Hopes revived late

Portugal 3           Denmark 2

(Pepe 24’, Postiga 36’, Varela 87’)   (Bendtner 41’, 80’)

As it happened

Silvestre Varela’s 87th minute goal secured three crucial points for Portugal in their second group league game against Denmark. Portugal, who had lost their opening game against Germany, needed to win this in order to proceed to the next round. On the other hand, Denmark will be in real trouble after this loss. They were high on confidence after defeating the Dutch in their opening game, but a loss here leaves them to test their luck against Germany in the last game of the group stage.

Things were not particularly in favor of Denmark, who lost Niki Zimling within the first 16 minutes of the game due to a calf injury. Pepe opened the score for Portugal when he converted from a corner in the 24th minute. It was surprising why the Real Madrid defender was kept totally unmarked at the near post by the Danish defense. Portugal doubled their lead 12 minutes later when Nani’s square pass reached Postiga, who impeccably placed the ball in the net. The Real Zaragoza forward, who failed to make an impact in the first game against Germany, made sure his presence is felt in the field. Michael Krohn-Dehli, the goal scorer in Denmark’s solitary goal win over the Dutch, assisted Niklas Bendtner to score the first goal for the Danes within 5 minutes. The game went to half time with a score of 2-1.

Within 5 minutes of the second half, Nani’s pass reached Ronaldo, who could have easily scored, but preferred not to. The Portuguese captain, considered one of the best footballers in the world, was pathetic to say the least today. At about 78 minutes, Ronaldo received a ball from Nani when the only object separating him from the goal was the Danish keeper Anderson. Quite surprisingly, Ronaldo hit outside and probably registered his name for the miss of the tournament. Minutes later, this act was punished as Niklas Bendtner scored again to equalize for Denmark. This was Bendtner’s sixth goal from his five internationals against Portugal. If Portugal would have drawn the game from there, Ronaldo had no one else to blame. However, an excellent shot from substitute Silvestre Varela in the 87th minute helped Portugal win this crucial game.

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Varela: The Savior

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Afterthought

Portugal will have to devise their strategy wisely in order to progress through the group stage. Their last match is with the Dutch, who having lost both games, are virtually at the edge of being eliminated from the group. The Dutch will definitely try to win their game, while a draw probably would be good enough for Portugal (expecting Denmark’s loss against Germany). Pepe was in great form today and he should be equally instrumental in the game against Netherlands. If Nani and Postiga also play with the same flamboyance, Portugal doesn’t need to worry. Today was perhaps a bad day for Cristiano Ronaldo, who can surely get back his lost confidence in the next game.

Things do not look great for Denmark. Their next game is against Germany, who are, perhaps, the best team in this group, having won both their games. Denmark has to depend on the Dutch in order to defeat the Portuguese and then can try to draw their game with Germany. It will be impractical to expect Denmark defeating the Germans, but certainly a draw can earn them a vital point towards progression to the quarterfinals. However, if Portugal wins against the Dutch, Denmark doesn’t seem to have any chance. The Danes need to strengthen their defense, which looked miserable today except Daniel Agger. Thomas Sorensen, the regular goalkeeper for Denmark, is expected to be back for the last game.

Teams

Denmark: Stephan Andersen Simon Poulsen, Daniel Agger, Simon Kjaer, Lars Jacobsen, Niki Zimling (Jakob Poulsen 16’), William Kvist, Michael Krohn-Delhi (Lasse Schone 90’), Christian Eriksen, Dennis Rommedahl (Toblas Mikkelsen 60’), Nicklas Bendtner

Manager: Martin Olson

Portugal: Rui Patricio; Fabio Coentrao, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Joao Pereira; Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles (Varela 84’), Cristiano Ronaldo, Helder Postiga (Oliveira 64’), Nani (Rolando 89’)

Manager: Paulo Bento

 

Referee: Craig Thomson (Scotland)

Quotes

“The equaliser was unjust but we didn’t bow our heads; we showed character and got the winner we deserved” – Paulo Bento, Portugal coach

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“We struggled to find our rhythm but we really improved in the second half and in the last ten minutes we came into our own.” – Morten Olsen, Denmark coach

Nine or Ten ?

Match Facts

Group B: Denmark vs. Portugal

Wednesday June 13, 2012

7 pm Local Time,

Arena Lviv, Lviv, Ukraine

Two adjacent FIFA ranking teams, Denmark (ranked 9) and Portugal (ranked 10) will be clashing against each other today at Lviv, Ukraine. Both teams will be playing their second game in the “Group of Death”. Denmark will be starting high on confidence, since they are already at the top of the group after defeating the mighty Netherlands in their last game. On the other hand, Portugal, having lost their first game against Germany by a late Mario Gomez goal, will have to win this game at any cost to ensure a finite probability of progression to the quarterfinals. The last time these two teams met was during the Euro qualifying Group H games, when Denmark defeated Portugal by a margin of 2-1 at Copenhagen. The last four encounters between these two teams resulted in two wins for Denmark and one for Portugal – thus, Denmark are clearly not starting as underdogs.

Denmark will be playing almost the same team that emerged winners against the 2010 World Cup Finalists. The only change might be Michael Silberbauer, who successfully marked Cristiano Ronaldo in the match at Copenhagen. At the front, the Danes will be looking towards Krohn-Dehli, the goal scorer from the Dutch game as well as Niklas Bendtner for converting chances. They will take every opportunity to build a solid counter-attack and score. Portugal, on the other hand, will be relying on Cristiano Ronaldo heavily for registering their first win at the European Championship. Nani, who had scored 3 international goals against Denmark will also be a key factor for the Portugese. Hugo Almeida has recovered and will probably replace Helder Postiga, after the latter failed to make even a single impact against Germany.

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Time to lead from the front

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Form Guide

Denmark is in peak form after winning the last two international encounters against Australia and Netherlands.

Last 5 games: WLLWW

Portugal is having a nightmare time with just one win over the last 5 games. Consecutive losses to Turkey and Germany will surely decline their spirits. Moreover, as in the previous 3 games, Portugal hasn’t scored in their last game.

Last 5 games: DWDDLL

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Team Formation

Denmark (4-2-3-1): Stephan Andersen Michael Silberbauer, Daniel Agger, Simon Kjaer, Lars Jacobsen, Niki Zimling, William Kvist, Michael Krohn-Delhi, Christian Eriksen, Dennis Rommedahl, Nicklas Bendtner

Manager: Morten Olsen

Portugal (4-3-3): Rui Patricio; Fabio Coentrao, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Joao Pereira; Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles; Cristiano Ronaldo, Hugo Almeida, Nani

Manager: Paulo Bento

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Quotes

“We have closed down Cristiano Ronaldo before and we firmly believe we can do it again” – Simon Kjaer

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“Losing is a word we can’t even let enter our minds” — Miguel Veloso

Denmark: Expect the Unexpected

Denmark 1 – 0 Netherlands

Krohn-Dehli 24

As it Happened

Denmark pulled up the first upset of 2012 Euro Cup with a 1-0 victory over Netherlands. Michael Krohn-Dehli’s goal in the 24th minute of the game split the two teams 3 points apart in the “Group of Death”. A plethora of misses by the Dutch forwards, especially Robin Van-Persie and Arjen Robben resulted in the unexpected defeat of the runner-ups of 2010 World Cup.

From the very start of the game, the Dutch launched a series of attacks against the Danes with Van Persie, Robben and Ibrahim Affelay all on the front. However, the Danish goalkeeper, Stephan Anderson was invulnerable. The only time Anderson failed was in the 36th minute when he gave away the ball to Arjen Robben, who could just hit the far post at best.

The Danes, on the other hand, were building up solid counter attacks. These eventually bore fruit when Krohn-Dehli went past two defenders and shot through the feet of Maarten Stekelenburg, the Dutch keeper . As we mentioned in our preview, in the absence of Joris Mathijsen, the Dutch defense was weak. The Danes utilized this opportunity to the maximum extent.

Robin Van Persie missed another glorious opportunity towards the end of the first half when Wesley Sneiijder passed him an easy ball to score. But the Arsenal Captain could, at the best, hit the ball without any power or commitment to Anderson. In the 63rd minute, it was Robben’s chance to miss. Sneijder found him about 6 yards out, and he headed wide. 73rd minute, and it was Klaas-Jan Hunteleer’s chance to miss the goal. He shot straight to Anderson in a one-one situation and Van Persie fails to score from the follow-up. The Dutch manager’s strategy to introduce Dirk Kuyt at 85th minute couldn’t help the Oranje. Towards the end of the game, the Dutch appealed for a handball against the Dane defender, Lars Jacobsen, which the referee turned down. Overall, the Netherlands’ inability to keep the ball within the net cost them crucial points in their first game.

Afterthought

Denmark will definitely be elated at this victory. They have secured crucial 3 points. On Wednesday, they meet Portugal. If they can pull up another surprise, they are sure to move towards the quarterfinals. Even a draw might help them secure a place in the top 8. This would be a real upset, since the Danes had the least chance of moving on from the Group of Death. With the goalkeeper Anderson in this superb form, the Scandinavians can dream.

Netherlands have just themselves to blame for this defeat. With 28 shots, 5 of which were at the goal without any fruit is extremely disappointing. The Dutch will have to start afresh. They have two games left in the group against the mighty Germany and Portugal, and needless to say, they have to win both. They are a balanced team and can possibly proceed to the quarterfinals even after this defeat.

 

Holland in Nutshell

 

Quotes

“I’m speechless, because these three points are very important.” – Dutch captain Mark Van Bommel

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“We know the Dutch, they can be very dominating. If you get scared of them, they play really good football. I think we played them in the right way”, Denmark coach Morten Olsen

Teams

Netherlands: Stekelenburg, Van der Wiel (Kuyt 85), Heitinga, Vlaar, Willems, De Jong (Van der Vaart 71), Van Bommel, Robben, Sneijder, Afellay (Huntelaar 71), Van Persie

Manager: Bert van Marwijk

Denmark: Anderson, Jacobsen, Kjaer, Agger, S. Poulsen, C. Poulsen, Kvist, Rommedahl (Mikkelsen 84), Eriksen (Schone 74), Krondelhi, Bendtner

Manager: Morten Olson

Vintage Vignettes – How the Danes made it to Euro 1992

In a new series, Vintage Vignettes, we trace the antecedents of an event from the past. This special Euro season, we trace back when the Danish Dynamites were called at the last moment to play the Euros, only to win it all.

Denmark’s first appearance in FIFA World Cup was in 1986. However the Danish squad of the decade (1980-1990) was being christened as the ‘Danish Dynamite’ during their Euro 1984 campaign. In both the competitions, they lost out to Spain but they had put on pretty strong performances. Preben Elkjær and Michael Laudrup emerged as one of the most exciting striking pairs of their time. The 1988 Euro was a disaster for them; they were in a difficult group and lost all their matches to Spain, Germany and Italy. Further, the team failed to qualify for the 1988 Olympics and 1990 World Cup. The manager of the national team, Sepp Piontek, decided to step down and his assistant Richard Nielsen took over.

Denmark with 1992 Euro Championship

This is just the backdrop of the (sur)real story of Denmark’s finest hour in international football. Denmark started the Euro 1992 qualifiers with a 4-1 home win against Faroe Islands. The following game at Northern Ireland ended in a 1-1 draw. But the worst came next when Yugoslavia beat them 2-0 at home. Things got out of hands when the Laudrup brothers decided not to play for the national team following a tiff with the manager on his defensive tactics. Jan Mølby and Jan Heintze were sacked by Nielsen on disciplinary grounds. With the manager under tremendous pressure, the team bounced back by winning all of the remaining games. However they finished second in their group behind Yugoslavia and failed to qualify for the finals.

How the team finally got a call to go to Sweden to play in Euro 1992 and ended up winning it is the stuff fairytales are made of.  Because Denmark was not in the finals, quite a few teams were playing their last friendly games with them before reaching Sweden. It was May 31st, 1992, only 10 days before the Euro was to commence, the Danish team was in Brondby, training for a game they had against the Commonwealth of Independent States. They were having lunch after the morning training sessions when they heard the rumour that Yugoslavia were expelled by UEFA due to international sanctions imposed due to the Yugoslav wars. But after they came back from their second training session, the rumour got confirmed and Denmark entered Euro 1992 as they had finished second in the qualifying group.

Brian Laudrup came back to play a major role

In the finals, Denmark was still defensive but thanks to Brian Laudrup’s decision to come back and play for the national side gave them enough creative sparks to get past England, France, Netherlands and Germany and be crowned as the champions of Europe.