Since 1984, Denmark has part taken in every European championships except the 2008 tournament.
In fact, Germany is the only team to have qualified for every tournament and only Spain and Holland are capable of equaling the Danes' tally.
So how does a nation roughly the same size of Scotland qualify for the Euros time and again? Looking at the squad you see players who play their club football in the top leagues throughout Europe. Come the transfer window season, the Danish league gets regularly pillaged for some of its up-and-coming starlets, usually by Dutch teams, where they can make a name for themselves and be brought to the attention of the rest of Europe.
Encouraging the exodus is Morten Olsen’s dogma that if you want to play for the national team you better play abroad. If they don’t go to continental Europe they are snapped up by FCK (FC Kobenhavn), the dominant club in the Danish Superleague, as they pursue further success in the Champions League.
However, this year saw a new dawn as FC Nordsjaeland ousted the title from FCK. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by Olsen, who has included central defensive duo Anders Bjaerlund and Ukoure as well as midfielder Tobias Mikkelsen. Out of these three it is only Bjaerlund who is likely to start instead of Simon Kjaer, who like many others hasn’t impressed in the Danes' two friendlies up to the tournament.
Olsen said at his press conference that everyone was fit and that there was more competition for several of places in the starting elevn. So, who can we say for certain is starting? In goals it was announced that Evian’s Stephan Andersen, previously the third choice ’keeper, is certain of starting after Thomas Sorensen was injured against Brazil. Anders Lindegaard’s lack of match fitness has confined him to the bench with Kasper Schmeichel.
The central defence will consist of Daniel Agger with either Kjaer or Bjaerlund. The two full backs will likely be Simon Poulsen and Lars Jakobsen.
As long as Olsen is in charge, the midfield will include Dennis Rommerdahl. He is one Olsen’s favorite players and always gets a game even if he is playing poorly. He will be playing out on the right and still has almost as much pace as anyone at the tournament.
In the holding midfield role there are two players who are pretty certain of starting. William Kvist has spent a season in the German Bundesliga, developed his game and gained more experience. Nikki Zimling, who plays for Club Brugge, will partner him in the middle of the field.
The two of them will undoubtedly have a tough time of it dealing with de Jong and van Bommel, but they are calm and focused on the job at hand. On the left it will either be Michael Krohn-Dehli or Thomas Kahlenberg. Both are capable on their day, though Kahlenberg's pace could just give him the nod as Arjen Robben will need containing.
The offensive midfield role has to go to Christian Eriksen. Although there have been many rumblings about him not being 100 per cent, they have to start him in. He is only 20 years old, but this is already the third major competition he will be involved in and Olsen has said that he expects big things from him this time round. It will be interesting to see if he gets a chance to shine against some of the world’s best teams.
Up front is the lone beanstalk, Nicklas Bendtner, who may struggle to perform for his club team but is always good for a goal when playing for Denmark. His “lone role” is something of an illusion as in possession the team often changes to a 4-3-3 with Rommerdahl and Krohn-Dehli/Kahlenberg dashing up the wing and into the box.
Do the Danes have a chance against the Dutch? We hope so here in Denmark, but there is a pessimistic gloom hanging over everyone. After the fiasco of South Africa many fear a repeat.
Added to this there is the fact that Denmark have never won their opening game at the Euros. Most are hoping for an exciting 2-2 draw. If they can get that it will mean that a major upset could be on the cards. They would only need three points from remaining games to see them, through could already be well on their way by Wednesday when they meet Portugal, who they beat to first place in the qualifiers.
Neil Paterson lives in Copenhagen and will be covering Denmark's matches on our blog. You can follow him on Twitter.
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