Don’t dismiss Denmark, the doyens at defying the doomsayers

Recalling six qualification campaigns, mostly good but one bad, that show that the Red and Whites have what it takes

And so begins the final week of World Cup qualifying for the Danish national football team: a pair of games that will determine if the Red and Whitesare destined to  sip caipirinhas on Copacabana beach or to find solace at the bottom of a Carlsberg Sort Guld on the Costa del Sol.

The Danes’ backs are against the wall. Not only do they need a pair of wins this week, but a little luck as well in order to make it to the play-off round.

Up first is a monumental clash against Italy at Parken Stadium on Friday 11 October. While the Italians have long refined a clinical style of grinding out results on the road, the Group B leaders have already clinched their World Cup berth. Nevertheless, the Italians are bringing their A-squad to Copenhagen, meaning the Danes will have to deal with players like Mario Balotelli, Andrea Pirlo, Daniele de Rossi and Gianluigi Buffon.

Four days later, Denmark face Malta at home – a game that’s moot if they don’t take the full three points from Italy.

Nevertheless, the precipitous footing is not unchartered territory. Denmark have qualified for major tournaments in similar circumstances. Looking back, we’re revisiting some of those moments when the Danes either qualified in dramatic fashion, or had their hopes crushed on the final day of qualification.

Ninth best not good enough

Even if Denmark finish second in their group – which will require two wins and Bulgaria slipping up against either Armenia away or the Czechs at home – there is a good chance it won’t be enough.

The worst runner-up from the nine UEFA qualifying groups will not make it to the play-offs in November.

To calculate who advances, the results against the sixth-placed teams are discounted, so should Denmark beat Italy and Malta and finish second, they will have 12 points from their eight games against the other top-five teams.
Of the eight teams currently in second place in the other groups, only five can possibly lose out to Denmark. Three of them – Croatia, Portugal and Sweden – have eleven points and two games remaining, while another, Ukraine, has 12 and a vastly superior goal difference.

Somewhere from this photo a hero is waiting to burst forth onto SaturdayÂ’s front page (Photo: final team, Hungary, have eleven points and just one game remaining – a tie away in the Netherlands that they are expected to lose.

Which might look good for Denmark … if Romania and Turkey weren’t sitting just one point behind ready to pounce. Romania, who face Andorra away and Estonia at home, look the most likely. Should they beat Estonia and prevail, they would finish with 13 points, one ahead of Denmark.

Nevertheless, the final positions of few groups are settled – for example, there are three teams within striking distance of Iceland in a very tight Group E – and a shock result for one of the minnows in a far corner of Europe or a team moving up from third could change matters.

One thing is assured: the permutations heading into the final games are going to be messy. (BH)


Euro 2012: Mission accomplished

Going into the final qualification match of the campaign, both Denmark and perennial rivals Portugal were all square with 16 points. The Portuguese had already defeated the Danes at home, but revenge was best served back in Copenhagen, with Denmark advancing directly to the Euros with a 2-1 win thanks to goals from Michael Krohn-Deli and Nicklas Bendtner.

2010 World Cup: Mission accomplished

Denmark had come up short trying to qualify for their previous two major tournaments and it was fittingly against the Swedes – who with the help of the fan who attacked the referee, had seen them off two years earlier – that Denmark cemented their place at the finals. A 1-0 win at Parken courtesy of a Jakob Poulsen rocket left them needing a home win against minnows Malta, who they beat 4-0.

Euro 2004: Mission accomplished

Qualifying was tight, with the top four teams all finishing within two points of one another. Heading into their final two games against rivals Romania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark could not afford to slip up, and against Romania at Parken they needed a Martin Laursen equaliser deep into injury time to salvage a 2-2 draw, before a 1-1 draw in Sarajevo sealed qualification.

Euro 2000: Mission accomplished

With Italy already qualified, and rivals Switzerland expected to win their remaining two games, Denmark faced the daunting task of needing to win in Napoli to finish second and make the play-offs. And nobody gave them a chance once the Azzurri had established a 2-0 lead after 34 minutes. But Denmark hit back, scoring three times to seal a play-off spot against Israel, which they went on to win 8-0 on aggregate.

1994 World Cup: Mission aborted

Heading into their final games, Denmark sat second, two behind the Republic of Ireland and two ahead of Spain. And they went top when they beat the Northern Irish at Parken and Spain won in Dublin. But Fernando Hierro extinguished their dreams in Seville, with the Irish drawing to see them off on goal difference. They came to rue a meek 1-0 win over Albania – a team that ended with a -20 goal difference.

Euro 1988: Mission accomplished

Heading into their final game, Denmark needed to avenge a defeat in Cardiff just 35 days earlier to advance to the finals in Germany. With Czechoslovakia waiting in the wings to capitalise, the pressure was on to deliver, and the Danish Dynamite – qualifying for their third successive major tournament – left it relatively late, winnig 1-0 thanks to a goal from 1980s goals machine Preben Elkjær.

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