- Ajax’s Lasse Schone fighting to feature in his first FIFA World Cup
- Midfielder hopes impressive form could bring Denmark starting berth in Russia
- A serious knee injury destroyed his South Africa 2010 dreams
In a FIFA World Cup™ year, every potential squad member is desperate to ensure they get noticed. With that in mind, Lasse Schone is illuminating himself in neon lights as he bids to belatedly take his first bow at the finals.
The Dane has been impressing for Ajax, already matching his highest goal-scoring tally for the Dutch Eredivisie giants despite now operating from defensive midfield. But standing out from the crowd is the challenge. “It’s what every Danish guy who is close to the squad will want to do over the next couple of months - keep playing well and making sure you get noticed,” the 31-year-old told FIFA.com.
“There are a couple of good guys ahead of me in the national team. But I think if I try to keep the level I’m playing at, who knows - maybe I will be able to get a starting place at the World Cup. That’s what I’m aiming for.”
On nine goals this term and one of the side's elder statesmen, Schone has been showing his youthful team-mates a thing or two as they look to chase down leaders PSV Eindhoven. Perhaps the most spectacular example of all came during Ajax's 3-0 demolition of their rivals to the south-east in December.
Making up for lost time
Russia 2018 will mark eight years since Denmark were last at the finals. Schone earned the first of his 32 caps ten months prior South Africa 2010 but an anterior cruciate ligament tear soon after ruined his World Cup hopes. “I just managed to play the last 45 minutes of the season," he recalled. "After, [Morten Olsen] called me and said, ‘Lasse I’m sorry but it’s not enough to get in the squad’.
“Of course, I thought it was but if I’m honest, no, 45 minutes in eight or nine months isn’t enough.” Now, and while a return to health was enough to soothe the pain of missing out, the No20 is desperate not to watch from his sofa again.
“I was at the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine, but the World Cup is something special - something every footballer dreams of.”
While acknowledging France are the team to beat in Group C, which has them gathered with Australia and Peru as well, Schone believes Denmark have it all to play for. “We have a group where we have a decent chance,” he insisted. “I have a pretty strong feeling we will be able to do something good.
“If you’ve come that far of course you believe in your own strength. If you’re turning up at a championship only hoping to score one goal, it’s better to stay at home.”
Schone’s toolbox in the engine room
- Speed of thought: “I’m not the fastest player in the world, but he who isn’t fast has to be smart, right?”
- Positive play from midfield: “I’m a controlling midfielder who likes to play forward mostly – I don’t like to go backwards – and I think that’s what [Denmark] do well.”
- A cool, seasoned head: “Reading the game is very important. I can pick up a lot of balls from the opponent that way and also just feeling the temperature of the game. That’s especially important in tournament football. If you are ahead with two minutes to go, you need to drop back a bit and keep the ball.”
A dead-ball duel
Arguably most eye-catching in his bid to take on that trio in Russia is his ability to strike a dead ball. The only barrier in that respect is a fellow midfielder to have passed through Ajax’s doors: Christian Eriksen.
“[Laughs] I have a pretty good guy in front of me there! Christian of course has a great, great free-kick as well, so it could be difficult. He also reads the game really well and always wants the ball. He’s an amazing player and the most important one we have.
“But you never know, it’s something I can also do from a little further, like the goal at Feyenoord.”
Yes, that goal against Feyenoord. If anyone ever wanted to make their footballing CV stand out, you could do a lot worse that sticking a thunderbolt strike a minute into De Klassieker – the Netherlands’s biggest game – top of the page.