Denmark Camp Focus - Danes look to "next Michael Laudrup" to inspire Euro success
Since France as the first host nation of the under 21 Championships in 1994, only the Netherlands have won the tournament on their home soil. That was four years ago in 2007 and powered by the attacking talents of Ryan Babel and Maceo Rigters, Foppe de Haan’s Dutch side dismantled Serbia 4-1.
Now, it’s Denmark’s turn to try. Their previous best finish came in 1992, where they were knocked out in the semi-finals by eventual winners Italy. In that same year, the Danish senior side won European Championship glory against Germany in Gothenburg. With Denmark in a promising position to make the Euro 2012 finals in Poland/Ukraine next year, could the under 21s have a chance to emulate the squad of 1992 and finish high on home soil?
Any success the Danes may have in the tournament will have to be spearheaded by star striker Nicki Billie Nielsen and playmaker Christian Eriksen. Villarreal striker Nielsen is bang in form after scoring two in Denmark’s final friendly against Turkey and with a solid record of eight goals in 14 under 21 appearances, Nielsen will be a major threat for Keld Bordinggaard’s side. Midfielder Eriksen is only 19, but has carved out a major name for himself with 13 senior caps and is dubbed the next Michael Laudrup by his country’s media. Ajax player Eriksen is subsequently being courted by Europe’s elite.
Denmark are said to face the easier of the two groups in the competition by avoiding heavyweights England and Spain, drawing instead Switzerland, Iceland and Belarus. However, the opening match against the Swiss will see the Danes try to break a 26 year duck, having not defeated their rivals at this level since 1985.
Their second game against Belarus could be much simpler with previous form showing that the Danes have beaten the Belarussians on the two occasions they have met in European competition. Iceland could pose the trickiest threat to the host nation after Eyjolfur Sverrisson’s side scored more goals than any other team in qualifying and eliminated reigning champions Germany en route to claiming second spot in their qualifying section.
The negatives for Denmark will be the withdrawal of Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner from the 23 man squad, citing family reasons for his absence and thus angering the fans of his country. Highly rated Wolfsburg defender Simon Kjaer will also miss out after his club side refused to release the 22 year old for the tournament.
Danish eyes are fixed firmly on the squad to see if they can bring home the bacon in the competition, but realistically, their poor form and defensive frailties leading up to the Turkey game could see them crashing out early and breaking hearts all across their country. Keld Bordinggaard has promised to try and delight the home crowd, but their attacking dreams of Eriksen and Billie Nielsen could be shattered by the defensive nightmares that Denmark hold and an early exit could be on the cards.