Beware of the Danes

Beware of the Danes

Olsens boys have the wherewithal to surprise big names in Group E

Beware of the Danes

 Soren Larsen trains at the Super Stadium in Pretoria on Sunday. AFPWith a style and culture like that of Group E opponents the Netherlands, the Danes are confident and technically proficient on the ball. If their forwards find goal-scoring form, the side could go a long way.

The Dutch influence on Danish football should not be underestimated -- many of the players in the Danish squad have played in the Eredivisie, and Danish head coach Morten Olsen had a stint at the helm of Ajax Amsterdam in the 1990s.

The Danes like to get the ball down and pass it but despite an array of riches up front they lack a predatory goal-poacher to make the most of their approach work. The closest to a Gerd Mueller the Danes have is Duisburg's Soren Larsen who has managed 11 goals in 17 games in a career plagued by injury. Jon Dahl Tomasson could become Denmark's all-time greatest goalscorer in South Africa but he, Jesper Gronkjaer and Dennis Rommedahl are not renowned for their consistency.

With a backline shored up by Liverpool's Daniel Agger and Simon Kjaer of Palermo, the Danes possess both the ability to win the ball and the skill to do something with it. Goalkeeper Thomas So-rensen is racing against the clock to recover from a dislocated elbow, but Olsen can call on two worthy replacements in Stephan Andersen and Jesper Christiansen.

It will be interesting to see whether Olsen decides to use the talented Christian Eriksen. Though only 18, the playmaker has displayed a maturity far beyond his years since his senior debut for Ajax Amsterdam. Olsen handed the youngster an international debut against Austria in April, and his ability to pick up a pass would be appreciated by the ageing forward line. Nicklas Bendtner, 22, is the future of that forward line if he can become more consistent in his finishing and the Scandinavian side will largely depend on the Arsenal man to give them goals. Denmark should progress from their group, which also includes Cameroon and Japan, but how far they get will depend largely on whether their forwards fire bullets or blanks.

Denmark facts

*Colours: Red shirts, white shorts and red socks.
*Nicknames: Dansk Dynamit (Danish Dynamite)/Olsen-Banden (the Olsen Gang).
*Previous World Cup appearances: 3: 1986, 1998, 2002.
*Best World Cup performance: Quarter-finals, 1998.
*Coach: Morten Olsen. 
*Most capped player: Peter Schmeichel 129.
*Top goalscorer: Poul "Tist" Nielsen, 52.