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Olsen selects his gladiators for the Group of Death
Many Danish hearts sank as “Denmark” was announced last December at the Euro 2012 draw. That’s because the other three teams in their group were Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal. Visions of the 1992 triumph flickered in the eyes of many, and yes, it may take another miracle to get out of that aptly-named group. The Group of Death.
On Wednesday, head coach Morten Olsen revealed the brave few that have been chosen to overcome the tremendous odds and bring Denmark glory at Euro 2012.
He named 20 players, along with three others - Anders Lindegaard, Nicklas Pedersen and Jannik Vestergaard – who will train with the squad, but have not had their places confirmed yet.
Vestergaard’s selection is the only real surprise. The 19-year-old defender only made his Bundesliga debut 13 months ago, and has been capped just five times for the under-21 side. Standing 197cm tall, he is a set piece specialist and has already scored an impressive six goals for his club in 45 appearances. Other than Vestergaard, the only other unexpected selection was that of FCN’s Tobias Mikkelsen.
Regarding the starting eleven players, there are only six that are definite starters, barring unforeseen injuries. They are goalkeeper Thomas Sørensen, right back Lars Jacobsen, centre back Daniel Agger, midfielders William Kvist and Christian Eriksen, and striker Nicklas Bendtner. The rest of the places are up for grabs.
Denmark had already lost a would-be starter, left back Nicolai Boilersen, to a season-ending injury, and while fellow left back Simon Poulsen is favoured at the moment, Michael Silberbauer is better defensively and may be preferred against the high-powered offensive opposition the Danes face in Ukraine.
At centre back, Agger is a shoe-in, but the other spot is up for grabs with Simon Kjær and up-and-comer Andreas Bjelland looking to battle it out. Kjær should be favoured, having more experience and currently playing for Italian Serie A side AS Roma, but Bjelland was superb in the final group stage win against Portugal.
In the centre of midfield, the place of wonderkid playmaker Christian Eriksen is guaranteed, as is William Kvist’s, a powerhouse in the Danish engine room, but the final spot is available with Niki Zimling and a rejuvenated Christian Poulsen poised to compete for it, with possibly Lasse Schøne.
On the left wing, Michael Krohn-Dehli has played some good games for Denmark recently and scored against Portugal in that group game decider, but he will face stiff competition now that Thomas Kahlenberg has got his career back on track in France. Both are originally Brøndby boys, but Kahlenberg has the experience working in his favour.
Ordinarily, Dennis Rommedahl would have the right wing spot sown up, but a poor season for Brøndby has opened the door for young Daniel Wass, who has had a brilliant season for his French club Evian Thonon Gaillard. But Rommedahl has boat loads of experience, having scored 21 goals in 113 games for Denmark, and that will be enough for Olsen to tip his hat for the speedy winger.
In terms of depth, the main concern for the Danish team is the lone striker position. Should Nicklas Bendtner go down with an injury or get arrested for vandalism, there really is no quality striker available to fill his boots. Nicklas Pedersen will certainly find the going tough against a quality defence.
Olsen knows that his team are in for a tough time in Ukraine, but said that success was possible, referring to the 2-1 victory over Portugal in the qualification finale.
“Obviously, we will have to be at our best and we need to have all of our key players fit for the ten days. On top of that, we will need a good deal of luck in order to succeed,” Olsen said on the UEFA.com website. “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.”
Denmark takes on Brazil in Hamburg on May 26 in a pre-tournament friendly, before playing Australia at home at Parken on June 2 as a final warm-up before Euro 2012 kicks off the following week.
Then, it’s judgement day for the Danes on June 9, when they kick off against the Netherlands in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Factfile | Euro 2012 squad
Goalkeepers: Thomas Sørensen (Stoke)*, Stephan Andersen (Evian), Anders Lindegaard (Manchester United)
Defenders: Lars Jacobsen (FC Copenhagen)*, Daniel Wass (Evian), Simon Kjær (AS Roma)*, Daniel Agger (Liverpool)*, Andreas Bjelland (FC Nordsjælland), Simon Poulsen (AZ Alkmaar)*, Michael Silberbauer (Young Boys), Jannik Vestergaard (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim)
Midfielders: William Kvist (VfB Stuttart)*, Niki Zimling (Club Brugge)*, Christian Poulsen (Evian), Christian Eriksen (Ajax)*, Lasse Schøne (NEC Nijmegen), Jakob Poulsen (FC Midtjylland)
Forwards: Nicklas Bendtner (Arsenal)*, Dennis Rommedahl (Brøndby)*, Michael Krohn-Dehli (Brøndby)*, Thomas Kahlenberg (Evian), Tobias Mikkelsen (FC Nordsjælland), Nicklas Pedersen (FC Groningen)
(*: denotes our predicted starting side)