Ageless Denmark will continue impressive group stage record
If the mark of a good side is experience and consistency, then Denmark fans should be looking forward to a successful summer in South Africa.
Manager Morten Olsen is the tournament’s longest-serving boss, having been in charge since 2000, captain Jon Dahl Tomasson has 107 caps to his name, and long-time regulars Dennis Rommedahl, Jesper Gronkjaer, Martin Jorgensen, Christian Poulsen and Thomas Sorensen remain integral players. With an average age of 32, those six players have won over 500 caps between them.
And this stability throughout the side was reflected in their impressive route to the Finals, as they topped arguably the toughest qualifying group in Europe, forcing Portugal into a play-off and leaving Sweden reeling in third following two 1-0 Danish successes in the heated Scandinavian clashes.
Remarkably, all three sides conceded only five goals, with only three points separating them in a group also containing Hungary, Albania and Malta.
Denmark’s results since have been mixed, losing to Austria, beating the USA and drawing with South Korea, but their group stage record in their three previous World Cup campaigns is worth noting. They’ve lost just one game in nine, against hosts France in 1998 – where they went on to lose narrowly to Brazil in the quarter-final.
With a strong Dutch side expected to top Group E and a goal-shy Japanese outfit unlikely to cause too many concerns for their rivals, it leaves Cameroon and Denmark involved in a straight two-way scrap for second place, when they meet on June 19th.
It’s a tough one to call but the Danes proved in qualifying that they have the temperament for a close-run scrap. Conversely, Cameroon again underwhelmed on the big stage when they lost to Gabon and Egypt at the African Cup of Nations in January, so it’s Olson’s side who look best equipped to edge the battle. Whether they can reign in a likely ‘clash of the pensioners’ against Italy in the last 16 however, is another matter.