Some players are so crucial for team morale that they are made captain even when they are not in the starting lineup. That is the case with Christian Poulsen, who is preparing for his fourth finals tournament with Denmark.
William Kvist and Niki Zimling are now ahead of him in the pecking order for a central midfield place, but there is no competition for the captaincy. "It's an extraordinary situation," conceded Poulsen, who has 91 caps to his name. "Of course I would prefer to play every time but I've come to terms with it. We have a core of five to six people in the team – a sort of players' union – who have a little more responsibility. If I'm not playing, then Daniel Agger is the captain."
Off the field, Poulsen has a more expansive role. "I'm trying to help the squad's well-being in general," said the 32-year-old, now at Èvian Thonon Gaillard FC following spells with FC Schalke 04, Sevilla FC, Juventus and Liverpool FC. "It's not exactly the scenario I was hoping for, but we have young players who have done well and we have quality throughout the squad. You try to change things around at every training session but you can tell by the lineups at training who will play."
Poulsen's calming presence is all the more important in the absence of goalkeeper Thomas Sørensen, forced to sit out the finals with a back injury. The 36-year-old is missed, as Kvist explained: "He has been a great component of this team for many years. He has a certain calmness and stability. Thomas has also been good off the field too, playing an important role in our social activities." Nicklas Bendtner agreed. "Thomas isn't afraid of expressing his opinion," he said. "He is very experienced and has played a lot of games for the national team."
The challenge for whoever plays in place of Sørensen – and indeed Poulsen – is to get a positive result against Denmark, Portugal and Germany in a pitiless Group B schedule. With a young team that could prove intimidating, but the side that won the 1992 UEFA European Championship in Sweden against the odds continues to provide an example to Morten Olsen's men.
"You have to believe you can do it, otherwise there is no reason for going out and playing," added Bendtner. "You can always look back and think: 'We did it once.' Sure it was different – there were only eight teams in 1992 – but we won it. We look at the pictures from back then and it gives us a special feeling." Youth may be having its day, then, but this is a Denmark team that still respects its elders.
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