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For top teams, the goal is to return nation to European elite
The Superliga opened with a bang this weekend, with the national league’s 12 teams amassing 25 goals and three red cards being dished out. But for many of the top teams, the first order of football business this autumn is not national glory, but salvaging Denmark’s European reputation.
Thanks in large part to the success of FC Copenhagen, Danish football has experienced something of renaissance in Europe in recent years. And this year sees 2012 league champion FC Nordsjælland become the first Danish team ever to automatically qualify for the Champions League group stage. It could, though, be a one-time delight and it’s all down to European football’s four-letter word: coefficient points.
In UEFA’s coefficient point rankings, countries are ranked according to how well their teams have performed in European competitions over the past five years. The teams that occupy the top three league places in the countries ranked 1 to 3 in UEFA competition gain automatic entry into the group stages for the following season’s Champions League competition. The first and second placed teams in the countries ranked 4 to 6 also gain automatic entry, as do the champions in the countries ranked 7 to 12, which is where Denmark comes in.
Because Denmark was number 12 last year, Nordsjælland will be qualifying automatically to the group stages as Superliga champions. But a woeful European campaign by Danish teams last season, their worst since the 2004-05 season, means that Denmark has dropped to 13 in the rankings and therefore loses its automatic qualification next season.
Belgium and Turkey are above Denmark and only a solid European performance by Danish teams, combined with a mediocre one from either Turkey or Belgium, will see them reclaim a coveted automatic berth. On the other hand, a poor season could see Denmark be surpassed by a surging Austria. Read more about the UEFA coefficient points.
The five Danish teams that will share the burden of gathering these essential points in the European theatre are Nordsjælland, Copenhagen, FC Midtjylland, AC Horsens and Aarhus GF. Nordsjælland will begin play in the Champions League group stages while Copenhagen will join in the third round of the qualification stage.
In the Europa League, Aarhus play Georgia’s Dila Gori this week in the Europa League second qualification round, while Horsens enter in the third round and Midtjylland the playoff round of the tournament’s qualification stage.
But while Danish hopes are high, the odds of success are not bright. Copenhagen are 500 to 1 and Nordsjælland are 750 to 1 long shots to win the Champions League (Ladbrokes), while Horsens are 250 to 1 and Midtjylland are 350 to 1 to win the Europa League (Bet 365). Ominously, Aarhus are not even listed.
Aside from Nordsjælland, who are automatically qualified, it will be a long and trying qualification road for the Danish teams trying to reach the group stages of the European competitions and help boost the country’s coefficient ranking.
Getting that elusive 12th place back will be a momentous task, but it could be worse, because in 2003 Denmark were ranked 24, behind the likes of Norway and Israel. Yes, they’ve come a long way. Whether they are there to stay, however, remains to be proven