After a sluggish start to their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, Denmark will tackle Bulgaria on Tuesday with hopes beginning to grow again that they can claim a ticket to Brazil.
Morten Olsen's men finally sparked life into their bid with a 3-0 victory away against the Czech Republic on Friday, a result that has raised morale and belief after months of disappointment. Not only was it their first win in qualifying Group B, it was the Scandinavian side's first success in a full international since beating the Netherlands 1-0 in their opening match at UEFA EURO 2012 last summer.
"This win was one of the big ones," commented Olsen after the game in Olomouc. "I remember that we lost a quarter-final to the Czechs at EURO 2004, so this was a kind of revenge. When we got the first goal, we managed to calm down, and we could even have scored a few more."
Young forward Andreas Cornelius opened the scoring after 57 minutes and, significantly, his goal put Denmark ahead for the first time since their campaign began. "I scored at a time when we were putting on some pressure," he said. "We started the second half well, and a cross came to Nico [Nicolai Jørgensen], who headed it back to me. Apparently he knew I was there. I took a dribble, struck it with my right foot and connected pretty well."
Before the match, Olsen had emphasised several times that four points from the games against the Czech Republic and Bulgaria would be enough to put Denmark's World Cup dream back on track. Having won against the Czechs, however, he will not be content with a draw against Bulgaria at Parken Stadion.
Italy lead the section on ten points with Bulgaria one point further back after downing Malta 6-0 on Friday, but victory in Copenhagen would send the Danes within a point of Bulgaria – and, crucially, holding a game in hand on Luboslav Penev's charges. Suddenly, Denmark would have their destiny back in their own hands as they pursue at least second spot and a place in the play-offs.
As a result, frustration has been replaced by optimism among the country's supporters, with the national media reflecting the new positive outlook. As one of the country's largest newspapers, Jyllands-Posten, put it: "Nothing is sure yet, but by winning 3-0 against their Czech hosts, Morten Olsen and the Danish players have taken themselves a major step closer to building a greater sense of security and self-confidence ahead of the decisive battles to come."
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