(All photos courtesy of @dbulandshold on twitter)
Arguably one of the greatest performances in women’s football history is when Pernille Harder lead her team to a silver medal at the 2017 Euros. The last thing on people’s minds was Denmark making it that far but Harder is one of those players who can single-handedly change a game. Not only did she impact a game she changed the whole tournament. While Chelsea limited Harder’s ability to shine it’s clear she still has the same impact as shown through her performances in big games and on the national team. On the verge of a move to Bayern München, the once UEFA player of the year, will play in her first world cup, fighting to bring honor to her country.
As a former powerhouse in women’s football, many ask why this would be Harder’s first World Cup if she made her national team debut back in 2009. Denmark had to miss the World Cup in 2019, a time when Harder was at the pinnacle of her career. But she was willing to give up a chance at the world cup in order to fight for better pay and conditions within the national team. Before the protest, the women’s national team budget for pay was $375,000, which included staff. If the team only had the bare minimum of a 23-player squad, head coach, assistant coach, goalkeeper coach, and two physios, each person would earn about $13,000. For a team that won a silver medal at the Euros, it is a tragic amount. The team boycotted and refused to play one of their world cup qualifiers resulting in an automatic loss of three points and eventually a spot in the World Cup. The 2019 World Cup could have been drastically different with the inclusion of Harder. Who knows what the outcome could have been? History finally wrote itself when Messi became a world champion like many hoped he would, finally bringing glory to Argentina. Can history write itself again to allow Harder to finally return Denmark to its old glory days and win something for her country?
Coach: Lars Søndergaard
Søndergaard has a long history of managing football on a professional level. He’s been a manager for various teams since 1996 starting off in Aalborg BK’s youth teams. He took over Denmark’s women’s side in 2017 after their Euro run. He was given a contract till 2023. If the team managed to qualify for the World Cup he would be allowed to coach them in it. If Denmark fails to make it out of the group stages it’s likely Søndergaard won’t be extended any longer and Denmark would look to find a new coach. So far the only thing he has really done with the team is lead them to a Euro and World Cup qualification. He could not even lead them out of the Euro group stages; which despite a hard group was still expected of the team.
Goalkeepers: Lane Christensen (Rosenborg), Kathrine Larsen (Brøndby), Maja Bay Østergaard (FC Thy-Thisted Q)
Defenders: Luna Gevitz (Montpellier HSC), Stine Ballisager Padersen (Kanas City Current), Rikke Sevecke (Everton), Simone Boye Sørensen (Hammarby), Sofie Svava (Real Madrid), Frederikke Thøgersen (Inter Milan), Katrine Veje (Everton)
Midfielders: Josefine Hasbro (Harvard), Karen Holmgaard (Everton), Sofie Junge Pedersen (Juventus), Kathrine Møller Kühl (Arsenal), Emma Snerle (West Ham), Nicoline Sørensen (Everton), Janni Thomsen (Vålerenga), Sanne Troelsgaard Nielsen (Reading)
Forwards: Signe Brunn (Lyon), Mille Gejl (North Carolina Courage), Pernille Harder (Bayern München), Rikke Madsen (North Carolina Courage), Amalie Vangsgaard (Paris Saint-Germain)
Best player: Pernille Harder
Harder will always be remembered as one of the greats. Preferably she plays as a 10, but she can also play striker or on one of the wings. Many new fans may not be aware of the insane abilities Harder possesses largely due to Emma Hayes, the manager of Chelsea. Harder has consistently been played out of position and given fewer star roles since joining Chelsea. Every previous club Harder has played at built their team around her and just let her talents shine. While Chelsea has a very impressive squad no one quite compares to Harder and they potentially could have won even more if they were allowing her the freedom she needs to shine. But Harder is a team player first and foremost allowing others on Chelsea to shine, once again sacrificing her fame and glory for the good of her team.
If it wasn’t for Harder Wolfsburg wouldn’t have reached the Champions League final twice in her time there. Almost winning it for them by scoring a last-minute goal in the 2018 final against Lyon only to have Lyon score one minutes later. She’s as technically gifted as a Spanish player, having a very smooth first touch. She has the physicality of a German and is one of the greatest football minds the women's game has ever seen. She sees everything on the field and it’s apparent in her performances. Let’s hope to see this version of Harder at the World Cup.
Player to watch: Janni Thomsen
Some may remember Janni Thomsen and her absolute banger of a goal during a friendly against Brazil last year, but that’s not all there is to her. She’s a versatile player who likes to play on the right, whether that be on the wings or at right back. Last year she was voted as player of the season in the Norwegian Toppserien. She has continued her form from last season starting off the season with 11 assists in 16 matches. She will be an important piece to Denmark’s side whether she is starting back or further up the pitch.
Group stage head to head:
Denmark are in group D with England, Haiti, and China. Having the reigning European champions in their group is going to make things hard for Denmark. So it’s likely they will finish second. The last time these two teams played each other was in 2019 when England won 2-0. It’s likely England will win again. Haiti and Denmark have never played each other but this should end in an easy win for Denmark. China and Denmark have each beaten the other once. Both games ended in 1-0 results. This game will be crucial for Denmark as it could be the difference between moving on or going out the in the group stages.