Famously champions in 1992, Morten Olsen’s Denmark fought their way past Portugal to qualify automatically but now face a tough finals task in Group B, which includes the Portuguese again
COPENHAGEN: Denmark are hoping to emulate their compatriots’ shock win in the 1992 European Championships, despite having already had their chances of winning in Poland and Ukraine written off.
Having been drawn in Group B along with fellow previous winners Germany, The Netherlands and European powerhouses Portugal, it is no wonder that few see them progressing beyond the group stages.
However, the Danes will be no pushovers and are there by merit, having claimed the scalp of Portugal in the qualifiers, when they showed great nerve to see them off in their final match in Copenhagen.
Coach Morten Olsen is the longest-serving handler at the finals, having taken over in 2000 and who is poised to take the national side to its fourth major finals on his watch.
The 62-year-old Danish football great, who captained the exciting side that impressed at the 1986 World Cup finals, had hinted that he would step down after the qualifiers but instead signed a new contract taking him up to 2014.
But the man who guided Denmark to the second round of the 2002 World Cup and the last eight of the Euro 2004 championships said that even though he had extended his time as coach, that did not mean the side was stagnating.
Olsen, part of the Denmark side that reached the 1984 European Championship semi-finals, said his squad faced a tough task and they could not afford to lose any personnel, given their limited resources.
Like the Denmark side that won the 1992 edition, after a late call-up to replace Yugoslavia that had fractured into a brutal civil war, there are few standout stars in ‘Olsen’s gang’.
Goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen plus defenders Simon Kjaer and Daniel Agger provide solidity at the back while up front Olsen will look to Nicklas Bendtner to finally come good on the international stage. But for inspiration, they will rely on one of the most hotly pursued talents in European football. Ajax’s Christian Eriksen (see Player to Watch). If Denmark are to cause a surprise then a lot rests on the shoulders of the 20-year-old playmaker.
At a glance
When Morten Olsen leads Denmark to Poland and Ukraine, they will be returning to a competition which has served them famously well down the years. Having failed to qualify in 2008, the 2012 showcase will be the 1992 champions’ eighth UEFA European Championship final tournament since their 1964 debut in Spain, and they have also graced four FIFA World Cups, bowing out after the group stage in South Africa.