(Reuters) – Futsal goalkeeper Christoffer Haagh swapped the five-a-side court for a full-size pitch to help a callow Denmark side save face in a 3-0 friendly defeat by Slovakia on Wednesday.
Failure to resolve a contract dispute forced the Danish FA to select a highly inexperienced squad in order to avoid possible reprisals from UEFA.
Instead of household names like Tottenham Hotspur playmaker Christian Eriksen who took Denmark to this year’s World Cup last 16, they had to rely on players from the third tier of the country’s domestic league and futsal, a five-a-side game usually played indoors on a hard court with a heavier ball.
Little was expected of the Danes with all 11 starting players making their international debuts, but the loss turned out to be a moral victory for the unheralded team as the 31-year-old Haagh played the game of his life between the posts.
A goal by Slovakia’s Adam Nemec in the 11th minute could have signalled the opening of the floodgates, but a compact Denmark team defended bravely and they were not breached again until Albert Rusnak scored in the 37th minute.
Coached by former Arsenal and Denmark midfielder John Jensen, the Danes looked well-organised and created a few goal chances of their own in Trnava.
The rearguard continued to hold firm in the second half and Haagh was not beaten again until substitute Anders Foegt, a futsal-playing political science student, unluckily turned the ball into his own net in the 79th minute.
Unfortunately for the Danish players, their first caps may also prove to be their last as the FA is hoping to resolve the dispute and recall the big guns for the Nations League clash against Wales in Aarhus on Sunday.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor in Stockholm, editing by Ed Osmond)