It seems inconceivable that anyone will be able to mention Denmark in relation to the European Championships without turning the clock back twenty years, to when the Danes were hastily assembled following the forced withdrawal of Yugoslavia from that summers tournament in Sweden and then went and won the entire tournament. The Danes haven’t been quite as fortunate since, but they are a team that consigned one of their group opponents in this summers tournament to a play-off place. Even though they start this tournament as the outsiders to get through the group stages, it would be foolish to merely write them off as cannon fodder for Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal.
The History: There is a certain irony to the fact that it was in 1992 that Denmark became the champions of Europe, as this came several years after what might have been considered to be the finest Danish team of all time. Denmark’s golden generation came from nowhere and faded from view almost as quickly. They beat England at Wembley in qualifying for the 1984 European Championship finals and, once there, came within a penalty shoot-out of reaching the final of the competition before losing to Spain. The team traveled to Mexico for the World Cup finals two years later with high hopes but, after qualifying from their group which included a thrashing of Uruguay, the team faced off against Spain and was handed walloping of its own. This might have been considered the end of the great Danish team, but a new generation of players beat both the Netherlands and Germany on the way to lifting the trophy in Sweden. Since then, performances have been mixed with the team failing to qualify for the World Cup finals in 1994 and 2006, and having only got past the group stages of the European Championships once since winning it two decades ago.
The Team: In sharp contrast with all three of their group opponents, there are few superstars in the Danish team, but this is a side of solid professionals with a smattering of senior professionals with a wealth of experience, such as goalkeeper Tomas Sorenson and striker Dennis Rohmmedahl. Three of the preliminary squad for the tournament ply their trade with F.C. Nordsjælland, who have just become the champions of Denmark for the first time, and other familiar names include Liverpool’s Daniel Agger, Arsenal’s Nicolas Bendtner and veteran defender Christian Poulsen. Elsewhere, Ajaxs Christian Eriksen has been receiving admiring glances from some of Europe’s biggest clubs of late. Recent results have not been great – they have lost their last two friendly matches against Russia and Brazil – but this is a team that qualified for the finals in style and still has one more friendly match to play against Australia to tune up before the finals.
The Coach: Continuing the trend for veteran managers, Morten Olsen has been in charge of the Danish team for the last twelve years, although his contract does expire at the end of this summer’s tournament. The majority of his playing career was in Belgium, where he played for Cercle Brugge, Racing White and Anderlecht between 1972 and 1986 – he won three Belgian championships in the early 1980s with Anderlecht – before finishing off his career in Germany with Cologne. He also won one hundred and two caps for his country. His coaching career began with two successive Danish championships with Brondby. He then spent a couple of years back in Cologne before coaching Ajax to a league and cup double in the Netherlands in 1998. Olsen was understood to want to return to club football this summer, although there has been no confirmation yet of what he will do once this tournament ends.
The Kit: Denmark’s national team was for many years associated only with their compatriot manufacturers Hummel, but they switched to Adidas several years ago and this year’s number, red with white shoulders, calls to mind the kit worn by the team it won the tournament two decades ago, which is arguably an act of supreme cheekiness by the company that took the contract from the company that had held it for such a long time. Still, let’s look on the bright side – Adidas have produced far worse kits than this in their time, and Denmark will be one of the better dressed teams at this year’s finals.
The Prospects: They may the underdogs in a group that also contains Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal, but Denmark won six of their eight qualifying matches for these finals, including a 2-1 win their final match against Portugal last year. Their experience will count them in good stead, but there are concerns that goalkeeper Tomas Sorenson may miss at least the opening match of the tournament with injury, and it is difficult to argue that their other seniors players aren’t past their best. That said, however, what might be the psychological implications of that 1992 win? It is now long enough ago to no longer be considered an albatross around the teams neck, but it may just infuse them with the self-belief that they can grind out enough results to sneak through to the quarter-finals of the competition.
The National Anthem: “Der er et yndigt land” (There is a Lovely Country) Denmark is a country with two official national anthems. Der er et yndigt land is used on civic occasions, whilst another – The King’s Anthem– is brought out for royal and military affairs. Der er et yndigt land was written in 1819 and adopted soon afterwards, in 1835. It consists of four stanzas, of which only the first and the last three lines of the fourth are generally sung. This is something of a pity, as after having established Denmark’s picturesque geography, the second verse begins:
“There in the ancient days
the armoured Vikings rested
Between their bloody frays”
Musically, it’s fairly hymnal and non-confrontational, much like the country it represents. Aside from the Viking hordes, of course.
The British Press Will Say: It is – as we have found out for ourselves in the course of writing this article – very difficult to talk about Denmark and the European Championships without mentioning 1992. This is forgivable. Stating that the team was “pulled off the beaches” to play in it is less so, because it’s not true. Other traditional favourites of the British press include references to bacon and the breed of dog that shares their name.
Don’t forget that with Euro 2012 approaching you can download the Twohundredpercent Euro 2012 spreadsheet here (for Excel 2007), whilst a version that will be compatible with older versions of Excel is available here.
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