Group: E at the World Cup in South Africa:
Colours: Red shirts, white shorts and red socks
Nicknames: Dansk Dynamit (Danish Dynamite)/Olsen-Banden (the Olsen Gang)
Previous World Cup appearances: (3) 1986, 1998, 2002
Best World Cup performance: Quarterfinals, 1998
Coach: Morten Olsen.
Most capped player: Peter Schmeichel 129.
Top scorer: Poul "Tist" Nielsen, 52.
FIFA Ranking (Apr 10) : 35
It was not before 1986 Denmark made their first World Cup finals. That was when Denmark were coached by German Sepp Piontek and the team were nicknamed “Danish Dynamite” because of their adventurous and entertaining play. The first round was won with style beating Scotland, Uruguay and Germany before meeting Spain in the last 16. A back pass by Jesper Olsen, who had scored from the penalty spot to put Denmark ahead, was intercepted by Emilio Butragueno who equalized for Spain and then went on to beat Denmark 5-1. In 1998 Denmark reached the quarter-finals losing narrowly to Brazil 3-2. The Laudrup brothers Brian and Michael were in that team. Four years after saw the last World Cup finals appearance by Denmark. They won famously 2-0 against the reigning World Cup champions France in the last group match before England stopped any further progress in the tournament beating Denmark 3-0.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Denmark qualified with style and were early favourites to win their group. After an eventless goalless draw away to Hungary in their opening fixture, Denmark went on to win their next five matches. The most important win was in Portugal when they beat the hosts and group favourites 3-2 after being outplayed for most of 90 minutes. The crunch game was away to Sweden in the sixth match and when they sealed a 1-0 win, hopes of qualifying were very high. Two successive draws against Portugal and Malta meant that a home win against Sweden in the penultimate match would mean qualification for the World Cup finals. Jakob Poulsen scored the winner 11 minutes before the final whistle. It was his first goal for the national team but what an important goal it turned out to be.
Denmark have a strong and collective midfield which makes it hard for opponents to be able to play through the middle and get too close to the Danish penalty area. At the other end of the pitch it also means that Denmark have many options to get the ball into the opponents' penalty area. Playing also with a right and a left winger means that the ball can be played in from from all areas.
Denmark's main weakness is the few options they have up front. That is part of the reason why they normally play with a lone striker. Young Nicklas Bendtner is the normal first choice but he is injury prone there are not many other first class forwards to choose from. Søren Larsen has been used and has also scored when picked but he has only played in five of the 10 qualifiers. Another option is Jon-Dahl Tomasson but he seems stuck on 51 goals, one short of equaling the all-time record of 52 goals for Denmark. Unfortunately he hasn't scored an international goal since February 2008. The other few options like Morten Nordstrand and Martin Bernburg are all too inexperienced to be considered.
Morten Olsen played 102 internationals for Denmark between 1970 and 1989 and has coached Brøndby, FC Cologne and Ajax after hanging up his boots before taking charge of the national team in 2000. He took Denmark to the WC finals in 2002. Therefore he has an enormous international experience and he is admired by both players, fans and the governing body. His contract runs out after the 2010 WC finals and it is rumoured that he wants to go back to club football after that, although the DBU have already stated an interest in renewing his contract.
Nicklas Bendtner (Arsenal, England): Although only 22 years of age at the time of the WC finals the Danish striker will already be an experienced player having played in more than 30 internationals scoring on average in one third of them. At club level he is also starting to become a regular in Arsenal's team and he rarely lets them down as he scores on a regular basis.
Thomas Sorensen (Stoke City, England): The Danish first choice goalkeeper is an experienced keeper having made his national team debut in 1999. He played in the 2002 WC finals so this will be his second World Cup finals. Since his national team debut he has only played in England for Sunderland, Aston Villa and currently Stoke in the Premier League. Playing in one of the best leagues in the world will mean that he has what it takes to compete at the highest level.
Jakob Poulsen (AGF Aarhus, Denmark): Poulsen has established himself as a regular in the national team having started in the last five WC qualifiers playing as a holding midfielder at the left flank and he should be a certain starter in the WC finals unless his form drops dramatically before then. He is a good technical player who has a good passing ability and he also scored the all important goal, a long range shot, against Sweden which made qualification a reality.
BEST FOOTBALLING MOMENT
Winning the European Championship in 1992 is without doubt the best moment in the history of Danish football. They didn't qualify initially but because of the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, Denmark replaced this very country. The coach Richard Møller Nielsen was home decorating his kitchen when he got the call and the rest is history. The final against Germany was a memorable game where every player played the best he had ever known.
OFF THE PITCH
Famous for: Hans Christian Andersen who wrote so many fairy tales that have made him famous and loved in the whole world by children and adults alike.
Most likely to: Have the only fans wearing viking plastic helmets and with a built-in plastic beer glass to drink from through a long flexible plastic straw.
WORLD CUP OBJECTIVE
To reach the quarter finals as they also did in 1998. Anything better than that will be a huge success.
First Published: Monday, June 07, 2010, 10:19