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World Cup 2010: Danish backsides hover above bacon-slicer, but hopes still high
Lars Eriksen - 4 years ago

As Norwegian insults go, this was right up there with Maggie Thatcher's boys taking "one hell of a beating". International criticism rained down on Denmark after their 2-0 defeat to Holland in the Group E opener, but none was more painful than Norway's Dagbladet comparing the ambition and tactics of Morten Olsen's team to that of Egil 'Drillo' Olsen, the Norwegian manager whose long-ball approach has bored crowds senseless from Oslo to Wimbledon.

Drillo himself even joined the chorus. "You saw Nicklas Bendtner was weakened," the Norway manager said. "Then they had Dennis Rommedahl who created something, but Denmark have huge shortcomings going forward. It was made very obvious in the game [against Holland]." Could it really be true that the footballing nation of Danish Dynamite, the Laudrups and the aspirational attacking ethos has turned into a carbon copy of the creatively defeatist Norwegian model?

It you take a closer look at Denmark's current squad, it would be hugely unfair to even mention them in the same breath as the 80s team. Sepp Piontek's red and white pinstriped legends, who took the world by the storm in Mexico 1986 only to crash out in the most heartbreaking fashion, contained some of the best players in Europe at the peak of their careers. However, the backbone of the current squad is an admirable yet shaky old guard. While Martin Jørgensen was a revelation when he was introduced to the world stage at France 1998, it's frustrating to see the AGF midfielder running out of steam and having to be dragged off after 60 minutes. The proof should be in the numbers. Alongside Jørgensen's 97 caps, the quartet of Jon Dahl Tomasson, Rommedahl, Jesper Grønkjær and Christian Poulsen have combined for more than 350 internationals.

So, the consensus among the manager and some commentators after the Holland game was that Denmark had done OK considering the limited options available. Despite the goal-giving gaffe by the otherwise decent Simon Poulsen, the defence is our strongest suit and going forward ... well, it's probably as good as it gets. It's the same soul-crushing realisation you get when you are invited to the prom, only to find yourself standing alone by the punch bowl all night while all the cool jocks are putting the moves on your date.

However, there is still plenty of time for Olsen's team to charm its way back into this party. Admittedly, there isn't much room for manoeuvre when it comes to out-and-out strikers, and you would have to question the wisdom of bringing only three players for this position: the fading Tomasson, the perennially injured Bendtner and Søren Larsen, who the Denmark manager admits is not good enough to be in the starting 11.

On the plus side, there is one great hope in midfield in the shape of 18-year old wonderkid Christian Eriksen from Ajax. No, he is not the new Laudrup and it would be ludicrously unfair to pin a country's hopes on a teenager who has hardly been blooded at this stage. Right now, however, he does seem like the only option of generating some excitement into this team and Olsen would do wisely to introduce him to the starting line-up. During an otherwise miserable spell for Denmark leading up to and including the first game at the World Cup, the young playmaker's quick bursts and ball-handling skills have been an oasis of encouragement.

With a little bit of chutzpah and attacking ambition this Denmark team could still dish out one hell of a beating to Cameroon tonight and progress in South Africa.

This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.

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