Denmark will go to the FIFA World Cup™ brimming with confidence having impressively topped their qualifying group ahead of Portugal, Sweden and Hungary.
In their 10 matches, the Danes notched up six wins and just one loss (to Hungary), scoring 16 goals and conceding just five in the process. Striker Soeren Larson scored five of those goals, Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner three and Juventus hitman Christian Poulsen two, with their team crucially notching up a 3-2 away win over the Portuguese and a 1-1 home draw against the same opposition who will also be making the trip to South Africa.
Denmark, ranked 26th in FIFA world rankings, will be making their fourth World Cup appearance at the 11 June-11 July finals and have been drawn in Group E alongside the Netherlands, Japan and Cameroon. They face a potential table-topping decider in their first match in Johannesburg on June 14 when they meet the in-form Dutch team.
The Danes then play Cameroon five days later in Pretoria and finish their pool adventure against the Japanese in Rustenburg on 24 June. "It's a group with different styles of football from different continents, and I think that's intriguing," said coach Morten Olsen.
"We know Dutch football very well and I think it's obvious that they must be the clear favourites in this section. For the other three, it could be a case of fighting for second place. Japan play a nice style, although I don't know them so well, while Cameroon are a top African team with players in all the major European leagues, so it's a difficult one for us."
Olsen sprung no surprises with his squad selection, opting for stalwarts Dennis Rommedahl and Jesper Groenkjaer, and fellow veterans Martin Joergensen and Daniel Jensen in midfield. One of the Danes' strong points in qualification was their defence, with Liverpool hardman Daniel Agger arguably being the key man, if he can keep injury-free.
Goalkeeper question mark
Up front, the lanky Larsen may have topped scoring in qualification and has now notched up 11 goals in 17 international appearances but that didn't stop his club Toulouse shipping him off to German second-division club MSV Duisburg. He at least got some playing time in Germany and will likely be partnered by Bendtner, although the Arsenal forward has been battling a groin injury.
Captained by veteran Feyenoord striker Jon Dahl Tomasson, a real concern for Olsen will be between the sticks. Number one goalkeeper Thomas Soerensen, who plays his club football with English Premier League club Stoke, suffered a dislocated elbow in a clash with Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou.
The 33-year-old, who does not require an operation on the elbow, has insisted he will be fit. "I do truly believe I can make it to the World Cup," Soerensen said after the incident. "It will be a race against time, but I have to believe in it." Should Soerensen not cut the mustard, Olsen has Jesper Christiansen, Stefan Andersen and Kim Christensen at his disposal.
Denmark, the 1992 European champions, made their debut at the World Cup in 1986 when they made the second round. In 1998, the Laudrup brothers Michael and Brian inspired Denmark into the quarter-finals when they went out 3-2 to Brazil. In 2002, they reached the last 16, where they exited at the hands of England.
The team failed to qualify for the 2006 finals and also the 2008 European Championships. Denmark will play Senegal at Aalborg on May 27 and also fellow World Cup qualifiers Australia in Roodepoort, South Africa, on June 1. There is a third warm-up planned for June 5.