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Monday, March 12, 2012

We could be in for a Red and White summer. EURO 2012 preview : Denmark


Success has long eluded the Danes. Could EURO 2012 be their time to shine?


The last two decades have seen Danish football go on a downward spiral, from a European Championship victory in 1992 to a first round exit in the most recent edition of the FIFA World Cup. Although the Danish national team has gone through an unsuccessful era under current coach, Morten Olsen, the FA has shown an immense amount of faith and persisted with the Dane for the last twelve years. 

On paper, the current squad may not seem the most intimidating. Yet, this Danish team will have to be considered the primary upset-causer in this year's European Championships. With an experienced coach at the helm, and a rock solid defensive unit, the Danes will be looking to add a few scalps to their list of big scalps, this June.
QUALIFYING CAMPAIGN

Denmark got off to a solid start in their qualifying campaign by picking up a narrow 1-0 win over Iceland. Their only flaw, in their otherwise sensational campaign, was their 3-1 loss at the hands of the unpredictable Portuguese. Portugal's super stars proved too hot to handle, as Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo hammered three goals past Thomas Sørensen. De Rød-Hvide got back on the right path by beating Cyprus 2-0 and picking up a crucial 1-1 draw at Norway. Convincing wins against Iceland, Norway and Cyprus saw Denmark move into second position, with a game against Portugal to decide who would achieve direct qualification for EURO 2012.

Denmark took the game to Portugal, scoring the opener within the first quarter of an hour. The Danes doubled their lead after the hour mark, as Niklas Bendtner got his third goal of the qualifying round. A consolation goal from Ronaldo was immaterial, as Denmark pulled of a memorable victory at the Parken Stadium to book their place in the 14th edition of the European Championships.


THE GROUP OF DEATH AND POSSIBLE REVENGE

Being drawn in a group consisting of EURO 2008 runners up, World Cup 2010 runners up and one of the most unpredictable teams in Europe, surely causes goose bumps. Sadly for Denmark, they’ve been put into this very group, and will have to battle it out against Germany, Netherlands and Portugal.

Kicking off their campaign against the Netherlands, Olsen will have his hands full. Having to deal with the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben will prove to be one of Denmark’s hardest tasks this summer. Their next opponents will be a fairly familiar foe, Portugal. Having beaten the Selecção in 2011, Denmark will have an abundance of confidence and will fancy their chances of picking up three points. On the other hand, let us not forget just how hungry this Portuguese side will be to annihilate the Danes for the embarrassment they suffered in October. Assuming Denmark do not lose their first two games, it is fair to say that their final group game against Germany will be far from inconsequential. Once again, the Danes will have to deal with one of Europe’s most exciting attacking forces, in the form of Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller and Mario Gomez. On the whole, nothing seems fine and dandy for the men in red and white.

On a more positive note, Denmark were placed in the Group of Death the last time they won the European Championships, back in 1992. If luck is on their side and history has some worth, Denmark could well be the surprise package at Poland and Ukraine, this June.


PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Thomas Sørensen

A wall between the sticks


Not very often does one see a goalkeeper mentioned in this section, but Thomas Sørensen will be paramount in Denmark’s attempt to reclaim the European Championships. The Danes were guaranteed a spot in EURO 2012 thanks to a number of resolute defensive performances, with Sørensen being the backbone of this defensive unit.

Having the fifth best defensive record in the qualifiers for the tournament shows just how important the 35-year-old will be for De Rød-Hvide. With a 100 caps to his name, Sørensen’s experience will be a massive boost to Olsen and his side.

Christian Eriksen

Remember the name

Chased by a host of teams at the club level, 20-year-old Eriksen will be Denmark’s trump card this summer. With incredible ball control, mesmerizing pace and a good eye, Eriksen will, without a doubt, be one of the most talked about players at the European Championships.

Having scored 9 goals and 5 assists this season, weak defences, like that of Portugal and Netherlands, will be put to the test by Eriksen. The young lad will also know that a good run at the European Championships could be his ticket to a big club.


At the moment, the odds are heavily stacked against Denmark. Yet, I have a gut feeling that Marten Olsen will see his side go far in this edition of the European Championships. Even if the Red and Whites fail to qualify for the knockout stages, they could play a crucial role in deciding which of the big names, Portugal, Germany or Netherlands, crash out of the tournament in the group stage.


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