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Denmark World Cup team hopes to go far

The Danes hope to make their mark in the soccer world by beating out European teams.

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Denmark fans show their pride during the qualification match against Hungary in Budapest on September 6, 2008. (Karoly Arvai/Reuters)

Denmark World Cup Team Statistics: Group E

Status: Knocked out round 2

World Ranking: 36

World Cup 2010 Results: 1-2-0

Total goals scored: 3

Total goals scored against: 6

Denmark World Cup Schedule: June 14 - Holland (0-2 loss); June 19 - Cameroon (2-1 win); June 24 - Japan (1-3 loss)

Denmark World Cup Soccer 2010

In the throes of Anglophilia, Denmark was the first European country to adopt Britain’s soccer passion. And despite a population of just 5.5 million, it has produced considerable success on the field.

But in recent years, the Danes have seen their soccer standing in Scandinavia usurped by Sweden. Sweden not only has twice the bodies, but has tapped its new immigrant population to bolster the team. Denmark’s harsh anti-immigration laws have kept its team largely homegrown and, as a result, a bit static if not downright stale.

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Having qualified for South Africa at Sweden’s expense assures that this World Cup is already a success. The only sweeter result would be to further assuage lingering hostilities from World War II by beating Germany, as Denmark so gloriously did for the 1992 European crown.

Denmark World Cup History: Denmark has only reached the World Cup three times, but on each occasion escaped the first round — most memorably in France ’98 when it lost a quarterfinal thriller 3-2 to Brazil.

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Denmark World Cup Conventional Wisdom: Denmark finished atop a tough qualifying group, ahead of powerful Portugal as well as Sweden. It will likely battle Cameroon for a spot in the round of 16. Regardless, soccer-crazy Danes expect a “dejlig sommer” — a glorious summer of beer and boiled sausage.

Denmark World Cup Team Coach: Martin Olsen

Olsen has a no-nonsense style in all five languages — Danish, German, English, French, Flemish — he speaks. He has two notable distinctions, which in combination are rather remarkable. He has been fired from every head-coaching position he ever held and, with a decade-long tenure at the helm of Denmark, will be the longest-serving coach at the World Cup.

Denmark World Cup Team Strength: Traditionally Danish players fall into the “play well with others” category, likely a reflection of Scandinavia’s egalitarian ethos. As a result Denmark tends to achieve more than its individual talents might suggest. It can muster a deft and attractive passing attack and is well organized on defense.

Denmark World Cup Team Weakness: The team lacks the superstars that lifted Denmark into the European elite during the ‘90s and its best players are past their prime. It appears vulnerable to a physical opponent that can overpower it, though none managed the trick during qualification.

Denmark World Cup Key Player: Nicklas Bendtner

The Danish attack is loaded with steady, reliable 30-somethings with many goals on their resumes. But it’s the 22-year-old Bendtner who appears most dangerous, capable of producing a transcendent moment. He not only adds youthful energy, but size — he is 6’4” — and power to the offensive thrust.

During qualification, he scored key goals in both games against group top-seed Portugal. Bendtner has profited from big-game experience at Arsenal this season, as injuries to teammates forced him to carry more of the scoring load; he responded with a dozen goals, including a Champions League hat trick against Porto.

 


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