After 28 long years of failed qualifying campaigns to the World Cup, stretching back to 1958, Denmark qualified for Mexico 86′ and equipped with the rock-solid Morten Olsen, the creativity of Michael Laudrup and the goal-scoring prowess of Preben Elkjær Larsen, the World Cup debutants would go on to exceed all expecations set for them by the world of football.
To the surprise of millions, Denmark qualified from a group consisting of Scotland, Uruguay and West Germany with supreme ease recording impressive wins along the way including a 6-1 demolition of Uruguay and a 2-0 victory over three-time winners of the tournament West Germany.
Denmark prepared for last 16 clash with Spain and it had once again looked as if the Dane’s had failed to read the script as Denmark took a narrow 1-0 lead into the halftime break. The Dane’s had an opportunity to put to bed some past demons with Spain having eliminated Denmark from the European Championship semi-final two years previous in a heart-breaking penalty shootout. Spain returned for the second-half reinvigorated and fired five past the Dane’s in what spelt the end of Denmark’s World Cup with Spain running out 5-1 winners.
Though the phrase “the higher you rise, the harder you fall” applies to Denmark’s World Cup campaign of 86′, their premiere participation in the tournament is remembered for defying the odds of escaping a tough group which consisted of two previous winners of the tournament and Mexico 86′ put Denmark on the World map as a footballing nation but 12 years would pass before the Dane’s would participate in another World Cup.
It was déjà vu for Danish football fans as they watched their nation fail to qualify for additional World Cup campaigns, this time 1990 and 94’ proving elusive with the latter being the more disappointing as Denmark approached qualifying as champions of Europe having had enjoyed unprecedented success at the tournament in 1992.
Denmark qualified for France 98′ and approached the competition looking to surpass the inspirational last 16 finish of the 1986 squad and spark hype that would reignite the famous ‘Danish Dynamite’ years and while Denmark’s progression from the group seemed straight-forward it was far from as assured as it seemed on paper.
Drawn in a group alongside Saudi Arabia, South Africa and host nation France, Denmark collected just 4 points from 9 in disappointing performances throughout the group stages with their solitary win coming in an unconvincing 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia. Although performances didn’t warrant progression from the group, Denmark finished second in the group with a distinct lack of quality in the squads of South Africa and Saudi Arabia as the primary reason.
Denmark were paired with Nigeria for their last 16 encounter and abilities of key players such as Brian and Michael Laudrup began to surface as the Dane’s made it a 90 minute nightmare for Nigeria and ran out 4-1 winners with Michael Laudrup starring in what would be his penultimate match as a player.
The result meant Denmark had gone one better than their squad of 86′ and advanced to the last 8 but celebrations were minimal as the Dane’s knew an encounter with Brazil awaited in what would become one of the most thrilling matches of the tournament with Brazil inevitably although narrowly advancing with a 3-2 win over the brave Dane’s in a match that saw Denmark eliminated and Michael Laudrup call time on a legendary career spanning 18 years.
In 2002, Denmark achieved what had never been done in their history and qualified for consecutive World Cup’s. Senegal, Uruguay and defending champions France made up Group A. Jon Dahl Tomasson hit form as he stuck 4 goals in 3 that ensured Denmark topped the group ahead of Senegal who had produced a similar story to Denmark’s 1986 campaign progressing from a difficult group in their first World Cup campaign.
Denmark encountered Sven Goran Eriksson’s England in the second-round stage but bowed out as England recorded an impressive 3-0 victory over the Dane’s which was a disappointing end to what had been a promising tournament.
Denmark kick off their 2010 World Cup campaign on June 14th as they prepare for a clash with the Netherlands. Manager Morten Olsen will look to his influential players to ensure qualification from a tricky group consisting of Japan, Cameroon and the Netherlands as Denmark look to maintain their impressive record of progressing from the group-stages each and every time they have participated in the World Cup.