Denmark go into their Group E opener at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ against the Netherlands on Monday determined to hit the ground running. "We are like 23 lions pacing around their cage hoping the keeper forgets to lock the door," said Denmark captain Jon Dahl Tomasson, throwing down the gauntlet to the Elftal in no uncertain terms.
The encounter at Soccer City in Johannesburg has a special edge to it, as in Tomasson (Feyenoord), Simon Poulsen (Alkmaar), Thomas Enevoldsen (Groningen), Dennis Rommedahl and Christian Eriksen (both Ajax) no fewer than five Denmark players ply their trade in the Dutch Eredivisie. "I've more or less become a Dutchman myself over the years," Tomasson told FIFA with a grin. "My heart belongs to Denmark, of course, but I've been living in the Netherlands for years and I know their culture very well."
Dennis Rommedahl takes a similar view: "Obviously I know all about the Dutch. I still play with one of two of their current team and some of their players are good friends of mine. So it's definitely a special game for me. But we'll come out on top in the end." The closeness of the ties between the two rivals is emphasised still further by the fact that another four Denmark players play their football in England, along with five of the Dutch squad.
Essentially we could speak Dutch at the team hotel if we wanted. Twelve or 13 members of our squad play or have played in the Netherlands.
So while Tomasson will be wishing Oranje well during the rest of the tournament, he will be going all out to beat them in the opening game. "We cannot show any fear or nerves against the Dutch. They always have more possession, regardless of whether they're playing Denmark or Argentina," a confident Denmark skipper said.
"Having said that, the Netherlands are one of the tournament favourites. They have lots of quality, both as individuals and as a team. The coach has done a good job there. In the past they didn't perform as a unit, but now they all pull together, as we saw during their impressive qualifying campaign."
The Netherlands hold no secrets for the Danes off the pitch either. "Essentially we could speak Dutch at the team hotel if we wanted," Tomasson said. "Twelve or 13 members of our squad play or have played in the Netherlands, including the coach, so it wouldn't be a problem." And the similarities between Danish Dynamite and Oranje do not end there. "We've been trying to emulate the Dutch style of play and it's helped us a lot," chipped in Daniel Jensen.
Monday's encounter, then, will also be a meeting of friends, and Tomasson will not want to make any enemies himself. "When I retire from the game I don't know whether I'll go back to Denmark. I might decide to stay in the Netherlands."