Denmark Camp Focus – Own-goal costs Danes dear

Denmark will look back at the two defining moments of their match against the Netherlands which led to their downfall. The own-goal and the substitution of Nicklas Bendtner all but ended the Reds hopes of coming away with a point to their name.

Denmark knew that the only way they would come away from the game with anything would be through solid defending. They managed that comfortably during the first half with the Dutch having few chances at goal. Despite this, Head Coach Morten Olsen will have been bitterly disappointed his side went on to concede 50 seconds after the restart. Lack of concentration and poor defending cost them dear with Simon Poulsen getting out of shape, heading the ball into his own net. He was attempting to head it clear and with the help from Daniel Agger’s deflection, the Danes’ first half work had been undone. The camera focused in on an embarrassed Poulsen, smiling and suggesting it was a freak moment of play. One thing is for sure, is that the own-goal will be shown again and again as one of the calamity moments of the tournament. His Coach had sympathy for him and afterwards Olsen described the goal: “That was like a bucket of cold water over our heads.” It was certainly the killer blow that changed the outcome of the match.

Olsen’s side had a couple of opportunities to break the deadlock, with Bendtner heading just wide before the break. Dennis Rommedahl seems to have put his poor form behind him and managed to put a couple of decent crosses into the box. This soon changed when the tall striker was subbed off on the hour mark and was replaced by Mikkel Beckmann. The Arsenal striker’s presence was the key reason as to why the Danes had an outside chance of winning the match. Once he left the field of play the Reds rarely threatened the goal. Bendtner’s inclusion in the first team came as a big surprise as Olsen appeared to have ruled him out of the match. The Head Coach stated earlier in the week that he would be dreaming if he could start with the striker up front in the opening game. However, due to Jon Dahl Tomasson’s unavailability because of injury, the Coach had no choice but to use him. His appearance meant he could only last 60 minutes. The boss was taking no chances with his fitness, as he needs him for the rest of the tournament. Simon Kjaer also started having been out injured after a challenge in the Senegal friendly match. Whether he can play two games in six days is still to be seen. Goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen, as expected, made his first start since he dislocated his elbow back in April. He performed well and was unlucky to concede a second goal after his save from an Eljero Elia shot rebounded off the post into the path of Dirk Kuyt to tap in.

Midfielder Christian Eriksen made history, as he became the youngest player ever to represent Denmark at a World Cup, at the age of 18. He is also the youngest player at the tournament and is one of the rising stars in European football. Olsen would have known before the game that anything other than a defeat would have been a bonus for his side. Their chances of progressing to the next round depend on the results against Cameroon and Japan. He will be disappointed with the manner of yesterday’s defeat. Olsen’s side made a name for themselves during the qualifying campaign as having a solid defence. They lived up to that title during the first half but they were nowhere near as solid in the second half. Kjaer was guilty of poor concentration as he gave away the ball cheaply and Robin van Persie could have easily doubled the lead within minutes. There were glimpses that the Scandinavian outfit could achieve something in South Africa this summer. Perhaps more worryingly for them is the lack of firepower up front. They have now gone three matches without scoring a goal. The possible return of their captain, Tomasson, in their next game could change that statistic but for the time being they rely too heavily on Bendtner.

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