The name Morten Olsen will always be inextricably linked to Danish football. Olsen spent almost 20 years as an international regular, and has now coached the national team for a decade. He has been arguably the single most important influence on the nation’s footballing progress for two generations now.
A libero in his playing days, Olsen’s clubs included FC Cologne and RSC Anderlecht, where he won the UEFA Cup in 1993. He hung up his boots at the age of 40 and embarked on a coaching career that took in spells at Cologne and in Amsterdam with Ajax.
He was the first Danish international to pass the magical 100-cap milestone, and captained his country at their maiden FIFA World Cup™ appearance in 1986.
"I played for Denmark for 19, almost 20 years, and I've now been coach for ten, so that's half of my life I've devoted to the national team," Olsen told FIFA.com. "The best thing is that I still get the same feeling I did when I first started, and I see that the young players are just as proud as I am. That's fantastic. When I don't have that feeling any more, I'll know that I need to stop."
He took the national helm in 2000, and coached the side at the 2002 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2004. "World Cups are always special," he said. "The fact it's the first time in Africa is fantastic because it's bringing it closer to the people there, but every World Cup has its own unique flavour and appeal. I remember seeing how excited Asia was to have it in 2002 and what a fantastic experience that was for everyone. For me and for all the players, competing at the World Cup is the ultimate; it's the biggest honour for any player."
Once in South Africa this summer, the goal is to at least emulate the team of eight years ago, which made it to the Round of 16 before falling 3-0 to England. "Denmark will not be one of the favourites but if we have our best players available, which wasn't the case in the qualification phase, we can achieve a lot. The most important thing at a World Cup is to show that you can play good football. In 2002 we reached the second round and this time we hope to repeat that while playing good football."