1448 points) and was also the catalyst for Eriksen and Co to finish second and reach Russia via the play-offs.
Christian Eriksen’s first goal v Republic of Ireland (14 November 2017)
After going a goal down in a bubbling cauldron of an atmosphere in Dublin, the Danes were up against it and behind on aggregate in their World Cup qualifying play-off against the Republic of Ireland. A somewhat fortuitous equaliser followed, but there was no luck involved with Eriksen’s first goal of his hat-trick, which set the tone for the rest of the game.
Yussuf Poulsen’s pressure saw the Danes recover the ball in their own half, and after sending the ball infield to Nicolai Jorgensen, the Danish No9 in turn teed up Eriksen on the edge of the Irish box. The Tottenham man curled a beautiful effort in off the crossbar to send the Danes delirious and set them on their way to Russia.