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Denmark World Cup Preview

Posted: Monday May 27, 2002 5:47 PM

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JAN HEINTZE
What are your earliest memories of the World Cup?
The World Cup of 1974. I remember the Final between Germany and Holland. By then I must have been 11 years old, and at that age football is the most important thing in life.

Which of your teammates should people look out for at the World Cup?
It's difficult to pick someone. Denmark's quality is that they are a team. We haven't got any extraordinary players.

What stage do people back home expect you to reach?
They expect us to reach the second round. If we play our best football, it's possible.

If you don't win the World Cup, who will?
France have shown real class lately. Not only at the last World Cup and the European Championship, but in friendlies as well. Argentina are another candidate.

Is there too much money in football?
No, it's just a question of demand and supply that determines how much money is involved in football. Compared with the amounts involved in sports in the United States, you can't say that there is too much money in football.

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.


 
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