Denmark need top health in tough group (Group E profile)

Copenhagen, May 30 (DPA) The international football scene has not seen Denmark since 2004. But veteran coach Morten Olsen believes that with some good health his side could make some noise at the 2010 World Cup.

After missing out on the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2008, the Danes put together an impressive 2010 qualifying campaign by topping Group F ahead of Portugal and Sweden.

Olsen, however, was rewarded with a tough Group E where Denmark were drawn with Netherlands, Japan and Cameroon.

The Scandinavian nation of some five million inhabitants has been impressive in their three previous World Cup appearances – not to mention their surprise victory over reigning world champions Germany at the final of the 1992 European championship.

Denmark’s first appearance at the World Cup finals was 1986 in Mexico when they earned the nickname ‘Danish dynamite’. The team – with Olsen playing – won fame for its attacking style before bowing out of at the hands of Spain in the Round of 16.

Denmark’s best World Cup showing came at the 1998 World Cup, where they lost to eventual champions Brazil in the quarter-finals. In 2002, the Danes were beaten by England in the Round of 16.

Olsen has been at the helm of Denmark since 2000. And one of the strengths of the team is they are so well versed in the coach’s tactics. But health is a huge concern, mainly because the Danes don’t have as deep a squad as most of the bigger football nations.

‘We don’t have as many options as some of the big nations, and its therefore very important that our best players are available.

Its especially crucial that those who play in positions in which we don’t have many alternatives remain fit. If they can remain fit throughout the tournament, I believe we can go far,’ Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner told recently.

‘Its important that we stay realistic. Of course were going there to win the tournament, but having said that, we don’t have the same means as other big countries… However, well do our very best. Denmark have produced plenty of upsets in football history, so why not again?’

The 22-year-old Bendtner, the 2009 Danish football of the year, could be one of the keys for Olsen’s group, which also includes a good mix of younger and more experienced players.

Feyenoord forward Jon Dahl Tomasson remains a force – if not a step slower – while NEC Nijmegen forward Dennis Rommedahl, Christian Poulsen of Juventus and Werder Bremen’s Daniel Jensen also bring veteran leadership.

Among the other high-profile young players are Palermo defender Simon Kjaer, 21, and Liverpool’s Daniel Agger, 25.

The coach: Morten Olsen, 60, has coached Denmark since 2000. A central defender, he played 102 internationals for Denmark from 1970 to 1989, and the following year launched his coaching career with Danish side Brondby.

In January 2010, Olsen extended his contract so it now expires after Euro 2012. Previously, he had signalled in some interviews an interest in coaching a club again. Before coaching Denmark he also coached German side Cologne and Ajax Amsterdam.

Players on the national team and coaches in Denmark’s premier league had urged the Danish Football Association to extend Olsen’s contract, citing his track record.

The star: Defender Daniel Agger joined Liverpool in 2006 for a record-high deal for a player from the Danish league. Agger, a natural centre back with maturity beyond his years, recently extended his contract to stay on at Anfield until 2014.

He has played 29 international games for Denmark and at age 25 could be a mainstay for many years to come provided he can stay healthy. Injuries – most recently back pain – have sidelined him from time to time. But he comes to the World Cup with the experience of playing in the Champions League and Europa League.