Denmark's disappointing group stage exit from the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ prompted many critics to speculate that the side was past its peak.
Eighteen months on, and those detractors are eating their words. The Scandinavians can look back on a superb UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying campaign during which they held off Portugal to win their group and claim a direct qualifying berth at the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
The man responsible for overseeing the latest transformation in Denmark's fortunes is none other than Morten Olsen, the coach who has occupied the Danish dugout for 12 years now. “Olsen has brought in a clutch of young players like Christian Eriksen, Nicolai Boilesen and Niki Zimling, and they've been fantastic," veteran Dennis Rommedahl exclusively told FIFA.com “On top of that we have magnificent team spirit, in the hotel and generally away from the field of play. In my opinion, that's exactly what you need to succeed on the pitch."
Wonderful night in Copenhagen
In contrast to a number of his contemporaries, the striker chose to continue his international career in the wake of Denmark's disappointing showing at the FIFA World Cup, and now joins a brace of fellow veterans, keeper Thomas Sorensen (35 years old) and midfielder Christian Poulsen (31), in providing the 1992 European champions with the experience they need. “I'm totally satisfied with Olsen, and for the sake of Danish football, I'm delighted he extended his contract," said Rommedahl. "Since 2000, he's never had the slightest doubt about me, so he’s obviously been an essential component in my career."
The decision to keep faith with the long-serving boss was not entirely uncontroversial, but it has turned out to be the right choice. En route to Poland and Ukraine, the Danes ran up six victories, one draw and just one defeat, finishing with a perfect record in front of their home crowd. The decisive 2-1 victory at home to Portugal on the final matchday sealed the nation's eighth trip to a European Championship, and highlighted the team's collective strength.
“It was a wonderful night at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen. We played really well, and we're pleased and proud because that match showed Denmark is once again ready for a major tournament," said the man capped 112 times by his country. In the course of the qualifying competition, Rommedahl finished joint top scorer with Nicklas Bendtner, and along with Lars Jacobsen and Eriksen, was one of only three players to feature in every match.
Group of Death for Danish Dynamite
As the luck of the draw would have it, the Danes now renew hostilities with the Portuguese at next summer's finals. To make matters trickier, the other contenders in Group B are the Netherlands and Germany, who came second and third respectively at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. “But we can still go a long way, provided we steer clear of injuries, because the team is extremely well-balanced with a few class individuals," Rommedahl argued.
Before the Danes kick off their EURO 2012 campaign against the Oranje on 9 June 2012, Rommedahl is committed to restoring the glory days at illustrious Copenhagen club Brondby, who have not won the Danish title since 2005. “The club is in a transition period at the moment, and a lot of our young players still need a little time. But Brondby is a great club, and we're heading in the right direction," he said.
Underlying love for the game
Eighteen games into the season, the men in yellow and blue lie a modest tenth on 18 points, a poor return for the ten-time national champions, as Rommedahl freely admits. “We're playing some good football, but we're having problems scoring goals. But things are looking up," he said.
Following a European odyssey that included spells with the likes of PSV Eindhoven, Ajax and Olympiakos, the 33-year-old returned to his hometown of Copenhagen with Brondby. So will they be his last club? “That's hard to say. For the time being, I'm just looking forward to playing here for at least two seasons," said Rommedahl. "Time will tell whether my body and my brain are ready for more football, but at the moment I feel fit and I love this game."
Rommedahl's decision on whether to keep playing into his late 30s will undoubtedly be influenced by his chances of silverware. He also retains a dream of representing Denmark at a FIFA World Cup finals for a third time. After appearing at the 2002 and 2010 editions of the global showdown, playing for his country at Brazil 2014 would be a fitting conclusion to a distinguished international career.