WC22 – 040 denmark

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DENMARK

** Denmark, without ever yet reaching as far as the last four of the FIFA World Cup, have contributed massively to the excitement and popularity of national team football over the past 40 years. The personality and talent generating the ‘Danish Dynamite’ spirit has captivated fans throughout the international game.

The Danes were among the first countries in continental Europe to take up football and boast some of the oldest clubs in the world. They enjoyed early success at the Olympic Games, in the pre-World Cup era. Winners in 1906 and runners-up in 1908 and 1912, their outstanding players included Nils Middelboe, who later played in England for Chelsea.

A subsequent period in the international shadows ended in the 1970s. A flood of outstanding players – led by 1977 European Footballer of The Year Allan Simonsen – left Denmark to play abroad. This promoted an end in 1976 to a bar on ‘exiles’ playing for the national team. Stars such as Simonsen, Michael Laudrup, Preben Elkjaer, Jesper Olsen, Morten Olsen and Soren Lerby brought home their top-level experience and results were dramatic. Suddenly Denmark became a power again on the national team stage.

These players and other new stars formed the nucleus of the team who reached the semi-finals of the UEFA EURO in France in 1984 and Round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup in Mexico two years later.

A new generation of players – including Michael Laudrup’s brother, Brian – then emerged to propel Denmark to the dizzying heights of European champions in 1992. Goals from John Jensen and Kim Vilfort brought a 2-0 victory over Germany in Gothenburg, Sweden, which completed an unexpected success. Victory was all the more remarkable because Denmark had been called into the tournament only at the last minute. This followed the removal from the finals of Yugoslavia over security concerns.

Subsequently Denmark reached the finals of the FIFA World Cup on five occasions and the UEFA EURO four times. The most successful of these campaigns was last year when Denmark reached the semi-finals of the delayed European finals. Their achievement was remarkable in progressing to the last four after withstanding the shock created by the cardiac arrest of playmaker Christian Eriksen in their opening game. Captain Simon Kjaer and the medical team received awards from European federation UEFA for their swift reaction to the player’s collapse shortly before halftime in a game against Finland.

Eriksen had played in all three of Denmark’s initial FIFA World Cup qualifying ties in March 2021. These brought victories by 2-0 in Israel, 8- at home to Moldova then 4-0 in Austria. The UEFA EURO campaign then took priority before Denmark, now without the convalescing Eriksen, resumed World Cup action in September last year.

More victories followed over Scotland, Faroe Islands (twice) as well as Israel, Moldova and Austria all for a second time. A place at the finals in Qatar was secured with two games to spare after a 1-0 win over Austria in Copenhagen. Captain Kjaer said: “We have come a long way already but we have only become hungrier. We built up a crew and a mentality that is incredibly healthy and we have been eager to improve all the time. We share the best with each other and adding that to the quality we have, we can go a long way.”

Joakim Maehle scored the all-important second-half goal. Later Denmark lost their final group game 2-0 in Scotland but still finished four points clear of the Scots and 11 points ahead of Israel and Austria. Maehle and Andreas Skov Olsen, with five goals each, were Denmark’s leading scorers.

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ONES TO WATCH

KASPER SCHMEICHEL

BORN: 5 November, 1986

CLUB: Leicester City (England)

100 Schmeichel has followed his father, Peter, in establishing himself as a key member of Denmark’s squad. He played regularly for the under-21s and has won more than 80 caps since his debut in 2013. Schmeichel has never played club football in Denmark. He began with Manchester City and had various spells out on loan in the English lower divisions before joining Leicester City in 2011. His talent and experience were then major contributions in the club’s surprise title triumph in the Premier League success in 2016. Schmeichel has been voted Denmark’s Footballer of the Year in four occasions.

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SIMON KJAER

BORN 26 March 1989

CLUB AC Milan (Italy)

Kjaer is not only a rock in central defence for Denmark but a captain in the inspiring traditions of a string of revered predecessors. He began with FC Midtjylland but a burgeoning reputation quickly prompted widespread interest among other European clubs. Kjaer starred in Italy (Palermo, Roma and Atalanta), in Germany (VfL Wolfsburg), in France (Lille), in Turkey (Fenerbahce) and in Spain (Sevilla) before returning to Serie A with Milan in 2020. Kjaer was the first to run to the aid of Christian Eriksen in Copenhagen at UEFA EURO 2020 and then fortify team morale in their progress to the semi-finals.

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COACH

Kasper Hjulmand

Hjulmand, born on 9 April 1972, was denied a long-playing career by a serious knee injury when he was only 26. He turned to coaching with Lyngby and then FC Nordsjælland whom he led to the Superliga title in 2012. This success led him to succeed Thomas Tuchel at Mainz in Germany in 2014. He later returned to Nordsjælland and then succeeded Age Hareide in 2020 in charge of a national team who had already qualified for the UEFA EURO finals. Hjulmand’s first major international tournament saw him lead Denmark all the way to the semi-finals before losing after extra-time to England at Wembley.

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RECORD AT PREVIOUS TOURNAMENTS

1930 Did not enter

1934 Did not enter

1938 Did not enter

1950 Did not enter

1954 Did not enter

1958 Did not qualify

1962 Did not enter

1966 Did not qualify

1970 Did not qualify

1974 Did not qualify

1978 Did not qualify

1982 Did not qualify

1986 Round of 16

1990 Did not qualify

1994 Did not qualify

1998 Quarter-finals

2002 Round of 16

2006 Did not qualify

2010 First round

2014 Did not qualify

2018 Round of 16

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PIX:

Denmark team

Kasper Schmeichel

Player Simon Kjaer

Coach

Ends