He might have 33 years and 102 caps behind him, but Jon Dahl Tomasson doesn't fit the stereotype of the sensible, seasoned veteran. Such is the unconcealed enthusiasm with which he speaks, in fact, that Denmark's vastly experienced captain could be mistaken for an eager, wide-eyed youngster.
Yet if Tomasson is excited, he has good reason. After all, these are exciting times for a player who is on the verge of leading his nation back to the big time, and smashing a couple of records en route. Indeed, if all goes to plan, Denmark will depart for next year's FIFA World Cup™ with Tomasson established as their most-capped outfield player and all-time leading scorer.
The Feyenoord forward needs only one more goal to draw level with Poul Nielsen's tally of 52, while six more caps will ensure that he eclipses a record of 107 set by Thomas Helveg. And there is no attempt to play it cool; Tomasson has both landmarks squarely in his sights.
His top priority, however, is South Africa. Next year's finals are tantalisingly close, with Denmark holding a three-point lead at the top of Group A ahead of a mouth-watering double-header against Sweden and Hungary. With the stakes so high, you might think the tension would be starting to get to Tomasson. Think again.
FIFA.com: Jon, we're speaking to you ahead of two massive FIFA World Cup qualifiers for Denmark. How are you feeling? Jon Dahl Tomasson:I'm really, really looking forward to them. They should be terrific games, real cup finals, and from our perspective it's great to be going into them as the number one team in the group. The only thing that matters now is to be in the same position after these matches.
How much of a benefit is it to you to be playing both games at home?That's a really big factor and it's something that has worked out well for us. The crowd we have here in Denmark can be a big advantage; we saw that against Portugal, when they created a fantastic atmosphere. At this level, when the games are so tight, it's the little things that can make the difference - and hopefully the fans can be the difference for us.
We'll be going all out for the win because, if we get all three points, I think we can start looking a book a nice hotel in South Africa!
Your first challenge is the big Scandinavian derby, of course.It's a huge game, it really is. Footballers will always tell you that the next game is the most important but it's really true for us in this case. Denmark-Sweden is always the big game in Scandinavia in any circumstances, it's huge for both countries, but obviously this one is extra special because so much is riding on it in terms of the World Cup. We feel confident about it because we're in a good position and have had some positive results against Sweden recently. And we'll be going all out for the win because, if we get all three points, I think we can start looking a book a nice hotel in South Africa!
Are you frustrated, having drawn your last two qualifiers [at home to Portugal and away to Albania] after leading in both, that you are not even closer to qualifying?I think you're always frustrated when you drop points after being in front but, looking back, we have to see that draw against Portugal as a good result. They're a great side and they needed the win a lot more than we did. It was different against Albania; that really wasn't good enough and we got what we deserved.
*Is it all the more important for Denmark to qualify for this FIFA World Cup given that you've missed out on the last two major championships? *There's no doubt about that. We've missed two in a row and it's not like us, so it would be something special to qualify for South Africa. Everyone wants to be involved in these big tournaments and, over the past 25 years, Denmark has become used to always being there. So it's been tough to miss out in 2006 and 2008 and, as a player, you know that you can't let too many of these competitions pass you by.
What is your favourite memory of the FIFA World Cup?Well, as a fan, 1986 was the first World Cup I really remember. That was special. That tournament has gone down in history here in Denmark and I think it showed us that we could compete against the world and also play some really great football. But my best memory overall would have to be 2002. To play in a World Cup was a dream come true for me and I remember thinking 'This can't get any better'. The fact we were able to beat France, the reigning champions, was just the icing on the cake.
You are just one goal away from drawing level with the late Poul Nielsen as Denmark's all-time leading scorer. Is that a record you have been thinking about?Of course, I would be lying if I said it wasn't in the back of my mind. It's a record I would love to have and would be very proud to call my own. It's one of these things you can tell your children about so, yeah, I'd love to make a bit of history and have my name in the record books. What I'd love to do is get that goal in the next two games. And to score it against Sweden would be extra special.
*You are also closing on Thomas Helveg's caps record for an outfield player. But what about Peter Schmeichel's tally of 129 appearances? Could that be within reach? *[Laughs] Who knows? Another 27 appearances seems a lot just now, but you can never say never in football. I'm not sure if Peter should be worried just yet though!
I'm not even thinking about finishing right now. It's a question I'm getting quite often these days and I can understand why, but I don't plan to retire any time soon.
Have you given any thought to how long you intend playing on at international level?Honestly, I'm not even thinking about finishing right now. It's a question I'm getting quite often these days and I can understand why, but I don't plan to retire any time soon. Fortunately, I have no problems with my body and, as long as that continues, there's no reason to stop. I love playing for my country and I'm very proud to be captain. But you know in football that things can change very quickly so, equally, I don't want to say that I'll play on for many more years because a lot of factors can come into play.
At club level, you're back at Feyenoord. After all the great times you enjoyed during your first spell in Rotterdam, did it feel like coming home?For sure. Rotterdam really is home for me and I'm very happy being back at Feyenoord. We had a terrible time of it last season with injuries and the results suffered, but this season things are looking up. We have a very good, very young team, and the future is looking bright.
*The Eredivisie changed while you were away though, with current champions AZ regularly challenging the big three for the title and the likes of Twente also now a force to be reckoned with. *There is certainly quite a difference to when I was last here in 2002. Back then, it was always one of the big three who would end up on top, and it's credit to these others clubs that they have caught up. What you have is a couple of teams with very impressive organisation behind the scenes and that has enabled them to become bigger and sign some top players.
As for Feyenoord, it's been over a decade since your last league title. Do you feel that you can get back to the top this season?Hopefully! Our basic ambition is a top-five spot but I believe for sure that we are one of the teams who can challenge for the title. The main thing for us this season is to do our talking on the pitch.