Warsaw - With Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal as group opponents, Denmark’s chances of progressing to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 Football Championships look remote.
Under the nickname Danish Dynamite, the Danish national team had a glorious period in the 1980s with players like Allan Simonsen, Soren Lerby, Preben Elkjaer, Michael Laudrup and Morten Olsen.
They did not win trophies, but gained international recognition with their attractive style of play under guidance of coach Sepp Piontek. After Piontek quit in 1990, his successor Richard Moller Nielsen continued with less quality players, but the success came instantly.
In 1992, Denmark finished second in the group behind Yugoslavia and failed to qualify for the European Championships in Sweden. But they eventually profited from the war in Yugoslavia.
Due to international sanctions resulting from the war, the UEFA decided to exclude Yugoslavia only ten days before the start of the tournament and to hand the entry to Denmark. Without a decent preparation, Denmark, who had goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel and forward Brian Laudrup as key players, made a fairytale outing, beating 1988 champions the Netherlands in the semis and overcoming reigning 1990 World champions Germany in the final.
“There is no denying that this will be a source of inspiration to us,” current coach Morten Olsen said ahead of the Euro 2012.
In a total of seven participations at the Euro, Denmark also reached a fourth place in 1964, a semi-final berth in 1984, three group phase exits and the quarter-finals in 2004.
The build-up to the eighth appearance this summer looked promising. Denmark finished above Portugal in the qualifying group, beating the Portuguese 2-1 in the final match.
Former player Olsen, now 62 years old, has been the head coach of the national team since 2000, leading Denmark to the 2002 World Cup, the 2004 European Championship and the 2010 World Cup.
The strength of the current Danish team is the axis with central defending duo Daniel Agger (Liverpool FC) and Simon Kjaer (AS Roma), playmaker Christian Eriksen (Ajax) and striker Nicklas Bendtner (Sunderland, on loan from Arsenal). The latter scored three goals in five qualifying matches, including the important second goal against Portugal, which secured the Euro qualification.
“Obviously, we will have to be at our best and we need to have all of our key players fit for the ten days,” Olsen said on the UEFA website. “On top of that, we will need a good deal of luck in order to succeed. That said, it is not an easy group for the other teams, and I did not really see any happy faces on any of my colleagues from those countries.”
Ajax starlet Christian Eriksen could play a key role, with the 20-year-old midfielder adding pace and creativity to the team. At the age of 18, he was the youngest player at the 2010 World Cup and since then has spent two full seasons at Ajax.
The following is Denmark’s 23-man squad:
Goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester), Stephan Andersen (Evian), Anders Lindegaard (Manchester United)
Defenders: Lars Jacobsen (FC Copenhagen), Daniel Wass (Evian), Daniel Agger (Liverpool), Simon Kjaer (AS Roma), Andreas Bjelland (FC Nordsjalland), Simon Poulsen (AZ Alkmaar), Jores Okore (FC Nordsjalland)
Midfielders: Christian Poulsen (Evian), Jakob Poulsen (FC Midtjylland), William Kvist (Nurnburg), Niki Zimling (Club Brugge), Thomas Kahlenberg (Evian), Christian Eriksen (Ajax), Michael Silberbauer (Young Boys), Lasse Schone (NEC Nijmegen)
Forwards: Dennis Rommedahl (Brondby), Nicklas Bendtner (Arsenal), Michael Krohn-Dehli (Brondby), Tobias Mikkelsen (FC Nordsjalland), Nicklas Pedersen (FC Groningen).