EURO 2012 GROUP of Death:Denmark’s Genius,the Olsen gang & Anfield’s tattoo artist.

We continue our countdown to the 14th edition of the European Championship to be hosted by Poland and Ukraine between June 8 and July 1, 2012 .Denmark have their UEFA Euro 2012 hopes in danger as they’ve been drawn against hot favourites Germany and the Netherlands in the Group of Death.Denmark kick off their EURO 2012 campaign against the Netherlands on June 9.The Netherlands and Germany are two of the world’s best teams. Portugal are ranked highly and have the best player in the tournament.

Comparisons with 1992 achievements are unavoidable every time Denmark earns the right to participate in a big tournament. Euro 2012 is not an exception.

Denmark’s shock victory at Euro ’92 was one of the most remarkable stories in the tournament’s history. The Danes were beaten to a qualifying spot by Yugoslavia, but civil war in the Balkans meant the Yugoslavs were not allowed to compete.Little was expected from the Danes, yet they beat France and the Netherlands to reach the final, where they defeated Germany through goals from John Jensen and Kim Vilfort.Denmark is the least populated country to ever win the European Championship.

Youngsters like Simon Kjær (23), Andreas Bjelland (23) and injured Nicolai Boilesen (20) have already been hot topics in recent transfer speculations. William Kvist and Niki Zimling constantly show solid performances for their teams.

Experienced trio Christian Poulsen (90 caps),Stoke City’s Sørensen (100 caps) and Ajax-star Dennis Rommedahl (114 caps) are still vital for their national team. The experience might become the factor for the Danes.

Morten Olsen’s tactics is built on strong defence but his regular defenders (especially Simon Kjær) make silly mistakes  for their clubs from time to time.

Statistics against

Portugal

The last two times in Copenhagen were must-win visits for Portugal, where they did not pass the test and were ought to try their luck in play-offs. However, the most thrilling match took place in Lisboa in 2008, where yet another boring match was about to finish with a score of 1-0, when suddenly the teams went wild five minutes before the final whistle. At first it got 1-1, a minute later 2-1, four minutes later 2-2 and deep inside the injury time 2-3, with Daniel Jensen leaving Portugal in shock.

Germany

Denmark’s record in 25 previous meetings with Germany is 8 wins 3 draws and 14 defeats. However, they hold the upper hand in competitive fixtures, where they have won two of three encounters.The Danes have not lost in their last three meetings with Germany – all friendlies – recording wins in Copenhagen and Duisburg, and a draw in the Danish capital.

The match between those two teams in the Swedish capital back in 1992 has been the most important one in Denmark’s football history. The fairy tale ended as it was meant to. Denmark won 2-0 against probably the best team in the world. Absolutely amazing tournament with even more amazing final!

Netherlands

The Netherlands, hot favourites to win the trophy in 1992 ,were eliminated by the Danes. The match ended 2-2 and the Danish legend Peter Schmeichel saved Marco Van Basten’s penalty.

THE OLSEN GANG| Eight-year absence

After an eight-year absence, Danish Dynamite (ranked 10th in the world) is once again set to explode on the elite european footballing scene. The Scandinavians missed out on EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland.

Denmark played some of the most attractive football at EURO 2004 in Portugal, but came up against the in-form Czech Republic in the quarter-finals and lost 3-0.
 

With their long absence from the major stage now poised to end, captain Daniel Agger and his men are keen to cut a dash in Poland and Ukraine.

HOW THEY QUALIFIED

Denmark secured first place in Group H following their showdown with Portugal in the final group fixture, Michael Krohn-Dehli & Sunderland striker Nicklas Bendtner scored to clinch automatic qualification. The result meant Portugal would have to settle for a play-off place. Morten Olsen’s squad showed quality at the back, only conceding 6 goals from 8 fixtures and were only defeated once away to Portugal, 3-1. The Danes scored 15 goals this campaign, Nicklas Bendtner and Dennis Rommedahl were joint top-scorers with 3 goals each.

 

GROUP H
GP GD PTS
1 Denmark (Q) 8 6 1 1 9 19
2 Portugal  (P) 8 5 1 2 9 16
3 Norway 8 5 1 2 3 16
4 Iceland 8 1 1 6 -8 4
5 Cyprus 8 0 2 6 -13 2

TOP SCORERS

3 – Nicklas Bendtner, Dennis Rommedahl
2 – Michael Krohn-Delhi, Morten Skoubo
1 – Kasper Lorentzen, Lasse Schone, Christian Eriksen, Lars Jacobsen

PAST RECORDS IN THE EUROS

1960
Did not qualify
1988
Group Stage
1964
Fourth place
1992
Winners
1968
Did not qualify
1996
Group Stage
1972
Did not qualify
2000
Group stage
1976
Did not qualify
2004
Quarter-finalists
1980
Did not qualify
2008
Did not qualify
1984
Semi-finalists
2012
Qualified as group winners

THE MANAGER | Morten Olsen

“I still see potential in the players we have, and in the players who are on their way.When players tap you on the shoulder and tell you they would like you to stay on, then you have to think about it.”- Morten Olsen

The Danish Football Association (DBU) was so satisfied with the qualifying results that they hurried to persuade Morten Per Olsen (62) to wait a couple of years before he would retire.Olsen became the first Dane to play 100 games for the national team in April 1989, before ending his national team career in June 1989.The former Denmark captain played a total 102 games and scored four goals for the national team,and set a record of 50 games as Danish national team captain.

Morten Olsen was appointed Head Coach after Denmark’s Euro 2000 campaign replacing Swedish coach Bo Johansson. Before managing Denmark Olsen was in charge at Ajax for just one season, winning both the Eredivise championship and Dutch Cup.He has not been the most successful manager, but he managed to earn next round tickets for his team outperforming rivals like France in World Cup 2002 and Italy in Euro 2004. They only need to add Germany or Netherlands to this list, as we’ve seen them advance Portugal twice during last 4 years.He came under heavy criticism when he failed to guide the team to Euro 2008.

Olsen weathered the storm though and led the Danes to the 2010 World Cup and now has a chance to make his mark in Poland and Ukraine.Olsen wants Michael Laudrup to succeed him as national team manager.

Morten Olsen has confirmed 20 of the Denmark players he will take to UEFA EURO 2012, with three further call-ups to be announced very soon.Olsen has brought in a clutch of young players like Christian Eriksen, Nicolai Boilesen and Niki Zimling, and they’ve been excellent.

Denmark squad
Goalkeepers: Thomas Sørensen (Stoke City FC), Stephan Andersen (Évian Thonon Gaillard FC).

Defenders: Lars Jacobsen (FC København), Daniel Wass (Évian Thonon Gaillard FC), Daniel Agger (Liverpool FC), Simon Kjær (AS Roma), Andreas Bjelland (FC Nordsjælland), Simon Poulsen (AZ Alkmaar).

Midifelders: Christian Poulsen (Évian Thonon Gaillard FC), Jakob Poulsen (FC Midtjylland), William Kvist (1. FC Nürnberg), Niki Zimling (Club Brugge KV), Thomas Kahlenberg (Évian Thonon Gaillard FC), Christian Eriksen (AFC Ajax), Michael Silberbauer (BSC Young Boys), Lasse Schøne (NEC Nijmegen).

Forwards: Dennis Rommedahl (Brøndby IF), Nicklas Bendtner (Sunderland AFC), Michael Krohn-Dehli (Brøndby IF), Tobias Mikkelsen (FC Nordsjælland).

 THE CAPTAIN | Daniel Agger

“I still believe I have plenty in me – we’ll see how it all goes, but right now I feel great and want to continue this way” -Daniel Agger

A left-footed central defender with a formidable long-range shot, Daniel Munthe Agger (27) has been a Liverpool FC player since January 2006, but much of his time at Anfield has been spent recovering from injury. An ever-present for Denmark at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, he is set to captain his country at UEFA EURO 2012.The Liverpool defender was handed the captain’s armband when Olsen dropped  Christian Poulsen from the squad for the encounter against Norway last year.

Agger came through the youth system at Brøndby IF and experienced a brilliant debut season in the Superligaen, making 26 appearances and scoring five goals as the club won the Danish league and cup double under coach Michael Laudrup.

He was handed his senior international debut in a friendly against Finland in Tampere on 2 June 2005.He scored his first goal for Morten Olsen’s team three months later during a 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifier versus Georgia (6-1). He has scored 5 goals in 44 appearances for Denmark.

Agger left for European champions Liverpool midway through 2005/06 season and made a major impact the following term, notably in the UEFA Champions League, starting 11 matches and scoring the only goal in the second leg of the semi-final against Chelsea FC at Anfield, which Liverpool won on penalties and played in the Athens showpiece defeat by AC Milan.

The skipper missed most of 2007/08 with a foot injury but returned to assist Liverpool in finishing second in the 2008/09 Premier League and help Denmark end six years in the international wilderness by qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.He started all three fixtures in South Africa.

The tattoo artist finally reached 100 Premier League appearances for Liverpool in October 2011 and won his first trophy with the club in February 2012 as the Merseysiders overcame Cardiff City FC on penalties in the League Cup final – although he was substituted before the shoot-out with yet another injury.

The fans of Danish Dynamite will be hoping Agger can stay fit and play a leading role in Poland and Ukraine.

GOAL MACHINE| Nicklas Bendtner

‘I always go into everything with the same attitude to win. It doesn’t matter what it is. First we need to try to concentrate on getting out of the group. After that, anything can happen.’– Nicklas Bendtner.

Brought to England as a teenager by Arsene Wenger, Bendtner (24) made his debut for Arsenal in October 2005 in a League Cup tie against Sunderland as a substitute for Quincy Owusu-Abeyie but spent the whole of the following season on loan to Birmingham, helping the Blues win promotion to the Premier League with 11 league goals in 42 games.

After representing Denmark at the age of 18 in the 2006 UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Portugal, he scored on his senior debut in August of that year against Poland.

He returned to Arsenal for the start of 2007/08, having recently signed a five-year contract, and scored his first Premier League goal − against local rivals Tottenham Hotspur FC − three days before Christmas.He also scored the Gunners’ first goal of the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League group stage − against R. Standard de Liège − and though he missed the remaining five games through injury, he hit a hat-trick in a 5-0 defeat of FC Porto in the round of 16.

He scored three times in Denmark’s successful FIFA 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, including one in each game against group runners-up Portugal, and was also on target at the finals as his side overcame Cameroon 2-1.The 2004 Danish Under-17 Player of the Year was voted Danish Player of the Year in 2009 for his contribution in the World Cup qualifiers.His goal against Portugal won the Goal of the Year award.

Bendtner turned down the opportunity of representing his national team at the 2011 Under-21 European Championship in Denmark, citing family reasons. Denmark’s top scorer in the EURO 2012 qualifiers with 3 goals has already scored 17 goals in 46 caps in his international career.

He currently plays for Sunderland on loan from Arsenal.Bendtner has said that he will never play for Arsenal again due to a lack of chances in the first team since his car accident. The 24-year-old Dane finished the campaign with eight goals for the Black Cats but manager Martin O’Neill was disappointed with his behaviour off the pitch.Danish tabloids keep on renewing top 10 of  Bendtner’s most stupid deeds’ lists several times per season. He damaged cars near the home of Sunderland’s rivals Newcastle.Recently, he knocked a man down when celebrating a team victory in Denmark.

Borussia Dortmund are lining up an early move for Nicklas Bendtner .He is hoping for a successful Euro 2012 with Denmark to earn a permanent move away from north London.Following the retirement of Denmark’s joint record goal-scorer Jon Dahl Tomasson, Bendtner is expected to spearhead the Danish attack against Group B rivals the Netherlands, Portugal and Germany.  His claims of being the best striker in the world will need further examinations.

GENIUS |  Christian Eriksen

He’s a player I really like with all my heart.This prize is just the beginning, a stimulus to get the maximum out of his career. The talent is there, the recognition also; now it is up to the player himself. He is a typical product of the Danish school. You can compare him with Brian and Michael Laudrup. Only time will tell if Eriksen can reach the same level as them.“-Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff is one of the admirers of Eriksen’s talent. Local experts are sure, that Eriksen is the long-awaited successor of Michael Laudrup. These claims became even more trustworthy after a fantastic performance against England in the beginning of 2011.The rising star of Danish football, Christian Dannemann Eriksen(20) was the youngest player to appear at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Two years on,he is the playmaker-in-chief of both the Danish national team and Dutch giants AFC Ajax, with whom he won the Eredivisie title in 2011/12. Vision, creativity and a firm long-range shot are among his many attributes.The midfield maestro has attracted the attention of some big teams in Europe, following a captivating performance with club and country.

Last year’s Dutch Football Talent of the Year was born in central Denmark, in the town of Middelfart.He joined Odense BK in his early teens and prospered at youth team and national Under-17 level, attracting the interest of scouts from all across Europe.

He joined Ajax in October 2008 after trials with FC Barcelona, AC Milan and Chelsea FC and worked his way up to first-team level, making his Eredivisie debut on 17 January 2010 against NAC Breda.

Less than two months after his Eredivisie debut he was a full Danish international, his first cap coming in a Vienna friendly against Austria on 3 March 2010; he made his competitive debut as a substitute against the Netherlands in Denmark’s opening match at the 2010 World Cup finals in Johannesburg.

A Dutch Cup winner at the end of his maiden half-season, he was a league champion at the end of his first full campaign, scoring six goals in 28 Eredivisie appearances as Ajax overhauled PSV Eindhoven and – on the final day – FC Twente to claim their first national championship in seven years.He was named Dutch Football Talent of the Year, the second Danish player to win the award since Jon Dahl Tomasson in 1996.

He scored his first international goal in a UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier against Iceland on 4 June 2011,becoming the youngest Danish player ever to score a goal in European qualifiers, being 9 days younger than Michael Laudrup when he scored his first goal in 1983.He returned home to Denmark to compete in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship later that month.

The lad played from start to finish in Denmark’s last three UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers, against Norway, Cyprus and Portugal, and was named by the Danish Football Association (DBU) as their 2011 footballer of the year.

This season,he won the Eredivisie with Ajax for the second successive time.He scored 7 goals for the team from Amsterdam,providing 15 assists.He has scored 2 goals in 21 caps for Denmark.

 There is no doubt about Eriksen’s technical abilities. Now it’s time to follow to his ability to cope with the attention he will face in Ukraine.

 

STAR  | Dennis Rommedahl

“I’m totally satisfied with Olsen, and for the sake of Danish football, I’m delighted he extended his contract.Since 2000, he’s never had the slightest doubt about me, so he’s obviously been an essential component in my career.”-Dennis Rommedahl

A four-time Eredivisie winner with PSV, pacy winger Rommedahl (33) reached his century of international caps shortly after participating at the 2010 FIFA World Cup − his third major international tournament.

Copenhagen-born, he made his debut for Lyngby at 17 and was transferred to PSV at 18. He helped the Eredivisie outfit win four Dutch titles , though his best individual campaign came in 2001/02, when he scored 11 goals in 34 league appearances as PSV finished runners-up to Ajax.

The winger enjoyed an impressive introduction to international football, making his debut for Denmark in Morten Olsen’s first game in charge, against the Faroe Islands in August 2000, scoring both goals in a 2-1 friendly win at home to Germany three months later and starting 32 internationals in a row.

His unbroken run lasted almost three years. He was part of Denmark’s 2002 FIFA World Cup team, where he excelled, scoring the opening goal in a 2-0 defeat of France that eliminated the holders.He was later voted 2002 Danish footballer of the year.

He also represented Denmark at EURO 2004, starting the first two matches and coming on as substitute in the next two after losing his place to Jesper Grønkjær.

Rommedahl left PSV for English Premier League club Charlton after 7 years with the club but returned to the Netherlands in 2007 to join Ajax, with whom he won the Dutch Cup in the 2009/10 season.

He impressed again for his country at the 2010 World Cup, playing every minute.Denmark’s group stage early exit left him on 99 caps but he reached a century that August in a Copenhagen friendly against Germany, marking the occasion with his 18th international goal.

He won the Greek title in 2010/11, his one and only season with Olympiacos, after which he signed a two-year deal with Brøndby and returned to his homeland after 14 years abroad.

The 33-year-old was the team’s joint top scorer in the qualifiers.The Brondby man has made 114 appearances for his country and will look to add to his 21 goals in what could be his last tournament.

Can the Danish Dynamite explode again?

This article was written by Nana Abiri (@NOKA88)
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