In 1992, Denmark shocked the whole of Europe by winning the European Championship despite having just two weeks to prepare for the tournament. The Danes were allowed to compete after Yugoslavia, who finished above the country in the qualifying round, were banned due to civil war in the Balkans. Since then, Denmark have failed to qualify for the finals only in 2008, but in previous editions could not get further than the quarter-final (in 2004).
After a disappointing 2010 World Cup, in which Denmark failed to reach their declared goal of making the Round of 16, Morten Olsen’s men produced a solid qualifying campaign, topping their group ahead of Portugal and Norway. Denmark make up for the lack of a prolific striker with a solid defence and high-quality midfield which blends creativity (Christian Eriksen, Lasse Schone), speed (Michael Krohn-Dehli) and experience (Christian Poulsen). Despite clear underdog status, the Danes are still a team that can be hard to handle and could surprise stronger sides.
In The Dugout – Morten Olsen
A living legend in Denmark, Olsen has clocked up more than 100 matches as a player and coach. Euro 2012 will be yet another tournament for Denmark under the boss who first took charge in 2000. Despite many ups and downs, Olsen’s reign has been the second most successful in the era of full time professional Denmark coaches, thanks to a win percentage of 52.8%. Only Richard Moller-Nielsen, who led Denmark to Euro 1992, has done better with 54.8%. After winning two Danish titles in the early 1990s with Brondby, Olsen picked up an Eredivisie-Dutch Cup double with Ajax in the 1997/98 season. His former assistant Michael Laudrup should take over as Denmark coach from next July.
Key Player – Christian Eriksen
Young Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen is one of the few players in the world to have made his debut for his country’s senior side and then the Under-21 team. When the Ajax talent was called up for the Denmark Under-21 squad for the 2011 European Championship, he had already played five times for the senior side, including two at the 2010 World Cup, where he was the youngest player at the tournament. Last June against Iceland, Eriksen also became the youngest ever Danish player to score a goal in European Championship qualification. 2011’s Danish Player of the Year ended the 2011/12 season by winning his second consecutive Eredivisie title with Ajax – he was the Dutch side’s assist king, creating 15 goals.
View from Denmark
The Danes are not fooling themselves: Surviving the group stage would be considered a miracle. Of course, the country remember the glory days when, as outsiders, they surprised all Europe and won the trophy. Only a few die-hard optimists believe that history can repeat itself.
From amongst the 16 Euro 2012 teams, Denmark are not the worst, especially when it comes to quality. Olsen has a well-balanced team at his disposal, a solid defence and one of the most exciting talents in Europe in Eriksen – but they lack a top class striker and even on the flanks Denmark have few options. The country’s biggest problem though is their draw, with a group which it will be almost impossible to survive. They will be stubborn and tough opponents, but nothing more.