Denmark revels in underdog status

Denmark revels in underdog status

Published Jun. 7, 2012 1:00 a.m. ET

Denmark's status as the underdog in Group B has motivated the team to try to repeat history and seek inspiration from winning the 1992 European Championship.

The shock victory over Germany 20 years ago was one of the biggest upsets ever at the tournament. This time, bookmakers expect Denmark to finish last in a group that also comprises the Netherlands, Germany and Portugal.

''We know it's going to be tough to play against these teams, but we believe in our chances,'' striker Nicklas Bendtner told The Associated Press before Denmark's practice on Tuesday. ''We have to try to prove everyone wrong.''

Bendtner, who played with Sunderland last season on loan from Arsenal, is the most prominent player in a squad that relies more on cohesiveness than individual brilliance.


''We don't have a star,'' coach Morten Olsen told AP at Denmark's base camp in Kolobrzeg. ''We have to win the games through the collective.''

Denmark proved in qualifying for Euro 2012 that its team spirit goes a long way, beating Portugal in the last match to finish top of the group.

But performing at the actual tournament is a different matter. Denmark also won its qualifying group for the 2010 World Cup, only to be eliminated in the first round.

Olsen said Denmark's victory in 1992 - when it was called up at the last minute to replace war-torn Yugoslavia - serves as ''inspiration'' for his team.

''But the football was totally different. There were only eight teams in that competition, and Denmark was the lucky one,'' he said.

Rather than rely on luck this time, Olsen seems to be counting on an element of surprise. He's closed the doors to Denmark's training sessions before the opening match against the Netherlands on Saturday. The team needs to work on ''tactical, technical things,'' he said, secretively.

That could mean drilling set pieces or testing different combinations in the starting lineup. Playmaker Christian Eriksen may no longer be a given after a weak performance in a recent friendly against Brazil. Meanwhile, Simon Kjaer and Andreas Bjelland are competing for a spot in central defense to play alongside Daniel Agger.

Olsen's challenge is to select a lineup that can break the rhythm of the Netherlands, which moves the ball around better than Denmark. The Danes know that losing that match would severely dim their chances of surviving the group stage.

''If you can get a point, or even do better, that would be really ideal,'' Bendtner said.