Denmark opened their World Cup 2010 campaign with their toughest game on paper, the fixture against the Dutch. To take anything from this game would have been a bonus but the Danes were outclassed in the end. They matched their opponents for the first 45 minutes, but fell behind to a comic own goal in the first minute after the restart when Simon Poulsen headed a cross on to the back of his team mate Daniel Agger and it rebounded into the net past a helpless Thomas Sorensen. Denmark never really looked like getting back into the game any any hope of a late equaliser was quashed when Kuyt added a second in the 85th minute.
The second group game, against Cameroon, will long be remembered in Denmark as one of the national team’s best performances in recent years. They recovered from the early setback of going a goal down to fashion a superb equaliser just after the half hour when Dennis Rommedahl crossed from the right wing for Nicklas Bendtner to stab home from close range. Bendtner returned the favour in the 61st minute when he picked out Rommedahl with an exquisite long-range diagonal pass, which the winger controlled and cut inside his man before neatly curling the ball inside the far post. The veteran Rommedahl rolled back the years, causing problems for Cameroon’s defence all night, and Denmark’s own back line held firm to secure the three points and set up what was effectively a play off for qualification against Japan.
With both teams on three points going into the game, it was winner takes all with a draw being good enough for Japan so the onus was more on the Danes to go looking for the victory. However, they couldn’t cope with the movement and speed of the Japanese play and found themselves trailing in the 17th minute to a free kick from Honda. Lightening struck twice 13 minutes later when Japan again scored direct from a free kick with Endo this time beating Thomas Sorensen’s desperate dive. Denmark didn’t manage to get back into the game until the last ten minutes when they were awarded a penalty, which was initially saved but striker Jon Dahl Tomasson followed up his spot kick to tap home the rebound. Hopes of an unlikely comeback were short lived, however, as Japan responded with a clinching third goal through Okazaki to confirm Denmark’s exit from the competition.
It was a tough group and Denmark just didn’t quite have enough quality in their squad to progress. A few of the veterans were playing in their last World Cup and perhaps didn’t quite have the legs to compete in three games in quick succession. There are several promising youngsters coming through to take their places – players like Simon Kjaer, Christian Eriksen and Nicklas Bendtner will have benefitted greatly from the experience and cam form the backbone of the team for years to come. Three points from three games and third place in Group E was probably a fair return this time around but they can afford to be optimistic about the future.
The Danish squad submitted to FIFA was as follows:
NUMBER – POSITION – NAME – AGE- CLUB
1 – GK – Thomas SORENSEN – 33 – Stoke City
16 – GK – Stephan ANDERSEN – 28 – Brondby
22 – GK – Jesper CHRISTIANSEN – 32 – Copenhagen
3 – DF – Simon KJAER – 21 – Palermo
4 – DF – Daniel AGGER – 25 – Liverpool
6 – DF – Lars JACOBSEN – 30 – Blackburn Rovers
13 – DF – Per KROLDRUP – 30 – Fiorentina
15 – DF – Simon POULSEN – 26 – AZ Alkmaar
23 – DF – Patrick MTILIGA – 29 – Malaga
2 – MF – Christian POULSEN – 30 – Juventus
5 – MF – William KVIST – 25 – Copenhagen
7 – MF – Daniel JENSEN – 30 – Werder Bremen
10 – MF – Martin JORGENSEN – 34 – AGF Aarhus
12 – MF – Thomas KAHLENBERG – 27 – Wolfsburg
14 – MF – Jakob POULSEN – 26 – AGF Aarhus
20 – MF – Thomas ENEVOLDSEN – 22 – Groningen
21 – MF – Christian ERIKSEN – 18 – Ajax
8 – FW – Jesper GRONKJAER – 32 – Copenhagen
9 – FW – Jon Dahl TOMASSON – 33 – Feyenoord
11 – FW – Nicklas BENDTNER – 22 – Arsenal
17 – FW – Mikkel BECKMANN – 26 – Randers
18 – FW – Soren LARSEN – 28 – MSV Duisburg
19 – FW – Dennis ROMMEDAHL – 31 – Ajax