Euro 2012 Preview: Denmark
The Danish side have a mixed history on the international stage, but one that many footballing countries would be envious of. Whilst they failed to qualify for the 2008 championships, they are the proud holders of a Henri Delauney trophy, which they won in Sweden in 1992.
After a disappointing qualifying campaign for that tournament, international sanctions prevented the participation of Yugoslavia and their place was handed to the Danes…10 days before the finals began. Their defensive style helped Denmark to the final, meaning players such as Peter Schmeichel and Brian Laudrup were given their chance to win their country’s first major honour on the footballing stage. They beat reigning world champions Germany 2-0 to write the squad’s name in the practically empty football history books of Denmark, providing one of the most unlikely tournament victories ever.
They have failed to produce similar results in World Cups though, having peaked at the quarter final stages. Nonetheless, the team fare reasonably well in the smaller pool of European talent which has propelled them to ninth place in the FIFA World Rankings – a placing that encapsulates the irrelevance of the list. With a successful qualification campaign behind them this time round, they will be looking to perform in a way worthy of a top ten country and hoping that history could maybe repeat itself 20 years on, despite their squad lacking players of the calibre of Schmeichel and the Laudrups.
The domestic league no longer supplies the squad’s key players, many of them plying their trade in the top leagues of Europe. Nicklas Bendtner, Christian Eriksen, Simon Kjaer, Anders Lindegaard and others have spent the majority of their formative years abroad, which could be considered an advantage. With very few clubs in Denmark performing on the continental stage, it could be argued that the national team will benefit from the resources used elsewhere.
How Did They Qualify?
Denmark qualified top of their group on 19 points after eight games, beating Portugal and Norway to the automatic qualification spot. After five games the team had only amassed 10 points leading up to a crucial game against Norway. The ‘enigmatic’ Nicklas Bendtner netted a first half brace sealing the game 2-0, and giving Denmark the advantage in the race for qualification. Confident wins against Cyprus and Portugal followed, sealing qualification three points ahead of their rivals.
Morten Olsen is nothing short of a legend of Danish football and is familiar with the post of national team coach. So familiar in fact that he has managed them for the past 12 years, with his deal running until the World Cup Finals in 2014. His reputation was largely built during his playing career, winning Danish player of the year twice and the UEFA Cup with Anderlecht in 1983. His management career has produced two Danish championship triumphs in the early 1990s, and a league/cup double during a brief stint as Ajax manager.
This reputation, along with the low expectations of the Danish population, has kept him in the job as the team have failed to perform well in tournaments since he took over in 2000. A huge advantage going into the finals is his knowledge of the players, having seen many of them through the academy stages of their careers. He has a method that the players are used to, and experience of taking the national side to finals. This should give confidence to the squad, which he has largely kept settled where possible in recent years.
Christian Eriksen – 20 – Attacking Midfielder
Named Danish footballer of the year in November and played a huge part in sealing the Eredivisie title with his Ajax side. He has netted twice in 21 appearances for his country, the goals coming against Iceland and Scotland. At club level however, he has contributed seven goals and 15 assists this season. This shows just how much he can contribute to a side, and should strike fear into the defences of their opponents. His passes can be lethal, provided the forwards create space. A very real threat for the others in their group.
Anders Lindegaard - 28 – Goalkeeper
The injury to Thomas Sorensen sparked not only last minute confusion when writing this, but also made Lindegaard the first choice goalkeeper for the Danish Euro 2012 campaign. At the age of 28, it could still be argued that he is a youngster in goalkeeping terms, and with a good showing during the tournament could become the first choice Dane for the next ten years. He hasn’t played as regularly as he would have hoped on the domestic stage, but played occasionally for Manchester United towards the end of 2011. An ankle injury forced him out for almost two months, halting any momentum he was gaining with the first team. He is a lively keeper who can read the play well, and with experienced heads such as Agger in front of him, has a strong chance of performing well in the tournament. A few good performances against the giants of Group B could not only help his country exceed expectations, but also strengthen his case to be number one at club level.
Daniel Agger – 27 – Defender
‘Death is certain, its hour is uncertain’.
This is the phrase that he has tattooed across his body, and with this sort of mentality it is easy to see why he has his tough tackling reputation. If he can pass this sentiment on to the rest of the back line, then they may be able to give the team a chance for points. He has won the League Cup with Liverpool this year and reached the FA Cup final, and he scored his first Premier League goal of the season in the 4-1 win against Chelsea. His partnership with Simon Kjaer at national level looks promising, and could prove to be integral in their bid for group supremacy.
Nicklas Bendtner – 24 – Striker
On a scale of 1-9 for confidence, a psychologist rated him as a 10. At the age of 24, he still feels like he has been around longer than Kanu. Since he sustained a facial injury while on loan at Sunderland, he has hit some sort of form, scoring 8 times in 27 appearances. He has recently conceded that he will never play football again for Arsenal, dismayed at the lack of opportunities, meaning he will be in the shop window and hoping for some good performances to attract offers. On the international scene he has scored 17 times in 46 games, and will be hoping to link up with Eriksen this summer to fire his team into the knockout rounds of the tournament.
Jacobsen – Kjaer – Agger – S. Poulsen
Eriksen – Zimling – Kvist
Krohn-Dehli – Bendtner – Rommedahl
How Far Will They Go?
Honestly, it doesn’t look good for Denmark. They are in the so called ‘Group of Death’ with Netherlands, Germany and Portugal. In the qualifying rounds they beat Portugal, however with their record at finals in recent years, it seems highly unlikely that they will repeat the feat. It would be surprising if they won any of their matches, and should probably expect nothing more than the odd draw. While they seem doomed to finish bottom of the group, the team will be hoping to draw from the glorious 1992 triumph and have their own fairytale ending.