Denmark 0-0 Tunisia: Cornelius miss sees spoils shared in Group D opener
Andreas Cornelius missed a golden chance as Tunisia claimed a hard-fought point in a battling 0-0 draw with Denmark at the World Cup.
Euro 2020 semi-finalists Denmark have been labelled by some as dark horses for glory in Qatar, but they were given a stern test by Tunisia.
With the backing of huge, vociferous support at Education City Stadium on Tuesday, Tunisia could easily have taken more from the Group D opener, with Kasper Schmeichel making a brilliant save to deny Issam Jebali in the first half.
Cornelius' miss from point-blank range summed up a frustrating day for Denmark, while Tunisia survived a late check for handball in the area against Yassine Meriah.
A positive Denmark start only further jeered up a fervent Tunisia crowd, which cheered Aissa Laidouni's full-blooded tackle on Christian Eriksen like a goal.
There seemed a real goal to revel in when Jebali got in behind and finished brilliantly, but the offside flag cut short Tunisia's celebrations.
Jebali stayed onside for the best opportunity of the half, with Schmeichel rushing out to make a wonderful save from the forward's chip.
After Andreas Skov Olsen had a goal disallowed for offside, Aymen Dahmen's superb save denied Christian Eriksen a spectacular strike, though Denmark should have been ahead from the resulting corner.
Substitute Cornelius somehow headed onto the post from less than a yard out, with Tunisia racing up the other end and claiming for a handball in the box by Joachim Andersen.
With those appeals falling on deaf ears, Tunisia seemed set to suffer a cruel blow when the ball hit Meriah's arm in stoppage time, but referee Cesar Arturo Ramos decided against awarding a penalty after consulting the pitch-side monitor.
What does it mean? Rare World Cup shutout gives Tunisia hope
France and Denmark are clear favourites to progress from Group D, which also includes Australia, but Tunisia held their own and, if they can find some quality in the final third, this point could prove invaluable.
Denmark missed their opportunity to put the pressure on France ahead of Les Bleus’ first match later on Tuesday, as they became the first team to fail to score in a World Cup match against Tunisia since West Germany in 1978.
Tunisia have a 12th man
Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand knew his country would be outnumbered off the pitch, though even he might not have anticipated just how passionate Tunisia's support were.
They chanted, cheered, jeered and whistled (anytime Denmark had the ball, which was a lot – they had 61.4 per cent possession) from kick-off through to full time.
With fans from the larger, particularly European, nations seemingly not having travelled en masse to Qatar, Tunisia's support might just prove crucial if they are to mount a run through the group.
Cornelius and Dolberg show where Danes need to improve
Kasper Dolberg only had one chance, and headed wide from it, before he made way for Cornelius in the 65th minute.
Yet Cornelius hardly proved an improvement, and his miss – which came from a chance with an expected goals (xG) of 0.90 (essentially a 90 per cent chance of a goal) – was a shocker.
Denmark have plenty of quality in defence and midfield, with Eriksen growing into the match as it wore on, but they are in need of improvement up top.
Key Opta Facts
Key Opta Facts:
- 15 of the 24 shots in this match between Denmark and Tunisia came via a corner situation – the most recorded in a single World Cup match since 1966.
- Eriksen created five goalscoring chances in this match, his highest total in a single World Cup match - while only one Danish player has created more in a single World Cup game (Michael Laudrup, 6 vs Nigeria in 1998).
- Eriksen became the third Danish player to participate in three editions of the World Cup (also Simon Kjaer and Martin Jørgensen), while he's the only Danish to play in the World Cup in his teens, twenties, and thirties.
- Denmark are the third team to draw four consecutive World Cup matches, after Belgium (five between 1998-2002) and Republic of Ireland (four in 1990).
Australia are next up for Tunisia in Saturday's early game, while Denmark face holders France later in the day.