Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was in inspired form as he produced a man of the match performance to help his team to a narrow World Cup Group C opening game win against Peru in Saransk.
Schmeichel was making his World Cup debut and was following in the footsteps of his father, Danish goalkeeping great Peter Schmeichel, who also graced football's biggest tournament.
Schmeichel Jr. made several excellent stops to keep his team ahead after Yussuf Poulsen had given them the lead in the 59th minute, including a reflex save with his foot to keep out Jefferson Farfan’s effort five minutes from the end.
Peru’s biggest opportunity came via a penalty which was awarded via VAR when Yussuf Poulsen was adjudged to have fouled Christian Cueva, although the midfielder stepped up to take the kick and blazed the ball well over the bar.
After the game, RT special host Peter Schmeichel said that while the game hadn’t been a classic, his countrymen had defended well.
“It was a really scrappy game… like Iceland [against Argentina], Denmark defended really deep, it was really a nerve-racking last period of the game, for me as a fan, at the same time I have to say it wasn’t a classic game.
“Peru haven’t found their feet yet, they were huffing and puffing, but nothing came of it, they had a few chances.”
The Peruvians – appearing at their first World Cup in 36 years – were made to rue their first-half penalty miss which left Cueva in tears at the interval.
“I don’t know what he was doing there,” Schmeichel said of the shocking miss. “The lack of concentration, the stop and the step-up, eventually he missed the penalty…”
The goalkeeping great also said he was still dubious over the awarding of the kick in the first place, which came from the referee consulting the video technology being used at the World Cup for the first time in Russia.
“I’m trying to be neutral here, but I’m still in a little bit of doubt as to whether it was a penalty.”
Schmeichel was reserved in his praise for Denmark and his son – who he did not single out for plaudits – but inside must have been bursting with paternal pride.
When asked what score he would give the Denmark team out of 10 for the match, he answered: “In terms of output, 10. In terms of performance, a 5, I think this team is still halfway there.”
“What worked really well was the defence, they defended really well. Obviously they didn’t concede a goal.”
Indeed, the clean sheet for Schmeichel Jr. was his fifth in a row – and came in his World Cup debut as Denmark made a return to the tournament for the first time since South Africa 2010.
Most consecutive minutes without conceding for the Denmark national team:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) 16 June 2018
Peter Schmeichel: 470 minutes (1995)
Kasper Schmeichel: 471 minutes and counting (2017-present)
Like father, like son. 👨👦 pic.twitter.com/lrpG30hDmB
Schmeichel Sr. said that while the performance wasn’t pretty, getting the campaign off to a wining start was key.
“The first game is not about winning the World Cup…it’s about getting the three points. So, big smiles all-round.”
It was joy for Denmark at the final whistle, but agony for the thousands of Peru fans in Russia, who have contributed as much as anyone to make the World Cup such a celebration so far this summer.
Their team will look to regroup ahead of their game against France in Ekaterinburg on Thursday, while the Danes move on to face Australia in Samara on the same day.
Schmeichel Sr. will be watching proudly once again as his son continues the Great Dane goalkeeping dynasty.