Soccer in Tucson: Danes make up a small country, big soccer team

2013-01-26T00:00:00Z Soccer in Tucson: Danes make up a small country, big soccer teamDave Ord Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 26, 2013 12:00 am  • 

If the Danish national soccer team was a television personality, it would definitely be Bear Grylls.

For the survival expert from "Man vs. Wild," it's navigating across the Namib Desert. For Denmark, it's navigating through World Cup qualifying.

While the Danes might not be handy at telling us how to escape from quicksand or eat a crucifix spider, they certainly know how to get by on limited resources.

In the most recent FIFA world rankings, Denmark was 23rd. Compare that to 110th, which is where it's population of 5.5 million ranks on the world list.

"If you look at the country, how big we are, and what we've done … it's been a great achievement," Denmark captain Dennis Rommedahl said during Friday's press conference at Kino Stadium, where Denmark will face Canada today in the first-ever international in Tucson.

The Danes have made it through qualifying in three of the last four World Cups and advanced to the knockout stages twice, including a quarterfinal appearance in 1998.

A great deal of that success has come under the reign of coach Morten Olsen.

The 63-year-old former defensive midfielder has guided the team since 2000. That's an eternity in national team coaching circles.

Olsen and Denmark are in the process of trying to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, but this week's international friendlies - today against Canada and Wednesday against Mexico in Glendale - are about blending in some younger players.

"It's a team with experience, but also a team with a lot of young guys who have played maybe once or three games," Olsen said Friday. "It is the future of Danish football.

"It's all about this trip that our young players can play against tactically different kinds of teams and players, and learning from that experience."

They will have Rommedahl to lean on when needed.

"I think I'm the oldest player on the team," said the 34-year-old Rommedahl, who has scored 21 goals in 121 appearances. "It's probably the youngest team ever for me. … It's my job to give the experience that I have in football to them on the pitch and on the trip. That's my main target.

"The training has been good, high-training sessions. What I've seen so far is really positive."

The strikingly different environment in Arizona has been a positive as well.

"The climate is really nice," Rommedahl said. "It's good football weather.

"We are not on Astroturf anymore, we are actually on real grass."

The kind of landscape that the resourceful can adapt to quickly.

Denmark facts

• Population: 5.5 million

• Capital: Copenhagen

• FIFA world ranking: 23rd

• Coach: Morten Olsen

• Name to know: Right wing Dennis Rommedahl

• Record vs. Canada: 2-0

• Best World Cup finish: Denmark reached the quarterfinals in the 1998 World Cup.

• Twist of fate: Ten days before the start of the 1992 European Championships, Yugoslavia was excluded from the tournament because of international sanctions resulting from wars in that country. In stepped the Danes, who shocked the continent by going all the way and beating Germany in the final.

Today

• What: Canada vs. Denmark

• When: 1 p.m.

• Where: Kino Stadium

• Tickets: fctucson.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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