High hopes for Copenhagen's Cornelius

There is no sign of Copenhagen relinquishing their hold on Danish football just yet. Currently ten points clear at the top of the Superligaen, the men from the capital are on course for their fourth championship in five years and ninth in 13.

The Lions all but sealed the title with Sunday’s 3-2 win at second-placed Nordsjaelland, which was secured by Andreas Cornelius’ 77th-minute winner, the latest of his vital contributions this season. The striker's emergence has been one of the championship’s surprise developments, the tall 20-year-old having given no indication of his scoring threat in a handful of goalless appearances from the bench at the end of last season.

There has been no denying his impact this time around, however. Comfortable on the ball and a handful in the air for any defence, the young Danish revelation tops the league’s scoring charts with 18 goals. Cornelius wasted little time in getting himself noticed this season, prompting his Belgian coach Ariel Jacobs to make this observation last September: “He never ceases to amaze me with what he can do, with his ability to get on the scoresheet so regularly.”

Jacobs, who also discovered another rising star in compatriot Romelu Lukaku, has also been impressed by the young Dane’s approach to the game: “He always makes sure he’s in the right physical and mental shape to succeed in every match.”

“No one is more surprised than I am,” said the man of the moment, in conversation with FIFA.com. “I never expected to have such a good season, to hold down a place in the team and to be the top scorer in the league. I can honestly say that my expectations weren’t that high at the start of the season. I’ve only just made it to the highest level and everything is still pretty new to me, but I’m thrilled about it all the same. I’m very happy with everything that’s happened, though I’ve had to work very hard to get here.”

I’m still hopeful. I believe we can qualify and in any case there’s a fine generation of young players coming through.
Cornelius on Denmark's national team and Brazil 2014

Born in the Danish capital and a lifelong FCK fan who has come up through the ranks at the club, the blond, baby-faced front man has never lacked motivation, as he explained: “I’ve always dreamed of playing for the club and I’ve done everything I can to make that dream a reality.

“I’ve been a loyal Copenhagen supporter since I was a boy. They’re the biggest club in Denmark and I’m obviously very proud to be wearing the jersey today. All the same, I need to keep my feet on the ground. Hard work and a level head are the keys to success in my book.”

Though top dogs in Denmark and capable of playing delightful football, his team have yet to make the breakthrough on the European scene. Their UEFA Champions League hopes ended when Lille beat them 2-1 on aggregate in extra-time in their qualiying tie, a disappointment compounded by their subsequent group-phase elimination in the UEFA Europa League.

“We have a young team but we lack experience,” explained the young spearhead. “It probably also took a bit too long to bed down the new players who came in at the start of the season.”

The same can also be said of the national team, of which Cornelius is now an integral part, having joined the likes of Christian Ericksen and Vicktor Fisher in attempting to fill the void left by departing old hands such as Thomas Sorensen and Christian Poulsen. The changing of the guard has not proved entirely smooth, with the new generation of Danes struggling to ignite. Fourth in Group B of the European qualifying competition for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, they have much to do if they are to make the world finals. 

The scorer of five goals in only seven appearances for his country, Cornelius gave his view on Denmark’s recent struggles: “Personally I think we’ve been playing well, though it hasn’t really translated into results, unfortunately for us. I think we’ve deserved better but I’m still hopeful. I believe we can qualify and in any case there’s a fine generation of young players coming through, both in the national team and at Copenhagen.”

The talented Cornelius is very much part of that new generation, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by clubs across Europe. Somewhat taken aback by the interest he is generating, and comparisons to Nicklas Bendtner the up-and-coming striker said: “I’m just myself and I’d rather not be compared to anyone. I’m focusing on my club for the time being and I’m not thinking about my future. We’ll just have to see what tomorrow brings.”