Belfast Telegraph

Denmark join France in progressing from Group C after dull draw in Moscow

The Group C decider will not live long in the memory.

Denmark and France played out one of the less memorable games of Russia 2018 so far but a 0-0 draw will have pleased both sides’ coaches and fans.

The point was enough to give France top spot in Group C and Denmark came into the game knowing a point would guarantee them a last-16 spot.

As it happened, Australia’s defeat by Peru meant they could have lost this game and still advanced but they now march on and are 18 games unbeaten.

You can often tell the quality of a match at a packed stadium by when the first Mexican wave starts: 21 minutes was the answer here and it was probably overdue.

But then this entire World Cup has been overdue a stinker and this game had all the ingredients.

One side already qualified and looking to rest and rotate? Tick. The other side happy with a point to qualify? Tick. Two sides with good defensive records but not quite clicking up front? Tickety-tick.

And the clues were all there in the starting line-ups.

Didier Deschamps bristled at the suggestion that making too many changes would weaken his side when asked about it on Monday, but resting the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba certainly made them less fun.

Denmark’s Age Hareide lined his team up in a 4-3-3 formation only for closer inspection to reveal that Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen was in central midfield and those three up front could soon become a lonely Andreas Cornelius if the wide players joined Christensen in a five-man fence.

Of course, a France team including the expensive talents of Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann and Thomas Lemar could be expected to find some holes in said fence; instead they got in each other’s way, fell over too much and generally looked a bit confused by Deschamps’ 4-2-3-1 system.

The only notable drama in the opening hour came from a couple of VAR shouts.

The first came when Denmark’s Martin Braithwaite went down in the box after a lively burst but VAR HQ was able to whisper in referee Sandro Ricci’s ear that he was right to suspect that the Dane had fallen over.

Ten minutes later, France full-back Lucas Hernandez had a better claim when Brentford’s Henrik Dalsgaard got a lot of boot when he slid in to block a shot after a nice one-two with Oliver Giroud. Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel clawed the shot wide and Ricci and VAR settled for the corner.

Apart from that, there was lots of sideways passing from France and some nice, meaty challenges from Denmark. But absolutely no quality in the final third.

Denmark’s best player Christian Eriksen put in a fine shift but his team-mates simply could not get him the ball in the attacking third.

The situation was not helped by Group C’s other match, where the men from Down Under were down after 18 minutes. Australia would be no help to the neutrals in the 78,000-strong crowd.

Deschamps tried to enliven proceedings by putting on Mbappe and Nabil Fekir late on but even their creative talents could not shift this game’s destiny to be the dullest of draws.

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