Denmark: underdogs with a fighting spirit | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 09.06.2012
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Denmark: underdogs with a fighting spirit

They may be the underdogs in Group B, but that role seems to suit the Danes. It gave the Nordic country its biggest soccer success when it won the Euro 1992.

"What a nightmare," were the first words Danish coach Morten Olsen uttered when the groups were chosen for the Euro 2012 and Denmark knew it would have to face Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal - all strong teams - in Group B.

Indeed, it will be no easy task for Olsen and his team. Olsen, a former defender who played in 80 Bundesliga games for Cologne from 1986 to 1989, has been in charge of the Danish national squad since 2000.

Danish national soccer coach Morten Olsen watches the international friendly against Russia at Parken stadium in Copenhagen

Olsen faces a tough challenge

Since then, Denmark have qualified for the World Championships in 2002 and 2010 as well as for the Euro 2004. This year, in Poland and Ukraine, the 1992 European champions are taking part in the European championships for the eighth time.

Granted, few believe the Danes can make it beyond the group stages, but they could well tip the scales in Group B - dubbed the "group of death." The other three teams in the group are pretty much factoring in a win against the Danes, but do not write them off just yet - the Portuguese, for example, ended up in second place behind the Danes during qualifying for the Euro 2012. And you have to go as far back as 1996 for a German win over Denmark. In 2000 and 2007, the Danes even won against Germany in two friendlies and drew in one other in 2010.

However, Denmark started things off wtih a win against the Netherlands - their first victory over the Dutch in 20 years. In 1992, the "Danish dynamite" triumphed over the Oranjes in the semifinal of the European Cup, with a 5-4 win after a penalty shootout. Beating out one of the Euro 2012's big favorites portends well for Denmark.

ARCHIV - Die Dänen Lars Jacobsen (l-r) und Nicklas Bendtner jubeln am 07.10.2011 über ein Tor im EM-Qualifikationsspiel Zypern gegen Dänemark in Nikosia. Die deutsche Fußball-Nationalmannschaft steht bei der Europameisterschaft 2012 in Polen und Ukraine vor schwierigen Aufgaben. Das Team von Bundestrainer Joachim Löw trifft in der Vorrunden-Gruppe B auf die Niederlande, Dänemark und Portugal. Das ergab die Auslosung 189 Tage vor dem Eröffnungsspiel zwischen Polen und Griechenland am Freitag (02.12.2011) im Nationalen Kunstpalast von Kiew. Foto: Katia Christodoulou dpa +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Bendtner is hoping to keep opposition defenders busy and score goals

Strong team, but no stars

Unlike previous squads, which boasted the likes of Michael Laudrup, Preben Elkjaer-Larsen, Olsen, or keeper Peter Schmeichel, the current team has no true stars.

At the heart of the the closely-knit team and its 4-3-3 formation are three professionals who play in the English premier league: keeper and captain Thomas Sorensen from Stoke City, forward Nicklas Bendtner from Sunderland and full-back Daniel Agger from Liverpool. William Kvist from Bundesliga side VfB Stuttgart provides a calming influence in the defensive midfield.

Denmark's Christian Eriksen celebrates after scoring his goal against Scotland during their international friendly soccer match at Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011. (Foto:Scott Heppell/AP/dapd).

Eriksen has star potential

"We're in a killer group," the 27-year-old admits. "Germany is the favorite. They have a lot of players who can get dangerous near the goal, they have excellent defenders and attackers. That said, I still prefer playing Germany to playing Spain."

Christian Eriksen is a Danish player with great potential. The 20-year-old is a midfielder for Ajax Amsterdam with 44 league, Champions League and Europa League matches under his belt in this past season. He scored eight goals and helped set up 20. He was voted Danish player of the year in 2011 and his contract at Ajax has been extended until 2014. He has definitely piqued the interest of the big clubs.

Surprise 1992 European champions

When Eriksen was barely 7 months old, the Danes celebrated their biggest soccer victory to date. Twenty years ago, they got a last-minute chance to play in the European Cup.

Denmark triumph at EURO 1992

Denmark beat Germany 2-0 in 1992

They had failed to qualify, but since Yugoslavia had been excluded from the tournament because of the war in the Balkans, they were in with a chance.

So they set off for Sweden without being truly prepared, some players had even been called back from their holidays. With a little bit of luck, they made it into the knockout stages. They then beat title holders, the Netherlands, in the semifinals, followed by a 2-0 final win over reigning world champions Germany.

It is unlikely that Denmark will replicate that success in Poland and Ukraine this year, but as we all know: nothing's impossible in the beautiful game.

Author: Andreas Sten-Ziemons / ng
Editor: Gregg Benzow

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