Why the men’s Olympic ice hockey tournament is not a piss-up organised in a brewery

Denmark face Latvia in an eliminator in the early hours of Tuesday morning, with a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs

For regular Olympic ice hockey fans, the draw probably makes perfect sense. It’s exactly the same format as 2018, after all. 

But for Danes enjoying their first such tournament – the men have never qualified for an Olympics before – the terms ‘couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery’ and ‘as useless as a catflap in an elephant house’ spring to mind.

Easier to qualify for the Navy SEALs
In a nutshell, the Danes have performed brilliantly. Faced with a tough group, they surprisingly beat both the Czech Republic and Switzerland, 2-1 and 5-3, both times clinically surging into early leads and defending resolutely.

In world ranking terms, the 12th best side in the world overcame the teams ranked sixth and eighth.

Their reward? Pretty much exactly the same as the teams that they vanquished. They are all through to the play-offs: a round of four eliminator games that will decide who meets the four teams already through to the quarter-finals.

Like West Germany-Austria, 1982 World Cup, all over again
The winner of Denmark’s group was Russia’s latest alias, ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) – in 2018 they were the OAR (Olympic Athletes from Russia). 

So they’re there, along with the other two group winners, Finland and the US. But so are Sweden, who like Denmark also finished second in their group.

The teams they beat were ranked lower than Denmark’s opponents, but they made it through courtesy of two wins and an overtime loss … a game played a day after Denmark’s group was completed that guaranteed both sides a last-eight place providing it went to overtime!

Well rested, hopefully with pins and needles
Still, Denmark can take heart from Germany’s performance in 2018. After ending up in the play-offs, they made it all the way to the final.

As the major football tournaments regularly demonstrate, sometimes a team can go off the boil whilst they’re waiting around.

Denmark’s final-12 game against Latvia (ranked 10th in the world; zero wins from three thus far) is in the early hours of tomorrow morning: at 12:10 local time, so 03:10 CET. 

Groundhog Day was on February 2 …
Should they win, they’ll play their quarter-final at 14:00 on Wednesday, which is again pretty early by Danish standards (07:00), but just about watchable – a lot of people will be working at home, that’s for sure.

Their opponents? The good old ROC again! And should they make it through, it could very easily be Switzerland or the Czechs, should one of them upset the Finns.

Piss-up? Brewery? The nation might need one to get their heads around the nature of this draw.

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