'Olsen's gang' ready to upset the Euro odds
Published : 11 May 2012 03:16:57
Denmark are hoping to emulate their compatriots' shock win in the 1992 European Championships, despite having already had their chances of winning in Poland and Ukraine written off.
Having been drawn in Group B along with fellow previous winners Germany, The Netherlands and European powerhouses Portugal, it is no wonder that few see them progressing beyond the group stages.
However, the Danes will be no pushovers and are there by merit, having claimed the scalp of Portugal in the qualifiers, when they showed great nerve to see them off in their final match in Copenhagen.
Coach Morten Olsen is the longest-serving handler at the finals, having taken over in 2000 and who is poised to take the national side to its fourth major finals on his watch.
The 62-year-old Danish football great, who captained the exciting side that impressed at the 1986 World Cup finals, had hinted that he would step down after the qualifiers but instead signed a new contract taking him up to 2014.
But the man who guided Denmark to the second round of the 2002 World Cup and the last eight of the Euro 2004 championships said that even though he had extended his time as coach, that did not mean the side was stagnating.
"I've been coach for 12 years and this is my fourth finals," he said. "However, it is not as if there hasn't been comings and goings among the coaching staff.
"New coaches have brought in innovation but we have experience which can be helpful when it comes to difficult times."
Olsen, part of the Denmark side that reached the 1984 European Championship semi-finals, said his squad faced a tough task and they could not afford to lose any personnel, given their limited resources.
"Obviously, we will have to be at our best and we need to have all of our key players fit for the 10 days (of group stage matches)," he said. "On top of that, we will need a good deal of luck in order to succeed.
"That said, it is not an easy group for the other teams and I did not really see any happy faces on any of my colleagues from those countries."
Like the Denmark side that won the 1992 edition, after a late call-up to replace Yugoslavia that had fractured into a brutal civil war, there are few standout stars in "Olsen's gang".
Goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen -- who has recorded a century of caps -- plus defenders Simon Kjaer and Daniel Agger provide solidity at the back while up front Olsen will look to Nicklas Bendtner to finally come good on the international stage.
But for inspiration, they will rely on one of the most hotly pursued talents in European football. Ajax's Christian Eriksen.
If Denmark are to cause a surprise then a lot rests on the shoulders of the 20-year-old playmaker, who has won rave reviews playing for his club and was the standout performer in Denmark's 2-1 friendly defeat by England last year.