Denmark vs Portugal

Denmark would set up in a tight defensive structure, designed to flood the central areas of the field and attack through moments of transition. A style that had served them so well at Euro 92.

On this occasion however they would have Michael Laudrup in attack alongside brother Brian, both of whom were pivotal in everything Denmark would do going forward. Brian was perhaps the stronger performer of the two in this match, taking up a wide position but moving laterally when in possession in an attempt to find spaces inside Portugals fluid 442.

Brian Steen Nielsen complimented the central midfield play of Michael Laudrup, providing necessary support underneath the ball as it entered the final third.

Thomas Helveg was certainly the more attacking of the wing backs, later in the match he was given more license to move forward and provide deliveries into the box.

Denmark Starting X1

Portugal Head Coach Antonio Oliveira implemented a very fluid 442 shape, that at times would morph into a box or a diamond in midfield. The movements of the strikers were far more contemporary than most at the tournament, working to combine with the wide players as well as penetrate the Denmark back line.

Luis Figo Rui Costa would cover most of the inside left positions, firstly to pick up the ball & link the play forward, but also we saw many attacking dribbles which finished with a shot on goal. Dimas supported Figo with much of Portugals attacking width on that wing, moving forward with lots of attack intent.

Sa Pinto and Santos operated in a similar fashion to the left side pairing, however would work more in tandem to cover both the inside and outside channels in an effort to disrupt Denmarks defensive shape when covering for Michael Laudrup.

Oceano and Sousa performed pivotal roles in the central midfield, serving as the axis point in which to move the ball laterally, but also to cover for the very attack minded wide men who were often left forward in transition. Helder and Couto were also equally comfortable in possession, confident and assured in starting attacks from the back.

Portugal Starting X1


Value of Chances

Looking at Portugal’s timeline we see a gradual separation in xG from Denmark, especially so between the 25th & 65th minute. During this time we saw them record 3 chances with significant probability, all of which went by without a goal. When Portugal’s equalizer did finally arrive in the 52nd minute, it would actually lead to a mini resurgence from Denmark, yet both sides were unable to find a winner despite numerous chances on goal.

Given Denmark’s tactical approach within the match, the early goal gave them something to protect & use as a spring board to create more counter attacks should Portugal press forward in search of an equalizer. In the first half Denmark were far more consistent with their attacking, however the value of these attacks were in stark contrast to their opponents. In the second half they saw their attacks form into two clusters (early part & latter part) however the value of these chances would increase significantly, returning almost 3 times the expected goals value.

Type of Chances Created

As mentioned previously Denmark were set up to stay in a compact defensive shape & break forward on the counter attack, which was instantly evident when scanning the data. From the 13 attacks on goal 6 of them were from counter attacks, however less impressive was that they returned only 1 of the 6 on target. Interestingly this one chance that would land on target was from a forward press, coming from Mikkel Beck pressing Vitor Baia and deflecting a block into the path of Brian Laudrup who would apply the finish. Perhaps this shift in pressing is something we will see more of later in the tournament?

Portugal’s possession based approach was translated into their attacking stats, with 11 of their 20 attacks coming from build up play & 10 key passes (The action which created the attack) coming from a short pass. If we look at the outcome of these 11 build up play attacks we see that only two landed on target, a statistic which further underlines Portugal’s lack of quality in front of goal throughout the match.

Where Chances are Created

Denmark’s chance creation saw almost an even split between inside & outside of the box attacks, with the most notable stat being all 7 of their attacks from outside the box failed to test Vitor Baia. Of the remaining 6 attacks from inside the 18, 4 were registered in the central part of the box. “The golden zone”, as its often referred, is naturally the most optimal area in which to score a goal, however of the 4 attacks only 1 was on target. All of this illustrates the downside of counter attack play, which is often very situational & dependent on the pressure surrounding the ball when it enters the final portion of the phase. In many situations the Portuguese defense handled the attacks well, in others the Danish attack was just off the pace. Overall we see how the approach can work, it can bring important goals but perhaps isnt always able to bring about the quality that controlled attack play might.

Almost 2/3 of Portugal’s 20 attacks came from outside the box, which adds further credence to how well Denmark did in defending the Portuguese forwards. They saw 6 attacks overall blocked at source, and a further 9 missed the target completely after being pressed. Whille there was disparity in where the chances would take place, the outcome was largely similar, with only 5 attacks total (3 inside & 2 outside) hitting the target. Once again it underlines for all Portugals control their inability to consistently test the keeper proved problematic.

Who Created Chances

Brian Laudrup was the strongest statistical performer for Denmark as he was involved in 3 attacks on goal, 2 key passes, and of course scoring what would be a point winning goal. His key strength was progressing the ball forward in transition via positive dribbles, however it also provided Denmark with an outlet to allow their defensive unit some respite & move further away from their own goal.

Rui Costa was the unrivaled winner of the best Portuguese attacker, returning 4 attacks with an xG of 0.2 and 4 key passes. His overall quality is extremely high given the variation of attack play he was involved in (regular attacks, counters, set plays & build up) so it will be interesting to see how his future opponents react to this impressive first outing.

Match Predictor

Using our very own Retro Football Analysis Match Simulator, we use the probability rating of each attack to calculate the odds of the matches outcome. Here are the results we got back.

Our verdict:

Portugal created enough big chances to win this match a few times over, so it’s no surprise the RFA Predictor returns this result. It also underlines how happy Denmark will be to have taken a point from the game, and keeps them in the hunt for progressing out the group.  

About the Author

Picture of Alistair Bain

Alistair Bain

Alistair is a native of Hamilton, Scotland, and an A License qualified coach with vast experience in the football industry. Currently residing in Charlotte, North Carolina, Alistair's resume includes a variety of roles within football clubs in Scotland, England, and the United States.

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