SAMARA, Russia (Reuters) - Denmark believe their World Cup Group C encounter with Australia in Samara on Thursday will be won or lost in the minds of the players.
The Danes won their opening match 1-0 against Peru in a performance that failed to reflect their impressive World Cup qualifying campaign.
Coach Age Hareide believes his team were thinking only of winning the three points against Peru.
“I want to focus on how we will play because in the first match we were too focused on the result and so we didn’t perform to our best,” Hareide told reporters on Wednesday.
“We forgot that.”
The 64-year-old expects his team to be better prepared for the clash with Australia.
“Mentally you have to be strong. That is the all-important point,” said the Norwegian.
“When you have these very close matches, you have to rest and be ready for the next match but you have to be ready in the head first of all. The team that is strongest in the head will win tomorrow.”
His thoughts were echoed by his players.
“The mental aspect will decide the game,” said Yussuf Poulsen, who scored the winner against Peru. “That is always the case. If you are mentally ‘there’ you will be willing to go the extra mile and that will decide it.”
Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel added: “Mentally you have to be ready to fight for it as it is the small margins that make a difference at this level.”
Schmeichel has not conceded an international goal for 534 minutes, breaking the Denmark record held by his father Peter.
Peru rained down 17 shots on Schmeichel’s goal during their defeat but Hareide was confident that his defense could remain fundamentally sound and that there would be no repeat.
“If I looked at the Peru match as a single game then I would be worried. They had too many opportunities,” he added.
“Of the last 16 matches we have played, it is the match where we have conceded the most chances against us.”
Denmark conceded nine goals in 12 games during their World Cup qualifying campaign.
France, who beat Australia 2-1 in their first Group C match at the World Cup, play Peru later on Thursday.
Denmark will qualify for the last 16 if they beat Australia and Peru fail to win against France.
Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Tony Lawrence