Not considered to achieve direct qualification in Europe’s Group 1 against quality sides such as Portugal and Sweden, Denmark once again defied the odds and did just that, finishing first in an extremely difficult section. Morten Olsen’s side now head to South Africa full of confidence and nothing less than a place in the Round of 16 will do for this team. In Group F alongside the Netherlands, Cameroon, and Japan, the Danes won’t have it easy, however they are a team whose reliance on teamwork and unity should serve them well in their fourth World Cup appearance.
TALE OF THE TAPE
FIFA Ranking: 35th
World Cup Appearances: 3 (1986, 1998, 2002)
World Cup Record (W-D-L): 7-2-4
Best World Cup Finish: Quarterfinals, 1998
Road To South Africa: Qualified as 1st in Europe’s Group 1
Gone are the days when world-class stars lined up for Denmark, such as the Laudrup brothers and more recently Peter Schmeichel, however to discount the quality in this squad would be foolhardy. There is a nice blend of young and old all over the pitch and certainly there are talented players aiming to make their mark on the world stage. History is on the team’s side as well as Denmark have advanced to the knockout stage in every World Cup they have participated in.
The defense is also perhaps one of the stronger ones at the World Cup with the Danish backline conceding only 5 goals in qualification over 10 matches.
While not exactly an old team, most of Denmark’s vital players are over 30 and while they have skill and experience in heaps, the question of whether those older legs will last in such a demanding competition remains. Occasionally this is a team that struggles for goals and who will grab them in South Africa is still a big question.
Morten Olsen is one of the longest serving bosses in world football having been with at the helm of Denmark since 2000. Olsen’s tenure started well as he led Denmark to the 2002 World Cup and to Euro 2004, however he failed in his attempts to qualify the team to the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2008. He has instilled an attacking style into the team which has borne fruit judging by his achievements though some believe he maintains his attacking 4-3-3 almost to a fault. An experienced player and now coach, Olsen had over 100 caps for Denmark in his playing days and as a manager has enjoyed club success in Denmark and the Netherlands.
The Key Men
As Jon Dahl Tomasson edges toward the end of his career, the mantle seems to be passing on to young Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner. The 22-year-old has shown flashes of brilliance for his club, though he has struggled for consistency. His performances for Denmark though have shown he is capable of becoming the main man for his country and he already has 11 goals in 32 matches. He could be one to watch this summer.
In the center of the pitch, Christian Poulsen will marshall the midfield. An uncompromising ball-winner, Poulsen will have his work cut out for him against some very good midfielders in this group. If the Juventus player can put in some quality performances then Denmark could well be on their way to turning a few heads in South Africa.
There won’t be too many surprises from this team, however ‘Olsen’s gang’ as they are called will fight for each other all over the pitch. There are questions as to whether they can pull off an upset against one of the major teams, however a tough defense and good sense of team unity along with players who can produce quality football means that few teams will want to play Denmark in South Africa.
The Key Match
The Dutch are big favorites in Group E, leaving Denmark and Cameroon as the leading candidates for second place. Thus their match on June 19th could decide second spot even if Japan has something to say along the way. A win against Cameroon regardless of the result in their opener against the Netherlands could propel Denmark into the second round with Japan their third game, a match they would be expected to win.
Why You Should Watch Them
This team is one that can combine aesthetics with results. You won’t see the samba style of Brazil or the precision and passing of Spain, however Denmark play an open, entertaining football based on running and attacking from the onset. They’ll be a team to watch as well as they have shown before they are able to punch above their weight.
One Game, One World Final Say
It’s difficult to see Denmark not progressing from this group, however the match against Cameroon will be huge. Will the African side get any lift from playing in Africa? And will Denmark match up well with a physical side like that? More than anything Denmark’s performance in the 2010 World Cup will be defined by that match. If they can get out of the group, this is a team that has enough to cause potential opponents, such as Italy, headaches.
What are your thoughts? Will Denmark produce some Danish dynamite and shock the world like they did at Euro 1992? Leave us a comment and give us your views.