- World Cup veteran Morten Wieghorst is now Denmark’s assistant coach
- The Danes have made a flawless, free-scoring begin to Qatar 2022 qualifying
- Wieghorst discusses their new-look crew and displays on his profession highlights
Morten Wieghorst was 15 when Danish Dynamite exploded on the worldwide stage. He watched, starry-eyed, as the trendy, fluid soccer of Laudrup, Lerby, Elkjaer and the Olsens illuminated the 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico™, profitable the hearts of neutrals in every single place.
A dream shaped as he noticed that crew plant Denmark’s flag on the soccer map, and was realised 12 years later when Wieghorst lined up alongside Laudrup, his evergreen idol, on the nation’s second World Cup. The Danes’ Class of ’98 have been a high-quality crew in their very own proper, had loved main-event successes, and finally outperformed their beloved predecessors by reaching the quarter-finals.
But Wieghorst is aware of now, as he did then, that outcomes alone don’t decide a crew’s standing and legacy. That’s why the previous midfielder has no hesitation in declaring these heroes of ’86 superior to his technology and the nation’s 1992 EURO winners, and is mirrored within the ethos he has introduced to his present job.
That job is No2 to Kasper Hjulmand, the coach who has led Denmark to three wins from three in Qatar 2022 qualifying – every extra spectacular than the final. An mixture rating of 14-0 in these matches displays that type has been now allied to solidity and, as Wieghorst instructed FIFA.com, this dynamic Danish crew heads to the EURO aiming not simply to compete, however entertain.
FIFA.com: Morten, three wins from three in World Cup qualifying, 14 targets scored and none conceded. Surely that’s that exceeded even your expectations?
It has. We’d selected rotating, altering the crew virtually fully from sport to sport, earlier than the group met up – simply due to the time of the season, the variety of video games and the distinctive circumstances of the previous yr. But though we felt it was the precise factor to do, you already know there’s a threat in altering ten gamers from one sport to one other. If we’d slipped up towards Moldova, that might have been the very first thing thrown at us. In the top although, it couldn’t actually have gone any higher as a result of we received a implausible efficiency, eight targets, and got here away from that sport with much more competitors for locations. The gamers who’d performed towards Israel noticed, ‘Ok, we really need to keep on our toes’ as a result of the others within the squad had are available in and completed an exceptionally good job. It created an incredible feeling too as a result of everybody went away happy with having performed their half in that implausible begin we have had. And it wasn’t simply the 14 targets scored and zero conceded – Kasper [Schmeichel] solely had two saves to make throughout all three video games. That undoubtedly exceeded our expectations.
The third match specifically, profitable 4-0 in Austria towards a crew anticipated to be one in all your closest challengers, raised a whole lot of eyebrows.
It was spectacular to us too as a result of we thought that sport in Vienna may effectively be our hardest in all the marketing campaign. And the primary half was tight. But we thought at that stage that, even with out enjoying our greatest, we had been comfy defensively. That’s at all times a very good base to construct from, and that construction and solidity we’ve taken over from Age Hareide and his employees, who did an incredible job in making Denmark very troublesome to break down. But we had a very good half-time chat and virtually from the beginning of the second half we have been significantly better on the ball. We regarded like we may rating each time we went ahead.
How have you ever and Kasper Hjulmand approached the job on condition that there wasn’t loads improper beneath Hareide, who had loved a very good file and certified Denmark for Russia 2018 and the upcoming EURO?
You’re completely proper to say that, and we have been very lucky that Age and Jon Dahl Tomasson had put in place a extremely nice basis for us to work on. The crew was effectively organised, arduous to beat and had been on a protracted unbeaten run. All the identical, at any time when there’s a change of employees, you may’t simply hold all the pieces because it was. It hasn’t been a revolution – removed from it – however there have been three or 4 factors that we needed to change within the enjoying type. Nothing large; simply tweaking particulars concerning the defensive aspect of the sport and concerning the positions we held in possession and how we needed to construct up the sport. The squad have embraced these adjustments very effectively.
Is it too simplistic to say that these adjustments add up to Denmark enjoying extra on the entrance foot, in a extra enticing, attacking type?
We attempt to press just a little bit larger than was beforehand the case however we are able to’t do this for 90 minutes and it’s about discovering the steadiness and deciding whenever you do it, and for the way lengthy. It’s been good to see, even towards one of the best groups – we performed Belgium within the Nations League, for instance – that we are able to press excessive like that and really feel comfy doing it. That makes us appear like we’re on the entrance foot, and it’s an incredible feeling for a crew to have. But it’s simpler stated than completed and you want to decide your moments as a result of when you press on the improper time, or within the improper approach, towards the likes of Belgium, they are going to kill you. It’s an incredible problem to get that steadiness proper although, and I feel Kasper is doing a implausible job in taking advantage of the dear time he has with the gamers on the coaching floor.
We’ve seen up to now how essential Christian Eriksen has been to Denmark. Is he nonetheless as central to the crew you’re constructing, or are you attempting to transfer away from being so reliant on him?
Christian is only a nice participant, and what’s been so essential to us from day one has been to get him into one of the best positions on the pitch to assist the crew. You have to get one of the best out of your high gamers and, with Christian – who is certainly one in all ours – we are able to see we’re transferring in the precise course.
Roles have been reversed whenever you and Kasper labored collectively at Nordsjaelland, as he was your assistant again then. How does the dynamic between the 2 of you’re employed now?
First and foremost, we get on very effectively. There’s huge respect between us and we all know one another’s personalities and strengths extraordinarily effectively. When I introduced Kasper in as my assistant, he already had head-coach expertise by then. And though there’s a distinction between the 2 roles – I’m experiencing that now too – when you really feel you’re a part of one thing that is sensible, and an incredible teaching crew, it may be an actual pleasure too. That’s undoubtedly the way in which it’s been for me.
How do your personalities mesh? You’re fairly a peaceful man; is he related or is there a distinction there?
We’re not that totally different. You nonetheless hear typically that it’s essential to have one calm man and one other who screams and shouts – the outdated good cop, dangerous cop routine. But I feel occasions have modified. Kasper doesn’t are available in shouting and bawling on the gamers at half-time, and he doesn’t want me doing that both. It’s all about motivating the group and, with this crew, I actually like and respect the truth that the gamers have been the primary to recognise in matches when issues aren’t going effectively. We’re there to assist them alongside the trail however, at half-time in Austria for instance, it was the gamers who noticed that issues weren’t going to plan in an attacking sense and wanted to be improved.
Having been to main tournaments with Denmark earlier than, how excited are you by the prospect of doing that once more?
Oh, very a lot so. We’re actually excited concerning the EURO arising, and all of the extra so now as we’ve been instructed that we’ll find a way to have no less than 12,000 followers contained in the Parken Stadium – and we have now three house video games within the group stage. I’m very excited concerning the World Cup too. I feel it’s going to be a particular one having the competitors concentrated in such a small space – it’s going to create such a implausible feeling. When it’s an enormous nation, all the pieces – and everybody – is unfold out extra. But having all of the matches, all of the groups, all of the followers, gathered in a small space will make this actually distinctive and particular – the sensation will probably be intensified. The World Cup, for me, continues to be the most important factor in soccer.
Given your love for the World Cup, was enjoying at France 98 the spotlight of your enjoying profession?
It’s up there, undoubtedly. There have been so many at membership degree with Celtic too, and different particular moments with the nationwide crew, like profitable the Intercontinental Championship (later renamed the FIFA Confederations Cup) in 1995. I additionally bear in mind in EURO 2000 qualifying, we had to win away to Italy to get via, went 2-0 down and got here again to win 3-2. That was superb. But the World Cup is at all times very particular.
You watched the nice Denmark crew at Mexico 86, and later you’d go on to play with the likes of Michael Laudrup. What was that have like?
That was such an enormous factor for me as a result of that crew, for my part no less than, was Denmark’s greatest ever. That entire interval was so vital as a result of the Eighties was the primary time that we’d proven that Denmark may compete towards one of the best on the earth. As for Michael, he was my hero rising up, so to get the prospect to play alongside him – and then later beneath him in his first teaching job, and engaged on his teaching crew at Swansea – was so particular for me. It was one thing I couldn’t have dreamt of rising up and I really feel very privileged. For me, he’s nonetheless Denmark’s biggest-ever participant.
You point out the Intercontinental Cup win you had, and Denmark had gained the EURO only a few years earlier than. Is it your ambition to have the crew difficult for trophies once more?
It’s definitely what we dream about. To anticipate it’s a totally different matter as a result of we’re a nation of 5.5 million people, so we’re by no means going to begin any event as favourites. Winning is what we work for and what we play for. But a very powerful factor is to go so far as we probably can and additionally, I really feel, to make people stop and watch. The ’86 crew is a superb instance of that as a result of, regardless that they didn’t win the event, they’re cherished and revered as Denmark’s biggest as a result of they entertained and had the world watching.