Denmark World Cup PreviewPosted: Monday May 27, 2002 5:47 PM
How they line up
MORTEN OLSEN, like so many other World Cup managers, is praying that injuries do not ruin his strongest side. In Denmark's case that is a settled unit who play in what could loosely be described as a 4-2-1-3 formation -- one that Olsen also used as coach at Ajax a few years ago.
The key to the system is Feyenoord forward Jon Dahl Tomasson, who plays in the "hole" behind the strikers. Tomasson has had a magnificent season in Holland, helping his club to the UEFA Cup Final and scoring so freely in the League that many top European clubs are hoping to buy him up after the World Cup.
Tomasson's ability to drop deep allows Denmark to use speedy wingers Dennis Rommedahl and Jesper Gronkjaer in attack alongside striker Ebbe Sand. Solidity on the flanks is supplied by two highly experienced fullbacks in Thomas Helveg and Jan Heintze.
Behind Tomasson are two defensive midfielders -- the combative Stig Tofting and Thomas Gravesen. They are not overawed by any opposition and possess enough technique to adhere to the traditional Danish style of passing the ball quickly along the ground through midfield.
In central defense are two more experienced, competent players -- skipper Rene Henriksen and Milan's Martin Laursen. Henriksen's intelligence makes up for lack of pace, and he will go to Korea on the back of a memorable season with Panathinaikos.
The first-choice team is sound. But injury doubts remain over several players, in particular Helveg, Tofting and Gronkjaer. There are also considerable concerns over two of the immediate replacements -- midfielder Claus Jensen and winger Martin Jorgensen.
Denmark's squad is not blessed with strong back-up cover. Reserve keeper Peter Kjaer, for example, is no match for regular Thomas Sorensen. Striker Peter Madsen and attacking midfielder Peter Lovenkrands are virtual novices at international level, while other talented youngsters such as defender Niclas Jensen and midfielders Kasper Bogelund and Christian Poulsen will make the squad but would be a gamble to play now.
More experienced midfield reserves such as Allan Nielsen and Per Frandsen do not inspire confidence either at World Cup level. At least Olsen can rely on the versatile Jan Michaelsen as cover at fullback or in midfield.
The hardest choice of all for the coach would be if Tomasson became unavailable. There is no one with the range of skills to fill his pivotal position. His absence might force a rethink to a more traditional 4-4-2 formation.