Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand believes the wave of emotive support that helped propel his side to the European Championship semifinals 18 months ago is still present and hopes to use it for the World Cup in Qatar.
Denmark bounced back from the shock of seeing midfielder Christian Eriksen suffer a heart attack in their opening game to reach the final four of the Euros, willed on by sympathetic support and a determined spirit.
“I think definitely it’s still here,” he told Reuters in a interview on Friday as Denmark prepared for their opening Group D game against Tunisia on Tuesday.
“When we went back after the Euros and started the World Cup qualification games, we didn’t know if it was only Euro football fever in Denmark. But it turned it was just football fever and it’s been crazy in Denmark ever since.”
Hjulmund said the team had played even better in the World Cup qualifiers which came after the Euros, and where Denmark won nine of 10 matches and were among the first teams to qualify for Qatar.
“I think we’re in a good position but you cannot just go on emotions and play. We will need to have quality on the pitch. I think that the football quality is there and we’re ready.”
But the coach does not believe his side are among the favourites, even after rising to 10th place in the FIFA rankings.
“The team is very, very good, but I don’t really think that we are up there with the very best. And it’s a quality thing in our team. We also saw at Wembley (in the Euros semi-final), where we played well but I think England were better,” he said.
“We have been discussing that a lot with the players and asking how can we try to get there? We’ve tried to make sure we are proactive and make sure that we have the right mindset and the toughness needed.”
Hjulmund agreed that underrated Tunisia could prove a tricky opponent.
“It’s a very difficult match. I have great respect for that match. They’re a very passionate team and they will have the whole crowd with them. We have to show professionalism otherwise we have problems,” he warned.
Denmark also meet France and Australia in their group.