Denmark Advances at World Cup in Drab 0-0 Draw with France

Two Danish fans wearing toy Viking helmets which each have a croissant impaled up them smile as they pose for the cameras before the start of the group C match between Denmark and France at the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

MOSCOW (AP) — A game neither France nor Denmark needed to win produced the World Cup’s first 0-0 draw amid boos and whistles from fans on Tuesday.

A slow-paced game — officially No. 37 in Russia — was out of step with a vibrant tournament and ensured already-qualified France won Group C and Denmark advanced as runner-up. Both came through unbeaten.

The draw ensured that outcome, though Peru’s 2-0 victory over Australia playing at the same time meant the Danes would have advanced to the round of 16 even had they lost to France.

It was the longest a World Cup had gone without a goalless draw since 1954, which had none.

A French team with six starters resting barely tested Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel until substitute Nabil Fekir tried two long-range shots.

Much of a 78,011 crowd in Luzhniki Stadium whistled misplaced passes and slow play as the game progressed and Denmark protected its point — likely aware Australia had no chance of winning.

Still, thousands of Denmark fans in a stadium seemed happy enough at the final whistle.

The Danish team as a group celebrate in front of their fans after the end of the group C match between Denmark and France at the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 26, 2018. The game ended 0-0 . (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

It was a mostly forgettable first major tournament start for France goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, who has been a backup at two World Cups and three European Championships. The 33-year-old made his first and only save in the 54th minute, spilling Christian Eriksen’s free-kick before pouncing on the loose ball.

France’s first-choice goalkeeper and captain, Hugo Lloris, was among those rested. Midfielders Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi were obvious choices to sit after collecting yellow cards in a 1-0 win over Peru. A second yellow card before the semifinals triggers a one-game ban.

The team lost rhythm inserting a different trio of attacking midfielders to support Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud.

Perhaps sensing it was time to make entertainment midway through the first half, fans created a wave that made three laps of the stadium. Russian fans broke into their national chant several times to break the boredom.

Whistles and jeers got louder after a misplaced pass in the 64th by France midfielder Thomas Lemar. The ball went off the field 10 yards (meters) behind teammate Benjamin Mendy’s run.

Referee Sandro Ricci from Brazil shows a yellow card to Denmark’s Mathias Jorgensen, who fouled France’s Antoine Griezmann, who he helping to his feet during the group C match between Denmark and France at the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Only in the final 20 minutes, when Fekir and Kylian Mbappe, came off the bench did France show more pace and direct intent. They met a solid Danish defense content with the draw.

KEY TO SUCCESS

Denmark has a tough defense anchored by veteran captain Simon Kjaer, and a high-class goalkeeper in Kasper Schmeichel. Even the top World Cup teams will have difficulty scoring against the Danes.

GROUP DYNAMICS

France has won Group C and will open the round 16 on Saturday afternoon in Kazan, playing the Group D runner-up. That could still be any of Croatia, Nigeria, Iceland or Argentina before their final games later Tuesday.

Denmark gets an extra day off and plays the Group D winner, likely Croatia, on Sunday evening in Nizhny Novgorod.


By GRAHAM DUNBAR , AP Sports Writer

Denmark’s Simon Kjaer, top centre right, heads the ball under pressure from France’s Raphael Varane top center left, during the group C match between Denmark and France at the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)