With the Netherlands being obvious favorites in Group E, the Danes find themselves in a precarious position, fighting two other dogs for just one bone. The problem here is that all three teams fancy themselves as favorites for 2nd spot, leaving the rest of us scratching their heads.
Danish world cup history is not particularly glorious. Their deepest exploit into the World Cup came during France 1998, when they made the quarter finals. That day they were overcome 3-2 by Brazil, despite a valiant effort. Including France 1998, this is only their fourth qualification. It must be noted however that every time they have qualified they have remarkably come out of their group.
Their qualifying exploits suggest that this is quite possible again, as they made short work of the favored Swedes and even masterminded a famous 3-2 last gasp comeback victory against the Portuguese in Porto. They qualified with a record of 6-3-1 and did short work of all the minnows in their group. However, their last 5 friendly games have seen them dip in form considerably. In 2010, they have averaged just one point from all their games, most recently losing to underdog world cup newbie Australia in a drab match that saw the Danes incapable of connecting and moving the ball.
Their main problem lies in the fact that their line up has some world class players, but is also filled with holes. In the absence of Bendtner, who plays a lot better for his country than his club, the Danes are found seriously lacking upfront.
Similarly, apart from Agger and Kjaer in defense, they come up quite short. Adding to their woes, Kjaer picked up an injury during their friendly against Senegal and could risk not being fully fit in South Africa.
It must also be said that Denmark’s only threats in qualifying were Hungary, Portugal and Sweden, and though that may seem like a respectable lot of opponents, Portugal and Sweden were going through a notoriously bad spell during qualifiers. Hungary was supposed to be the dark horse and apart from the one draw against Portugal, they were the only big team that took points off the Danes (2 draws).
The biggest strength the Danes possess is their sense of sacrifice and team play. They are a compact group filled with warriors and veterans such as Christian Poulsen and Jan Dahl Tomasson. In terms of tactics and technique, they are otherwise just a poor man’s Netherlands. Eight or nine of their first team starters (depending on the day) either play in the Eredivise right now or have done so in the past, which makes it even less likely that they will be able to take points off the Netherlands.
Some have speculated that the Danes suffer against physical teams, and will as a consequence struggle against Cameroon. This is quite possible, even though they narrowly won against Senegal and beat Sweden twice in qualifiers.
The Danes should have no trouble dispatching Japan, who is inferior to them in most ways.
Expect the Olsen’s 11 to come out of their group but falter once faced Italy in the round of 16, who seems their likeliest match up at that stage.
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