For many the talk about Denmark and their fairy stories in football goes back to the days when Sepp Piontek was appointed manager of the national team. He was in charge for eleven years from 1979 to 1990. Piontek was born 1940, in Wroclaw, at the time known as Breslau, and part of Germany. Piontek represented West Germany and picked up six caps from 1965 to 1966, playing his club football with Werder Bremen, his position was in defence and he added up 278 league appearances and scored 15 goals. Before taking charge of Denmark he had coached St. Pauli, Haiti, Fortuna Dusseldorf and Werder Bremen.
Before Piontek’s appointment Denmark had never qualified or participated in World Cup finals action, never been involved in the end tournament of the Euro’s but felt they had talent and players to be able to compete with the best. A long tradition from the far past did see Denmark doing well in the Olympics, at the time always participating as amateurs.
They have since their first big Olympic achievement, getting to the finals, in 1908, ending runners-up, picking up silver medals, been seen as a proud nation in football and of course bringing home pride to the nation. They followed up with new silver medals in the 1912 Olympics as well. Denmark were back on the podium in 1948, winning the bronze. The 1960 Rome tournament was a new success getting another great run and reaching the final, but sadly losing 3-1 to Yugoslavia picking up new medals of silver. So their old tradition of being a great football nation was part of their culture, and with the West German coach in place things would change.
We had seen many great Danish players abroad, with Henning Jensen as the top star of the early 70’s playing for Real Madrid in the years from 1976 to 1979. Denmark were a grand exporter of footballers to clubs in Holland, Belgium, Germany and Spain.
Denmark, a country of three major areas, Jutland, Zeland and Funen, with a great number of other islands also included. They did in the past have a number of great differences, and never really managed to build a great national team to qualify for the World Cup, strange in a way with so much talent spread all over Europe.
Sepp Piontek managed to bring all of this together and his big breakthrough did see England fall out of the Euro’s and Denmark qualifying with that 1-0 win at Wembley on the 21st of September 1983. Allan Simonsen scored on a penalty in the 30th minute and no english players managed to get hte ball in the net.
This was massive in Denmark with a team full of talent. Personalities, experience and elegancy, mixed perfectly together by Sepp Piontek. Morten Olsen (Anderlecht), top experienced captain, Michael Laudrup (Lazio) the young talented player that later would set out a fantastic route in football playing for both Barcelona and Real Madrid. Preben Elkjær (Lokeren), Søren Lerby (Bayern Munich) and Frank Arnesen (Anderlecht) also had roles in the team and of course Jesper Olsen (Ajax), Jens Jørn Bertelsen (Seraing) and Klaus Berggren (Pisa) made their full impact.
The team basically was build around those former greats that made their full commitment with a number of players in minor clubs around in Europe and of course also being bold enough to give a teenager like Michael Laudrup a place in the team, starting a career at this time and playing for naitonal team for the next 16 years.Embed from Getty Images
With the absence of Eriksen, Denmark under current manager Kasper Hjulmand, has been sensational going through the World Cup qualifications without conceding a single goal and winning all of their games, still a few to be played, but qualified for Qatar and with the Semi’s reached in the Euro’s this summer they were close to that same happening as we did see in 1992.
Denmark is known for their red hot dogs, lego and wind mills. But the way they produce footballers is a bit sensational as they tend to be up there among the best in the game with players such as Eriksen, Delaney, Braitwaite and Schmeichel all part of domestic title winning teams.
We do speak about England, Germany, Spain and Italy as the giants, but to be honest this little country might be the most sensational of them all as they have been so close.
The current Denmark team is captained by a special man, Simon Kjær. The defender and AC Milan player showed how you should act when incidents as we did see with Christian Eriksen happens, of course great credit to all others as well, but his presence was huge and he is a living example of fantastic leadership, pure class.
It will be exciting to see how far Denmark can reach in the 2022 World Cup. This nation could be in with a chance to bring home the big trophy, would be a fantastic thing to happen, though odds are high as a mountain for that to happen.
Fingers crossed for Denmark as they impressed and did qualify in the best way possible.
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