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Missed chances in the red mist of the San Siro and Sofia
Denmark’s failure to capitalise on their numerical advantage in both games against Italy and Bulgaria, has left them staring in the face of a possible early exit from World Cup qualification.
Tuesday night’s 3-1 defeat to Italy in Milan now leaves the Danish dynamite with only two points from three games at the bottom of Group E, as they could only muster a 1-1 draw against a ten-man Bulgaria side on Friday.
Denmark started both games poorly by going behind in the opening thirty minutes. However they failed to capitalise in both matches when red cards were brandished against Bulgaria and Italy.
Seeing as Denmark was playing away from home on both occasions, they were given a real chance to come back from their deficit, to make a real statement of intent in Group E. Instead, they’re now left with the real prospect of an early exit from World Cup qualification, ruining their reputation as the dark horses in International competitions.
Bendtner’s 40 th minute equaliser against Bulgaria may have spared Denmark’s blushes from further embarrassment, but Morten Olsen’s gaffe at the pre-match press conference on Monday seemed to jinx any Danish hope of a strong comeback against Italy.
Questioned by Italian media about the infamous 2-2 draw between Denmark and Sweden that saw Italy eliminated from Euro 2004, Olsen used a Danish idiom that was unfortunately lost in translation. “Tyv tror hvermand stjæler” was directly translated as “Thieves believe all men steal” and perceived to be a direct attack on Italian football.
The rallying cry had become an unintentional insult. It put Olsen on the front page of the Italian newspapers a day earlier than planned and gave the Italians extra motivation to win - as if they didn't need any more incentive.
Denmark were gifted plenty of opportunities in both games. But the pretext for the Italian game was made clear with their failure to break down the Bulgarian barrier, despite laying siege to their defensive third for long periods at a time.
The Bulgarians aren’t especially known for their defensive organisation, but the Italians are notorious for it. And with Italian striker Pablo Osvaldo getting a red card 16 seconds into the second half, it was clear that Denmark would have to play against an ultra defensive side in Milan. But what makes the Italian defeat all the more painful, is that the Danes were lucky not to have lost by more.
Had it not been for the theatrical antics of Daniel Agger, then surely Mario Balotelli, who brilliantly spearheaded the Italian attack, would have been scored his second goal of the match.
Denmark did get their chances, but they were guilty of wasteful finishing. William Kvist was the only one to score a just before half time, with a brilliantly executed volley from just outside the box.
With the next game against the Czech Republic not scheduled until March, the Danes may have time to regroup, but it won’t offer them any refuge. They will need to win without their most influential player on Tuesday, Kvist, who is suspended.
If they don't win, there may be nothing to fight for but honour.