After a six-year absence, Danish Dynamite is once again set to explode on the elite world footballing scene. The Scandinavians missed out on both the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ in Germany and UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, but the FIFA founder members blazed an impressive trail en route to a berth in South Africa next summer.
The Danes will now be looking to extend their creditable record at three previous finals appearances, where they reached the Round of 16 twice and the quarter-finals on the other occasion. Denmark's first tilt at the trophy was in 1986 in Mexico, where they progressed to the last sixteen. The core of that team then went on to register the nation's greatest footballing triumph with the 1992 UEFA European Championship crown in neighbouring Sweden.
The small but totally football-mad nation went on to further success in the period after that. At the 1998 FIFA World Cup France, the Danes were a shade unlucky to lose to eventual finalists Brazil in the quarter-finals, before England proved too strong in the Round of 16 at the 2002 tournament in Korea/Japan. Denmark played some of the most attractive football at UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal, but came up against the in-form Czech Republic in the quarter-finals and lost 3-0.
With their long absence from the major stage now poised to end, captain Jon Dahl Tomasson and his men are keen to cut a dash in South Africa. Should head coach Morten Olsen be spared the injury woe which threatened to derail his side's qualification campaign at one point, the undoubted quality in the squad means the Scandinavians must be a good bet for a shock or two in South Africa.
The road to South Africa
The Danes saw off big-name rivals Portugal and Sweden in European qualifying Group 1 to top the group with just one defeat in their ten matches.
Campaign highlights included a 3-2 win and 1-1 draw with the Portuguese Selecção das Quinas, where convincing team performances saw the Danes take four points off the group favourites and earn themselves the decisive advantage. The crucial win in Lisbon featured an astonishing three goals in the last ten minutes. Denmark also beat neighbours and keen rivals Sweden home and away by the only goal of the game on both occasions.
Hungary ultimately caused Olsen's men more trouble than any other group opponents. After opening with a goalless draw against the Hungarians, the 1992 European champions lost 1-0 in their final group fixture, although it was a dead rubber by this stage.
The star players
Denmark's key players are largely drawn from big-name European clubs including the likes of Juventus, Arsenal, Liverpool and Werder Bremen. National captain Tomasson currently leads the Feyenoord forward line after a career featuring spells with AC Milan and Villarreal.
Olsen's core of players with wide international experience includes defender Daniel Agger (Liverpool), midfield trio Daniel Jensen (Bremen), Christian Poulsen (Juventus) and Dennis Rommedahl (Ajax), and striker Nicklas Bendtner (Arsenal).
Morten Olsen will complete a decade as Denmark head coach at the finals in South Africa. He took the helm in 2000, guiding Danish Dynamite to the 2002 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2004. He has yet to indicate whether he will extend his current contract, set to expire after the 2010 tournament.
A more than solid performer in the long-lost position of libero, Olsen's clubs included Cologne and Anderlecht, where he recorded his greatest success as a player when the Belgian outfit claimed the UEFA Cup in 1993. Olsen was 40 before he hung up his boots and began a coaching career, including spells with Cologne and Ajax.
Previous FIFA World Cups
- South Africa will be Denmark's fourth appearance at the FIFA World Cup finals
- The Danes made the Round of 16 in 1986 and 2002, and the quarter-finals in 1998
- Denmark triumphed at the 1992 UEFA European Championships, going on to claim the FIFA Confederations Cup in 1995.
- The Scandinavians' Olympic record features three silver medals (1908, 1912, 1960) and a bronze (1948)
What they said
"World Cups are always special. The fact it's the first time in Africa is fantastic because it's bringing it closer to the people there, but every World Cup has its own unique flavour and appeal. I remember seeing how excited Asia was in 2002 to have it and what a fantastic experience that was for everyone. For me and for all the players, competing at the World Cup is the ultimate; it's the biggest honour for any player." Morten Olsen, Denmark coach, interviewed exclusively by FIFA.com