2018 Slovakia v Denmark football match
The 2018 Slovakia v Denmark football match was an international friendly association football match between the senior national teams of Slovakia and Denmark. The match took place on 5 September 2018 at the Anton Malatinský Stadium in Trnava, Slovakia. Due to a dispute with the Danish players' union regarding commercial rights, the Danish Football Union replaced the regular national squad, which had not lost a match in nearly two years, with an entirely uncapped squad consisting of semi-professional and amateur players from the third, fourth and fifth tiers of the Danish football league system, as well as futsal players. Despite the vast inexperience of the Danish players, and having only been called up 48 hours prior, the match only finished as a 3–0 win for Slovakia. The Danish team were praised for their performance in avoiding humiliation, especially futsal goalkeeper Christoffer Haagh, who made seven saves during the match.
|Date||5 September 2018|
|Venue||Anton Malatinský Stadium, Trnava|
|Referee||Julian Weinberger (Austria)|
23 °C (73 °F)
The fixture was the first match for Denmark since the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, where they were eliminated in the round of 16 by Croatia in a penalty shoot-out following a 1–1 draw after extra time. As the match is counted as a draw for statistical purposes, Denmark were undefeated in official matches since 11 October 2016, when they lost to Montenegro in World Cup qualifying. The Danish team were tied for 9th in the FIFA World Rankings prior to the match, while Slovakia were ranked 26th. The match was the third meeting between Slovakia and Denmark.
Following the World Cup, the national team agreement between the Danish players' union (Spillerforeningen) and the Danish Football Union (DBU) had expired on 31 July 2018, and a new one was undergoing negotiations since the start of the year. On 20 August 2018, Denmark national team manager Åge Hareide named a squad of 21 players for their friendly match against Slovakia and opening UEFA Nations League match against Wales, taking place on 5 and 9 September 2018 respectively. The squad, which later had two more players added on 28 August, largely featured regulars of the national team. However, negotiations between the players' union and the DBU for a new national team agreement had stalled, largely over issues related to the commercial image rights of the players. The dispute arose as Hummel had the exclusive right to the manufacture and marketing of Danish kits. The DBU wanted to use individual players, without explicit permissions, in their advertising. After failing to meet the last deadline of 31 August 2018, the negotiations were suspended at the start of September. The DBU offered to extend the previous agreement for the September 2018 matches, thus allowing for the negotiations to be completed after the international window. The DBU wanted to avoid fines and possible exclusion by UEFA for failing to play their two scheduled September 2018 matches. The DBU were under a four-year probationary period with UEFA for having forfeited a Women's World Cup qualifying match against Sweden in 2017 due to a similar dispute with the women's team, and a further violation could have resulted in Denmark being prohibited from participation in either the Nations League or the UEFA Euro 2020. After no extension agreement could be reached by the evening of 2 September, the Danish Football Union confirmed on 3 September that a new squad and manager would be announced for the upcoming national team matches.
It is a deeply regrettable situation we are in. Both for the team, fans and for everyone in Danish football. We had hoped that the players would show up when we offered them the same fees, bonuses, paid insurance and better conditions in terms of aircraft, food and treatment. Now we are working on getting the best possible players to play the two matches for Denmark. It is crucial for the future of Danish football. If the matches are not played, we risk huge fines and exclusions for both national teams – and Danish football will return to the Stone Age in many extents.— Claus Bretton-Meyer, administrative director of the DBU
On 4 September, the DBU announced an entirely uncapped squad to play in the friendly against Slovakia in lieu of the regular side. The DBU had decided to wait in announcing the team until the plane had left Danish soil, and airport staff had blocked to the view of the plane using two fire engines to prevent photographs being taken by the press. The search for a replacement squad was complicated by the fact that many of the players in Denmark's first and second divisions were also members of the players' union. Several players from the first division had expressed interest in playing for the team, though all later withdrew their statement due to fears over the pressure of potential harassment they would be subjected to. The replacement team consisted of a mixture of futsal players from the Denmark national team, and semi-professional and amateur players from the third, fourth and fifth tiers of Danish football league system. The team was assembled only 48 hours prior to the match. It was feared that the same squad would be used for the competitive Nations League fixture against Wales four days later. National team coach Hareide would similarly not be involved, with the side instead falling under the temporary management of John Jensen, a member of Denmark's UEFA Euro 1992 winning squad, with Hasse Kuhn serving as the assistant manager. Jensen had not met any of the players prior to travelling for the away match. In a news conference, Jensen said, "I had to start from scratch and ask each player his name and which position he plays on the field."
Expectations for Denmark were low due to the team's inexperience and lack of preparation, and because of Slovakia's full-strength side. Due to the weakened Danish selection, the entrance fee for the match were reduced to €1, and those who bought tickets in advance received a refund. The Slovak Football Association urged UEFA to review the situation and take appropriate action. Slovakia manager Ján Kozák was frustrated by Denmark's team selection, and said they would not have scheduled the fixture had they known in advance.
We were looking forward to Denmark, the team has high quality, and our fans were looking forward... It is a team from the last 16 of the World Cup, it should be a challenge. The situation has changed, we do not know who will come... What is the point of sending this team to meet us? Does Denmark just want to avoid a fine? So that they don't have problems with UEFA? Is it possible for these players to return to the line-up to represent their country? It bothers me. From a sporting perspective, this match will not give us anything. We could have spent our time better if we had known this before. But we have to respect that they will start as the Danish national team.— Ján Kozák, Slovakia national team manager
We don't need to talk about that, it doesn't matter what players come. We know why we came here. We need to prepare for the duel with Ukraine, the match against Denmark will be important for us. We will focus on ourselves. For the third-league Danish players, it will be a great experience to play against footballers such as Hamšík, Lobotka, Škriniar. It's hard to judge, we don't really know what's going on. It's good that the players stand up for themselves, but on the other hand it is to the detriment of our national team match. It could have been a good match for them, for us and for the audience, but unfortunately it will be different. Strange and sad.— Martin Škrtel, Slovakia national team captain
The age listed for each player is on 5 September 2018, the day of the match. The numbers of caps and goals listed for each player are those prior to the match.
Manager: Ján Kozák
Denmark original squad
Manager: Åge Hareide
Denmark called up 24 players for the friendly match, replacing the originally selected squad.
Manager: John Jensen
|No.||Pos.||Player||Date of birth (age)||Caps||Goals||Club|
|1||GK||Christoffer Haagh||17 February 1987 (aged 31)||0||0||Jægersborg Boldklub|
|16||GK||Morten Bank||19 November 1996 (aged 21)||0||0||Boldklubben Avarta|
|22||GK||Victor Vobbe Larsen||7 June 1995 (aged 23)||0||0||Tarup-Paarup IF|
|3||DF||Nicolai Johansen||24 February 1994 (aged 24)||0||0||Vanløse IF|
|4||DF||Christian Bannis||4 January 1992 (aged 26)||0||0||Tarup-Paarup IF|
|5||DF||Mads Bertelsen||18 December 1994 (aged 23)||0||0||Tarup-Paarup IF|
|6||DF||Daniel Nielsen||1 May 1995 (aged 23)||0||0||Vanløse IF|
|12||DF||Kasper Skræp||26 February 2000 (aged 18)||0||0||Tarup-Paarup IF|
|20||DF||Christian Bommelund Christensen||3 September 1989 (aged 29)||0||0||Jægersborg Boldklub|
|DF||Victor Hansen||19 November 1997 (aged 20)||0||0||Frederikssund IK|
|2||MF||Simon Vollesen||26 January 1998 (aged 20)||0||0||IF Skjold Birkerød|
|7||MF||Kasper Kempel||16 April 1994 (aged 24)||0||0||Skovshoved IF|
|8||MF||Rasmus Johansson||4 April 1995 (aged 23)||0||0||Hellerup IK|
|9||MF||Oskar Høybye||29 November 1996 (aged 21)||0||0||Vanløse IF|
|10||MF||Rasmus Gaudin||19 August 1995 (aged 23)||0||0||Vanløse IF|
|13||MF||Adam Fogt||4 September 1993 (aged 25)||0||0||Kastrup Boldklub|
|14||MF||Christopher Jakobsen||14 September 1994 (aged 23)||0||0||Hillerød Fodbold|
|18||MF||Anders Hunsballe||12 September 1992 (aged 25)||0||0||Greve Fodbold|
|19||MF||Kevin Jørgensen||20 February 1987 (aged 31)||0||0||Jægersborg Boldklub|
|11||FW||Christian Offenberg (captain)||30 November 1987 (aged 30)||0||0||Boldklubben Avarta|
|15||FW||Troels Cillius Nielsen||12 May 1997 (aged 21)||0||0||IF Skjold Birkerød|
|17||FW||Anders Fønss||20 June 1988 (aged 30)||0||0||Tarup-Paarup IF|
|21||FW||Louis Veis||16 July 1992 (aged 26)||0||0||Jægersborg Boldklub|
|23||FW||Daniel Holm||7 March 1995 (aged 23)||0||0||Skovshoved IF|
- Christian Bannis: worker at insurance company
- Christian Bommelund Christensen: carpenter
- Adam Fogt: political science student
- Anders Fønss: warehouse worker and boat mechanic
- Christoffer Haagh: administrative worker and owner of a goalkeeping company
- Rasmus Johansson: internet freestyle footballer
- Kevin Jørgensen: prison guard
- Victor Vobbe Larsen: newspaper salesman
- Christian Offenberg: part-time salesman
- Kasper Skræp: secondary school student
- Simon Vollesen: student
Adam Nemec opened the scoring for Slovakia in the 11th minute of the match with a header past goalkeeper Christoffer Haagh at the back post, following a chipped cross from Juraj Kucka on the right side. Denmark managed to create chances of their own, including two in the 25th minute after Kasper Kempel's cross was missed by Christian Offenberg and a shot from 11 metres (12 yd) out by Oskar Høybye went over the crossbar. Denmark held off the opposition attacks until the 37th minute, when Kucka registered his second assist of the match after laying a ball back to Albert Rusnák, who scored beneath the goalkeeper to put Slovakia up 2–0 at half-time. Denmark remained well-organised and compact, despite finishing with one shot on target and only 27% possession. The majority of the second period was played in Denmark's half, though the score remained unchanged until the 79th minute, when Danish substitute futsal player Adam Fogt scored an own goal past Haagh after failing to clear a low cross sent by Róbert Mak from the left and deflected by Michal Ďuriš. Haagh made seven saves in the match, helping prevent a worse defeat for Denmark.
|Shots on target||9||1|
Following the match, the Danish team were praised for the result, especially goalkeeper Christoffer Haagh for his role in preventing Slovakia from scoring more. Reuters described the defeat as a "moral victory" for the Danish team and stated "31-year-old Haagh played the game of his life". In a press conference following the match, temporary Denmark coach John Jensen called the group of players "heroes".
We got 24 heroes who were called in about 48 hours ago. And [they] played in a very low division compared to Slovakia, who have got world-class players... I'm proud, I'm shocked. These players that were on the pitch, and also these players that didn't come on the pitch, the friendship and what they did was absolutely amazing and I will never forget this defeat. This is my best defeat in my career.— John Jensen, Denmark national team caretaker manager
In interviews after the match, many Slovak players expressed their continued frustration for the friendly being inadequate preparation for their upcoming competitive fixtures.
The Danes have laughed at us and the whole of UEFA, such things should not happen, it is sad, but there was nothing we could do about it. This should not happen at such a level. We had a chance for more goals, even though they play in lower leagues, they know how to play football. If they close the space, unless you break them with quick goals, they resist the whole match.
Maybe everyone thought, given the leagues in which they compete, that we should beat them 10–0. As a result, we managed it, we worked out the chances for more than three goals, it was not easy considering that they defended with ten players. The coach encouraged us not to underestimate anything and stressed to us that it was a preparation for the next match and so we approached it as such. I think that the match fulfilled its purpose, it is definitely better to play such a match rather than not play anything during the week. The opponent did not have the quality of the real team from Denmark, but we could not do anything about it and now we will concentrate on the match against Ukraine.
It was such a strange match. We played against an opponent that we knew what they would be like. It was the hardest thing to do in your head. Luckily, we managed to score three goals, we won and the best part is that we already have this match behind us. I would not say that we were only disappointed, we were also angry. We were looking forward to a good opponent and we had to play against the rival we played. However, we must admit that we expected them to be worse than they were. On the other hand, everyone can defend nowadays. They were shut in and we had to push through them.
On 6 September 2018, the day after the match, the DBU announced that the replacement players would return to their clubs, and a temporary agreement until 30 September had been reached with the players' union, thus enabling the originally selected squad, featuring the regular national team players, to play in their first Nations League fixture. On 9 September, Denmark won 2–0 at home against Wales in Aarhus with a brace from Christian Eriksen. On the same day, Slovakia lost their opening Nations League match away to Ukraine following a late penalty scored by Andriy Yarmolenko. Slovakia manager Ján Kozák would later resign the following month after over five years as coach, and the team was to be relegated from their Nations League group, but was ultimately saved from relegation by the format change of the Nations League for the upcoming edition. Denmark would go on to finish undefeated in their Nations League group, and were promoted to League A.
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