Having been the leader of the Danish version of the Dutch Total Soccer nicknamed “Olsen-banden” (the Olsen Gang), which included some of the most impressive soccer ever played at a World Cup in 1986 in Mexico, and having managed Ajax to a Dutch Double in 1998, Morten Olsen is a staunch proponent of the beautiful game, so much so that he, at times, has been questioned by the Danish press for being too rigid in his 4-2-3-1 formation with speedy wingers and quick ball-circulation. The argument goes that while Olsen’s ambitions and soccer philosophies are artistic and pleasing to the eye, a small country like Denmark can hardly expect to be the exponent of beautiful soccer against much bigger countries that, in some cases, have more registered soccer players than Denmark has inhabitants.
However, Olsen has stubbornly stuck to his vision, and in doing so often times selected less-heralded players who better fit his vision. While the 2010 World Cup was a huge disappointment for the Danes, the second half of the Euro 2012 qualification campaign was a sheer triumph for Olsen and his style. Especially, in the last two home victories against Portugal and Norway which secured the group win for the Danes. In the 2-1 win against Portugal the Danes played close to a flawless game, and with only a bit more sharpness in front of goal, it could easily have been a 4-5 goal margin of victory.
In Daniel Agger and Nicklas Bendtner, the Danes have two experienced players who have fared exceptionally well playing for their country. Especially, Bendtner seems to be a much better fit in the Olsen system than he ever was at Arsenal or Sunderland. Unfortunately, both players are also injury-prone, and the Danes really do not have adequate coverage should they succumb to injury during the tournament.
In goal the Danes have either the veteran Thomas Soerensen who has struggled for playing time at Stoke City this season, or Anders Lindegaard, the comet who was plugged from relative obscurity in Norway by Sir Alex Ferguson, to beat out highly touted David De Gea for the starting spot at Manchester United this season before succumbing to a season-ending injury. Lindegaard is back in training, but with no competitive games since his injury, Soerensen is expected to start against Holland in the Euro 2012 opener for the Danes.
Every Dane knows that the “impossible is possible” after witnessing the Danish Euro 1992 triumph. Where, after being summoned to participate after Yugoslavia’s expulsion shortly before the tournament, the Danes went straight from the beaches of Southern Europe to the Champions of Europe while tying England and beating France, Holland, and Germany en-route. A small miracle will have to happen for the Danes to repeat that feat, but I am cautiously optimistic that the Danes can advance to the knock-out phase through ties against Holland and Germany and win against Portugal.
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