Only in three weeks' time, when this feast of football is over, will we know who made their efforts count. Until then, we can only guess at which team will end UEFA EURO 2012 as European champions, but after just 90 minutes of football, the outcome in Group B is already clearer.
Denmark's win against the Netherlands of course leaves them in a favourable position alongside Germany after their victory against Portugal. Due to both results, the fixtures provide even more optimism in Denmark as both the Dutch and Portuguese are under more pressure to win their next games. Denmark face Portugal and Germany take on the Netherlands, giving the two early leaders the upper hand before they settle things in the final round of the group stage a week today.
Nobody in Denmark would question that luck was on their side against the Netherlands. Luck can easily turn around, but a player's display on the first night in action often lays the platform for his overall performance throughout the tournament. Against the Dutch, two of the Danish players, goalkeeper Stephan Andersen and left winger Michael Krohn-Dehli, played their first match at a major tournament. Though the Danish press have been writing and talking about other players who may take their places, both justified Morten Olsen's selection.
Andersen made just one mistake when he cleared the ball straight to Arjen Robben, and was fortunate to see the Dutchman's shot deflected onto a post. Otherwise, he played with skill and fearlessness, reviving mental images of Peter Schmeichel 20 years ago. Little wonder he stated after the match: "This was the highlight of my career." Krohn-Dehli was also a crucial player, scoring the only goal of the game, but he deserved just as much credit for his brilliant passing and industry throughout. "We believed in it all along, even though we were under pressure during the first 15 minutes," said the goalscorer. "After I had scored, we were more in control."
Whether Andersen and Krohn-Dehli's contributions will last for another two, three or even more games, nobody knows. But it certainly seems more feasible that Denmark might just deliver one of the UEFA EURO 2012 surprises and progress from a group in which they were expected to play the role of also-rans.
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