Denmark coach Age Hareide and his French counterpart Didier Deschamps were unapologetic after their sides’ 0-0 World Cup Group C draw in Moscow.
The first Mexican wave at the Luzhniki Stadium started midway through the first half and the only people among the 78,000-strong crowd still smiling at the end were the pockets of Danish and French supporters.
After 36 games without a 0-0, the World Cup was overdue a scoreless draw and this game always looked a likely candidate. France had already qualified and only wanted a point to guarantee top spot and an easier last-16 game, while Denmark needed a point to guarantee that they would be joining them in the knockout stage.
To these unpromising beginnings were added the coaches’ final touches: wholesale changes on the part of Deschamps and a team set up not to concede by Hareide.
“We were up against one of the best counter-attack teams in the world, so we would have been stupid to give them space,” said Hareide after the match.
“OK, it was a 0-0 but we are very pleased with that.”
Asked to dip into the Danish dictionary to find a word to describe the tedium the teams had served up, Hareide harrumphed: “Disciplined.”
This was undoubtedly true, and he was right to pick out Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen for praise after his composed performance as a very deep midfielder, before describing it as a “good performance”.
His side are now 18 games unbeaten and finding a way to score against them will now be Croatia’s problem when they meet in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday.
It was not a problem France tried particularly hard to crack.
“It wasn’t the most exciting game because Denmark wanted a draw,” said Deschamps.
“We had a number of opportunities but one point was good enough for them and we didn’t have to take any risks. One point was good for everyone.”
He explained that with France’s last-16 game scheduled for Kazan on Saturday, he wanted to rest those who had already played twice and protect the three players who are one caution away from a one-game ban – a trio which includes Paul Pogba.
This means most of the changes he made for this game – Steve Mandana for Hugo Lloris in goal, for example – will be reversed in four days’ time and it is a cast-iron certainty that Kylian Mbappe will not be held back until the last 12 minutes, as he was here.
Whether that will be enough to make this talented French team look anything like the sum of their parts remains to be seen. They were fortunate to beat Australia in their first game and were not much better against Peru in the second.
Deschamps, however, was in no mood for questions about his team’s lack of fluency.
“It’s not that easy – look at big teams like Argentina, Spain or Germany, they’ve all had difficulties here,” he said.
“It was a difficult and challenging group but we’ve reached our objective. Now we have a second phase and we must climb to get to the next level.”
Neutral fans will pray that the next level involves fewer sideways passes and more Mbappe.