- Former international Morten Wieghorst is now Denmark’s assistant manager
- The Danish Dynamites started qualifying for Qatar 2022 at a high speed
- Wieghorst talks about the new style of the selection and looks back on the highlights of his career
Morten Wieghorst was 15 when Denmark exploded onto the world stage. He saw Michael Laudrup, Soren Lerby, and other Jesper Olsens captivate the entire planet with their smooth, smooth play at the 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico ™.
That day was born a dream that he realized 12 years later, when he competed in the second queen event of his country alongside Laudrup, his lifelong idol. The Danish promotion of 1998 were a talented team that had distinguished themselves in major tournaments and outperformed their predecessors by reaching the quarter-finals.
The former midfielder, however, always knew that a team’s reputation and heritage did not come down to results alone. This is why he judges his elders superior to his generation and to the winners of EURO 1992, which is reflected in his coaching philosophy.
He is now assistant to Kasper Hjulmand, the coach who led Denmark to three wins in as many matches in qualifying for Qatar 2022. The cumulative score of 14-0 reflects offensive verve coupled with defensive strength. . As Wieghorst assured it to FIFA.com, the Danish Dynamites headed to EURO with the intention of playing their best football and putting on a show.
Morten, with three wins in three matches and 14 goals against zero conceded in World Cup qualifying, have you exceeded your own expectations?
Indeed. We had decided to rotate the squad almost entirely from one meeting to the next before the rally, to take into account the time of the season, the number of matches and the particular sanitary conditions. It was the right thing to do, but we knew changing ten things in every game was risky. A mistake against Moldova would have cost us dearly. In the end, we couldn’t have asked for better. We delivered an excellent performance and scored eight goals. At the same time, the competition for starting places has intensified, because the players present against Israel have redoubled their motivation. In addition, everyone felt proud to have played a role in this superb start. It’s not just the 14 goals scored, without any concessions: Kasper [Schmeichel] only had two saves to make in those three matches.
How did you and Kasper Hjulmand handle the passing of the torch with Age Hareide, who had a good record after qualifying Denmark for Russia 2018 and the next UEFA EURO?
Age and Jon Dahl Tomasson laid a solid foundation that we have built on. The team was well organized, hard to beat and had a long unbeaten streak. However, a new framework inevitably brings about some transformations. We didn’t change everything, far from it, we just made three or four changes to the style of play. Simple details about the defensive aspect, possession and construction. The group has embraced the changes.
Is it too simplistic to say that these changes made the team more offensive?
We’re trying to push a little higher than before, but it’s an impossible pace to keep up for 90 minutes. You have to know how to decide when and for how long. We were satisfied with our efficiency in this area, especially against major teams like Belgium, which we faced in the League of Nations. The team feels like they’re playing the game, and it’s good for their morale. But that’s easier said than done. The choice of phase is crucial, because it is disastrous to apply bad pressure at the wrong time against heavyweights of the caliber of Red devils. Finding the right balance is a real challenge and Kasper manages to make full use of the time he has to prepare the players.
Christian Eriksen has been decisive in the selection in the past. Is it still essential in your system?
Christian is a great player, and it was important from day one to place him on the pitch as well as possible to help the team. You have to know how to make the most of your key elements, and that’s what we do with Christian.
When you and Kasper were working in Nordsjaelland, he was your deputy. Today, the roles are reversed. How are you coping with this new dynamic?
We get along very well and we have a lot of respect for each other. We know each other’s personality and strengths perfectly. When I took Kasper as my assistant, he had already been a head coach. The roles are different, but if you are part of an interesting project and a good technical staff, the assistant function is a real pleasure, as I experience it now.
How do your personalities fit together? Is he rather calm like you, or do you have opposite temperaments?
We are not that different. We still sometimes hear about good cop / bad cop technique, but times have changed. Kasper doesn’t run into the locker room screaming at the break and he doesn’t ask me to. Everything depends on the motivation of the group. What I like and respect about this team is that the players are the first to identify what is wrong with a game. We are there to help them, but at half-time against Austria for example, it was they who recognized having to improve their offensive efficiency.
Are you eager to find the big international tournaments?
Of course. We are looking forward to the start of the Euro, especially as at least 12,000 spectators will be able to attend the games at Parken Stadium and three home matches are scheduled in the first round. The World Cup also excites me. It will be a very special edition because it will be concentrated on a small area. In a large country, everything is more dispersed. This time, matches, teams and fans will be gathered in one place. This will create an exceptional atmosphere. For me, the World Cup remains the most beautiful of competitions.
Do you consider your participation in France 1998 as the high point of your playing career?
It is one of the great moments of my life. I have known a lot, in club with Celtic Glasgow, and in selection, like our victory in the Intercontinental Championship (later renamed the FIFA Confederations Cup) in 1995. I also have in mind the EURO 2000 preliminaries. We had to win in Italy to qualify. We recovered from a 2-goal delay to win 3-2. It was fantastic. But the World Cup occupies a place of its own.
After being dazzled by the Danish Dynamites in Mexico 1986, you played alongside Michael Laudrup. What did you feel ?
Pride. This team is, in my opinion, the best in Danish history. The 1980s marked us, because for the first time, we showed that our country was capable of competing with the world elite. As for Michael, he was the hero of my childhood. I felt privileged to play alongside him, then under his command during his first coaching mandate, and later to be part of his staff at Swansea. For me, he remains the greatest Danish footballer.
Denmark won EURO in 1992 and the Intercontinental Championship in 1995. Do you have any ambition to return to the titles?
We dream of it, of course, but without assuming anything. We are a nation of 5.5 million people, we will never start a competition with the label of favorite. We play to win, knowing that the most important thing is to go as far as possible and leave your mark. The selection of 1986 is the perfect example. Although she did not win the tournament, she won the hearts and respect of all. They are considered the best Danish team of all time, because they have splashed the world with their talent.