It may come as a surprise, given the impact Denmark made, that Mexico 1986 was their first FIFA World Cup™. The previous 12 had been watched from the sidelines, with the Danes declining to enter the first five before enduring seven unsuccessful preliminary campaigns. Even after their nation’s golden generation made it to Mexico through a group that included USSR, Republic of Ireland and Norway, more qualifying woes followed, with Denmark failing to reach the two FIFA World Cups either side of their famous UEFA European Championship win. Experience has brought consistency, however, and Denmark go into the Brazil 2014 preliminaries having reached three of the last four editions, and with their 2010 campaign having seen them qualify comfortably ahead of both Portugal and Sweden.
FIFA World Cup finals history
Having waited so long to make their FIFA World Cup debut, Denmark certainly couldn’t have been accused of being slow in making an impression. Mexico 1986 saw the world introduced to ‘Danish Dynamite’, a team so committed to attractive, attacking football that they earned comparisons to the great Dutch sides of the 1970s. The class of ’86 ultimately fell short of realising their potential by exiting at the last 16, but 12 years later – after two missed FIFA World Cups and a shock victory at UEFA EURO 1992 – the Danes went one better, going down 3-2 to Brazil in a thrilling quarter-final after thrashing Nigeria 4-1 in the previous round. They then made it through the group phase for a third successive edition in 2002, topping a group that included Senegal, Uruguay and reigning world champions France, but fell at the first hurdle in 2010, having lost to both Japan and the Netherlands.
The current crop
South Africa 2010 brought the end of an era with the retirement of Denmark’s joint-record goalscorer, Jon Dahl Tomasson, while long-serving coach and legendary former player Morten Olsen is due to step down after EURO 2012. An exciting new generation of players, led by the talented Christian Eriksen, is emerging, but the Danes will need to recover from a FIFA World Cup hangover that has seen them make a faltering start to EURO qualifying.
The key players
This new batch of Danish talent is likely to provide an eye-catching spine to Olsen’s team, with Simon Kjaer’s defensive solidity, Eriksen’s midfield creativity, and striker Nicklas Bendtner’s power and pace sure to be key to their hopes of success.
Coach: Morten Olsen
Best performances in a FIFA competition: FIFA Confederations Cup Saudi Arabia 1995 (Winners), Men's Olympic Football Tournament London 1908, Stockholm 1912, Rome 1960 (Runners-up)
Former stars: Allan Simonsen, Michael Laudrup, Peter Schmeichel