Denmark Camp Focus – Olsen slams quality of World Cup ball

Denmark ended their preparations for the World Cup with a narrow 1-0 defeat against Australia. Morten Olsen however was left unimpressed with the quality of the football used. The ball, known as Jabulani meaning ‘to celebrate’, has sparked many debates amongst those who will use it this summer and the Danes are the latest side to have had their say. Olsen told reporters: “We played with an impossible ball and we need to get used to it.” Its movement has been compared to that of a volleyball by some observers and goalkeepers such as Spain’s Iker Casillas and Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon have been particularly critical. Olsen was keen to add that he was not making an unreasonable defence for the loss: “This is not an excuse but a case. We had difficulty in controlling the ball.” The main problem is the ball swerves too much and the unpredictable nature of the ball makes it harder for keepers to catch it, so Thomas Sorensen and his understudies will have to adapt quickly to it before the competition starts.

The friendly took place in Johannesburg at the Ruimsig Stadium, which will be used as a training venue throughout the tournament. The match gave the Danes much needed practice at playing at high altitude levels, conditions that are very different to their homeland and judging by the result, Olsen’s gang may need longer to adjust to the climate in the southern hemisphere. This is exactly the reason why the Danish squad have flown out earlier than most teams in Europe. Johannesburg, one of the cities the Scandinavian outfit will be playing their group games in, has an altitude of 1750m. Denmark also play in Rustenburg and Pretoria, which are both at least 1000m above sea level, hugely different to the conditions at home where it is mostly flat land. They are not the only ones who will have to adapt and training at high altitudes will no doubt help them customise themselves with their surroundings.

As with the game against Senegal, the meeting with Australia featured very few chances. The Head Coach took the opportunity to rotate the squad and make his final assessment of the players before their opening game on June 14 against the Netherlands, having named his 23-man squad well in advance of the June 1 deadline. The Socceroos took the lead with 20 minutes remaining when Joshua Kennedy outmuscled Daniel Agger to score the only goal of the game. Agger was playing alongside Per Kroldrup, as Palermo’s Simon Kjaer remains sidelined with a knee injury and the pair looked comfortable playing alongside each other, mainly because the match enjoyed little action at either ends. Olsen’s side lacked creativity throughout and managed only a handful of chances – Christian Poulsen came closest with a half volley but it was not to be his day. The unavailability of Arsenal’s Nicklas Bendtner will yet again be a concern. The tall striker has not played a competitive match since his club’s goalless draw against Manchester City back in late April and, based on the last two performances, the Reds are certainly lacking firepower up front. Soren Larsen came on as substitute 30 minutes but had little effect on the game, leaving captain Jon Dahl Tomasson crying out for another forward to support him with the wingers unable to help. As it stands Tomasson and Larsen are the only two fit strikers the boss has at his disposal.

In total Olsen made seven changes from last Thursday’s outing. Stephan Andersen made an appearance in goal, Lars Jacobsen came in at right-back and Patrick Mtilliga made only his second ever start for his country at left-back. Elsewhere there were starts for Daniel Jensen and Christian Eriksen in the midfield, with Thomas Enevoldsen replacing Dennis Rommedahl on the right wing. Enevoldsen played well and further staked his claim to start against the Dutch. Former Chelsea winger Jesper Gronkjaer came on as a sub half way through the second half but was unable to make an impact. Again the players were more intent on saving themselves from injury rather than getting a positive result, which may be understandable but it is always preferable to go into a tournament on the back of a win. Morten Olsen will be confident with his defence as they have the ability to keep teams out but fitness of in-demand defender Simon Kjaer will be a huge factor as to whether the Danes can progress to the knockout stage.

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