Armband row 'no excuse' for Denmark's Tunisia draw

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Tunisia's Naim Sliti (left) contests a header with Denmark's Rasmus Kristensen in their Qatar 2022 World Cup Group D match on November 22, 2022. AFP

Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand insisted that the row over the "OneLove" captain's armband was not an excuse for his team failing to beat Tunisia in their opening match of the World Cup on Tuesday.

Hjulmand's side are fancied to have a deep run in the tournament but were held to a 0-0 draw by their Group D opponents in a raucous Education City Stadium packed with Tunisians.

The Danes were one of a group of European nations who decided their captain would not wear the rainbow-themed armband in support of LGBTQ people after being threatened with on-field sanctions by FIFA.

Asked if the controversy impacted the result of Tuesday's match, Hjulmand told reporters: "No, that is not an excuse."

Reports in Denmark suggested FIFA had threatened to give captain Simon Kjaer a one-match ban if he had defied their order to not wear the armband, but Hjulmand said he had no knowledge of the potential punishment.

"I do not think it is clear what would happen. There have been threats which would have affected [the] sporting side," he added.

"Normally in Denmark we have this slogan called 'Part of Something Bigger', and right now I'm not sure that I'm part of something that I like.

"I like the football. I love football ... but I think it's important to change direction and hopefully a lot of young progressive people enter a lot of governing bodies and make sure we strive to do something great."

Tunisia have never reached the World Cup knockouts in five previous attempts but Jalel Kadri's side will be encouraged both with a point at Education City Stadium and with how they performed against the fancied Danes.

Christian Eriksen was largely anonymous on his return to major tournament football after nearly dying on the pitch at the European Championship last year, wilting in the face of ferocious defending.

Eriksen was the target of a big tackle in the second minute from Aissa Laidouni, who then lept to his feet and egged on the fans to make even more noise and setting the tone for hard battle.

Tunisia coach Jelel Kadri was happy with a battling display from his team which merited a point despite Andreas Cornelius hitting the post and a late penalty scare for handball.

"This is a result which will give us a boost of morale, today the collective tactical effort deserved a point from this match," said Kadri.

"We knew we were playing against a strong team and you saw that we played well, even if we weren't quite clinical enough in goalscoring positions."