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Olsen needs Sand to deliver

Published: Friday 28 March 2003, 21.51CET
Denmark are hoping Ebbe Sand hits form for his side's Group 2 game against Romania.
Published: Friday 28 March 2003, 21.51CET

Olsen needs Sand to deliver

Denmark are hoping Ebbe Sand hits form for his side's Group 2 game against Romania.

By Svend Frandsen and Paul-Daniel Zaharia

If Jon Dahl Tomasson did not exist, 2002 could have been a dreadful year for Denmark. The AC Milan striker scored seven of the nine goals the Danes mustered in competitive matches - including three in two UEFA EURO 2004™ Group 2 qualifying fixtures.

Share the goals
Nevertheless, Denmark coach Morten Olsen is well aware that the burden must be shared if his side are to feature in Portugal next summer - preferably starting against Romania in Bucharest on Saturday. While Tomasson's eye for goal earned him a lucrative contract at the San Siro, his international strike partner, Ebbe Sand, is still searching for the magic touch which saw him finish as the German Bundesliga's leading scorer two years ago.

'Great finisher'
After finishing joint top-scorer with seven goals with Ukraine's Andriy Shevchenko in 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifying, the goals have dried up - Sand has not scored for FC Schalke 04 since 7 December, although he did register in Denmark's 2-0 qualifier victory against Luxembourg. Olsen will remain loyal. "A few years ago Sand did not score for five or six games for his club," he explained. "Yet when he returned to play for Denmark he sparkled immediately. That could well be the case this time around. Sand is still a great finisher and I'm not worried about him."

Bad memories
Other history, though, is not so kind to Denmark. It was in Bucharest in 1990 that they lost 3-1 to Romania to miss out on Italia 90. The Danes have been further troubled by the withdrawals of Thomas Helveg, goalkeeper Peter Skov-Jensen, defender Kaspar Bøgelund and FC København midfield player Thomas Røll Larsen. Claus Jensen is also struggling. "I hope to be able to train but it's too early to say," he said.

Romanian worries
Romania have equally been hit by a string of injuries. Adrian Ilie, Marius Niculae and Viorel Moldovan are all ruled out, while Cristian Chivu and Daniel Pancu are both rated as doubtful. Romania are also concerned that the bumpy pitch at the National stadium could hamper their short-passing game.

Tight marking
Yet coach Anghel Iordanescu remains determinedly upbeat. "They have a very compact and effective way of playing, and it will be important to stop them," he said of Denmark. "We conceded a goal against Norway because we didn't mark properly, and that's something we have to avoid. If we can do that, we have a good chance of winning the game."

Romanian incentive
With the unbeaten section leaders Norway not in action until Wednesday, when they face Luxembourg away, Romania would go top with a win. After defeating Bosnia-Herzegovina 3-0 in their opening game, Romania lost 1-0 at home to the Norwegians but restored confidence with a 7-0 thrashing of Luxembourg. Denmark have four points after drawing against Norway and beating Luxembourg.

First goals
Indeed, Luxembourg's campaign has a familiar look about it as they sit bottom of Group 2, conceding nine goals without reply. The Bosnians are faced with a similar statistic, though they have only let in five, and both will be looking for their first qualifying points - and goals - when they meet in Zenica.

Fitness race
The Luxembourg coach, Allan Simonsen, only named an 18-man squad on Wednesday. Manuel Cardoni, Marcel Christophe and Daniel Huss are nursing injuries, though Simonsen, a Dane, "expects all of them to be healed in time for the match". If they do not feature against the Bosnians, there is always the likelihood that they will regain fitness to face Norway, the same day that Bosnia-Herzegovina travel to Copenhagen.

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