Thu, Jun 07, 2012 - Page 18 News List

EURO 2012 GROUP B: Denmark capable of pulling off upset

Reuters, COPENHAGEN

Few nations would swap places with Denmark, who have to take on the Netherlands, Germany and Portugal at Euro 2012.

However, having been crowned surprise European champions in 1992, De Rod Hvide know they are always capable of pulling off a shock.

At first glance, it looks likely that they will be propping up Group B after the preliminary games — but that would be to ignore the lessons of history and Denmark’s dynamic determination in major tournaments.

Their opponents would do well to take their challenge seriously.

“On paper all the other teams are better than us, but if they underestimate us they’ll be making a very big mistake,” striker Nicklas Bendtner said.

Nor will Denmark fans be happy just to take part in the tournament, according to Peter Schmeichel, who kept goal at the 1992 tournament.

“As soon as Denmark qualify, the fans will expect them to do well,” he said. “There is no less pressure on Denmark than for the bigger countries.”

De Rod Hvide open their campaign against the Netherlands on Saturday in a game that is unlikely to hold any surprises for either team.

Denmark’s 4-3-3 formation and dedication to quick, passing soccer mirrors the Netherlands’ philosophy and a sojourn in the Dutch league is almost de rigueur for Denmark players plying their trade outside their home country.

Next up will be Portugal, from whom Denmark took four points in qualifying to top their group. They also beat Portugal into second place in qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, giving Denmark an important psychological advantage.

Ominously for Portugal, Bendtner has scored in all three of his competitive outings against them.

Germany may prove a tougher nut to crack, but should Denmark be able to secure some points in the first two matches, they may not need to go all-out in the final group game on June 17 to progress.

Coach Morten Olsen will hope to have the injury-prone Liverpool defender Daniel Agger fit in time for the tournament; if he is, he will be paired with AS Roma stopper Simon Kjaer, giving Denmark a physicality in central defense that few teams can match.

Starting out from a role on the wing, the mercurial Christian Eriksen will be the fulcrum of the attack. Only a few months old when Denmark won the 1992 tournament, he will be given freedom to roam the frontline, probing for openings.

Eriksen will be handed space by the tireless work of William Kvist, the unsung hero of Denmark’s central midfield.

An intelligent passer of the ball with a dangerous long throw, Kvist’s versatility may have slowed him down in the early part of his career, but not anymore.

He was shunted around different positions in midfield and defense, but at 27 he has now made the central midfield berth his own for club and country.

Ultimately, it is the wily Olsen who will have the most influence on how far De Rod Hvide can go as he strikes a balance between Denmark’s soccer philosophy and tailoring his game plan to the opposition.

Shorn of record scorer Jon Dahl Tomasson, Denmark will also be looking to the likes of Bendtner to increase their strike rate in front of goal — in eight qualifiers, they only managed 15 goals, six less than runners-up Portugal.

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