When the ex-captain of the ‘Danish Dynamite’ team of the 80’s and 90’s named his 23 man squad to compete in Poland and Ukraine this summer there were exactly zero eyebrows raised over the squad Martin Olsen had picked. It’s a well balanced team, mixed not only with youth and experience but discipline and flair as well.
And whilst the players that have travelled to the Euro’s are as unspectacular as a Jack Charlton combover the lack of expectance and hype will suit the Danes perfectly. After all, who can forget the Danes completely unexpected triumph back in 1992? Let’s have a look at the proposed starting line up:
While the absence of their 101 capped goalkeeper, Thomas Sorensen, through injury is a blow, the fact that he’d lost his #1 jersey to Asmir Begovic at Stoke had meant that Sorensen was not necessarily guaranteed a starting place anyway. Added to the fact that Stephan Andersen, the most likely starter, is part of Ligue 1 side Evian (the most represented club in the Danish national team) they have a more than capable ‘keeper with a good understanding of the team’s dynamics.
A few individual mistakes at the back have been well discussed over the last few games in the run up to the tournament, focusing mainly on errors from captain Daniel Agger and his centre half partner Simon Kjaer but you should not be misled. In Agger and Kjaer Denmark have two very technically gifted centre backs, both comfortable not only of controlling and moving the ball but of easily turning defence to attack with a 30 yard pass. Add to that the experience of half centurion Lars Jacobsen at right back, a man most will be familiar with for his time with Everton, Blackburn and West Ham and the attacking prowess of AZ’s Simon Poulsen on the left and the ‘masters of bacon’ have a solid backline that if it can keep it’s concentration should give Denmark a solid foundation to build on.
Denmark have one of the more fluid midfield shapes in the tournament, moving from a 3 man midfield to a 5 man depending on the phase of play but for the sake of this blog I’ll speak of the Danes as a five man midfield. First up are the 2 defensive midfielders.
In Niki Zimling the Danes have an experienced holding midfielder, despite only having 10 senior caps Zimling has accrued 48 caps at youth level, being voted as U-21 Player of the Year along the way and whilst his potential has perhaps never truly been fulfilled Zimling is a player who knows his role within the team as well as anyone else in the 11. His defensive midfield partner, William Kvist has enjoyed a successful first season with VfB Stuttgart after signing at the start of the 11-12 season and will go into the tournament in good form. Similar to Zimling, Kvist’s job is to break up the opposition’s possession of the ball and allow the team’s creative players freedom to roam.
As attacking options go Denmark’s biggest hopes rest on the youngest (bar one’s) shoulders.Christian Eriksen is one of the most talked about players in the tournament and you can understand why. To say his style of play resembles Michael Laudrup’s would actually be a discredit to Eriksen’s unique ability. Whilst not as powerful as Laudrup his array of flicks, turns and skills do not fall under the banner of showboating but are used for their effectiveness as much as their flair. Hands down the best player in the squad the truth is, when Eriksen plays well, Denmark play well.
Supporting Eriksen on the flanks are veteran Dennis Rommedahl and ‘mini’ Michael Krohn-Dehli. Rommedahl’s experience and composure will be a vital component in this attacking line up and whilst Rommedahl’s advancing years mean this is likely to be his last tournament, he still has enough fuel left in his 2nd hand Zenvo to cause problems to those who’d underestimate the right winger. On the opposite flank Krohn-Dehli will be looking to make a nuisance of himself. A capable set-piece taker and an unknown quantity, Krohn-Dehli will look to take advantage of added space as players focus on shutting down Eriksen.
Step forward Nicklas Bendtner. The much maligned striker has silenced his critics ‘slightly’ with a solid season on loan at Sunderland this past year. Lacking self confidence, Bendtner is not; after all this is the same Bendtner that said back in ’09: “…I want to be top scorer in the Premier League, top scorer at the World Cup and, within five years, I want to be among the best strikers in the world. Trust me, it will happen. I look around at other players, I see my own ability and I can’t see anything that tells me it won’t happen…”
Well, whatever you make of those comments his international record is not to be sniffed at scoring 18 goals in 48 appearances, drawing comparisons with esteemed international strikers Karim Benzema (15 in 45 apps) and Mario Gomez (22 in 52). Bendtner will be relied upon heavily to deliver for Denmark.
REST of the SQUAD
The rest of the squad is made up largely of young and inexperienced players. Taking all the other 12 players caps and adding them together only gives you a measly total of 216 caps, with 91 of those belonging to ex-Juventus and Liverpool midfielder Christian Poulsen. Denmark will be taking 8 players with 10 or less caps to their name looking to blood a few of them with an eye on WC 2014 and Euro 2016 no doubt.
Whilst a solid squad, Daniel Agger and co know they must have the tournament of their lives in order to qualify from a group made up of Holland, Germany and Portugal. But with the likes of Eriksen and dare I suggest Bendtner Denmark could maybe harbor a fools hope of another underdog victory just like in ’92?
– Lewis ‘beatthelastman’ Smith