Denmark's young guns are itching for a first taste of major final tournament action while the likes of Dennis Rommedahl aim for one last hurrah after Morten Olsen's perfect blend booked their UEFA EURO 2012 place with a 2-1 victory over Portugal.
Denmark went into Tuesday's Group H decider in Copenhagen knowing only victory would confirm progress. Goals from Michael Krohn-Dehli and Nicklas Bendtner saw them through, even if Cristiano Ronaldo's late free-kick ensured a nervous finale.
"I don't face players like those in the Danish league," FC Nordsjælland centre-back Andreas Bjelland said of a lineup that included Nani, João Moutinho, Bruno Alves and Ronaldo. "But we played a very good game and managed to control the ball. It was great and it's a tremendous feeling right now. We didn't even have to look at the Sweden game – we did it ourselves."
Sweden's Group E meeting with the Netherlands was given a lot of attention by the Danish media in the run-up to the game as they would have been Denmark's chief rivals for the automatic spot that went to the best runners-up.
Bjelland insists Olsen's men "were concentrating on our own game" – perhaps for the best, as in the event Sweden beat the Netherlands 3-2. Right-back Lars Jacobsen, nine years Bjelland's senior at 32, had more pressing things to worry about as he went head to head with Nani.
"Portugal have a great side and some great players but we played as a team, showed courage and won deservedly," he said. "Our tactics were spot on and we did everything we had talked about before the game; really doing very well, closing them down in key areas, especially up front. We knew all about their quality, but we played a very solid game."
Victory had particular resonance for Rommedahl and Christian Eriksen, players at different stages of their careers who combined to devastating effect to set up Bendtner's second-half strike. For 19-year-old Eriksen, who came into the squad just before the 2010 FIFA World Cup, it brought the realisation of "how hard it is to get through". He added: "We are growing game by game and everybody enjoys playing for this team – that's why we are getting results."
At 33, Rommedahl is treating every major tournament as if it were his last. "I'm going to enjoy [the finals]," said the forward. "This might be the last big tournament for me though I've just heard that I'm still young, so maybe in three years I will still be there if we qualify. You never know."
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