UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Højbjerg's freedom epitomises fluid Denmark

Denmark coach Jess Thorup allows talismanic midfielder Pierre Højbjerg "to do what he thinks is best", an approach reflected throughout his tactically astute squad.

Pierre Højbjerg celebrates at the final whistle on Tuesday
Pierre Højbjerg celebrates at the final whistle on Tuesday ©Sportsfile

There was a moment during the 2-0 defeat of Serbia that Denmark's defensive midfielder was playing sweeper, the No10 as a target man and the striker as a playmaker. Nobody could accuse Jess Thorup and his side of being predictable.

Højbjerg’s freedom …
Pierre Højbjerg is the No10 in question. The Bayern München man's absence on matchday two – a 3-0 defeat by Germany – only served to prove "just how much influence he has on the side" according to Andreas Kraul, in the Czech Republic as a commentator for Danish television. Højbjerg was back with a bang on Tuesday, drifting wide – he started the move for Rasmus Falk's opener from out on the left – dropping deep and pressing high up. Playmaker, talisman and heartbeat all wrapped into one.

"He just wants to be on the ball and to dictate the play," said coach Jess Thorup. "Pierre has the freedom to do what he thinks is best and the players around him fill the space. Sometimes he drops deep and sometimes he is up front – that's the kind of player he is, he can do everything." Højbjerg himself, who has seven senior caps, added: “Normally with the A team I play No6, but now I play No10. This is all about getting the ball, finding the space and keeping the play moving."

Denmark's crossbar challenge

Jønsson's unique role …
Man of the match against Serbia was Jens Jønsson, a player who Thorup says was "discussed more by the media than any other" when his 23-man squad was named. Playing in front of two central defenders as composed on the ball as Jannik Vestergaard – a man who exudes authority even when walking through the media interview area after a game – and Andreas Christensen means a very special responsibility for Denmark's No19.

"I drop back to create space for the two centre-backs when we have the ball," said Jønsson. "[Thorup] wants to outnumber the opposition attack when we have possession so it's easier to bring the ball forward and set up our attacks. It's up to me to take the ball and draw in the opponent so the other players have more space. Once they play it I start moving up again. It creates more space on the pitch for us to use."

Thorup added: “We have confidence in him doing that whenever we have the ball. He played very well [against Serbia] in defence and in helping us to start to counterattack. He drops back to create space for the other defenders; everyone has the right to pick up the ball from deep and start the play from there."

Five of the best group stage goals

Game management ...
Such flexibility is all well and good in theory, but it requires a group of tactically astute and intelligent players to pull it off. Thorup may want his side to be "even cleverer if they want to go all the way", but this is a mature team who are already "not easy to shut down because the players move around and change positions so much".

Højbjerg said: "We have some very clever players who know how things work. We are very flexible and open-minded in what we do." Perhaps the neatest description of this Denmark outfit's style came from Jønsson, who described them as a team who "know how to take the temperature of a game". They are certainly warming up here in the Czech capital.