Anyone who witnessed yesterday’s goals at Soccer City might feel that Lady Luck owes Denmark an apology. Thomas Sorensen sees things differently. True, Simon Poulsen’s header was heading wide before it struck Daniel Agger and, equally, it is undeniable that Dirk Kuyt benefited from the spin of the ball as it bounced back off the post.
However, the Denmark keeper won’t limber up for Saturday’s crunch meeting with Cameroon by pleading with the heavens for a rub of the green. Instead, as he explained to FIFA.com, Sorensen will be demanding higher standards from those in front of him.
"I’m a big believer that you make your own luck," he said. "Sure, we had a couple of unlucky bounces for the Dutch goals, but instead of complaining about that we should be looking at what we did wrong. For the first goal, the header is a mistake, plain and simple, and on the second we would need to look at how the player (Eljero Elia) has got in behind on the inside of our full-back. It’s more important for us to fix mistakes like that than ask for better luck against Cameroon. The fact is, the Dutch deserved to beat us. In the second half, we just didn’t get going."
This disdain for excuses appears to be a Danish trait, with Poulsen quick to take full responsibility not only for Agger’s own goal, but also for the defeat which followed. "I just wanted to get a good strong header away," the defender told FIFA.com. "But something obviously went wrong and the ball bounced the wrong way, it went off Daniel’s back and into the net. It was a bad moment for me, especially because I felt we had the game under control until then. It’s also left us in a bad position in the group but there’s nothing I can do about it now, so I just have to focus on the next challenge – and that’s Cameroon."
The fact is, the Dutch deserved to beat us. In the second half, we just didn’t get going.
With the Indomitable Lions also having lost their opening game, the stakes on Saturday have been raised even higher. Defeat is unthinkable and a draw barely better, so a more adventurous approach from the Danes is all but inevitable. However, in assessing what’s needed to right the wrongs witnessed in their Group E opener, Sorensen suggested that much will depend on the recovery of captain Jon Dahl Tomasson and the condition of half-fit stars such as Nicklas Bendtner and Simon Kjaer.
"I’m really hoping that we'll have our key players fully fit," said the 34-year-old. "Quite a few of them have been carrying injuries and struggling to get up to their usual level, so hopefully the days between now and Saturday will let them do that. We’re a good team but we’re also a team that needs all our main players at their best if we’re going to compete at a competition like this."
The irony is that Sorensen, arguably Denmark’s most assured performer against the Dutch, was himself at one stage Morten Olsen’s biggest injury doubt. Indeed, the Stoke City keeper’s chances of playing in South Africa were all but written off when he dislocated an elbow little over a month before Olsen named his final squad. Consequently, there was a silver lining to yesterday’s dispiriting defeat.
"The fact I’m here is fantastic in itself," he enthused. "I would obviously have preferred a better score but World Cups are special occasions - they’re unique - so to be out there was a real thrill. It’s pretty amazing actually because it looked really bad for me not that long ago; at the time, most people thought I had no chance. But I’ve worked hard and, actually, I’ve been fit and ready to play for over a week now. The coach has held me back a bit, but I feel great. The elbow’s causing me no problems at all and, honestly, I felt back to my usual self out there."
If Denmark can match their keeper by returning to their best, that aspiration of making their own luck and shaping their own destiny could well be within their grasp.