Denmark tackle Italy with past glories in mind
Wednesday, 9 October 2013
Denmark will draw on four significant past meetings when they host section winners Italy with the aim of staying in the hunt for second in FIFA World Cup qualifying Group B.
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Denmark can hark back to past glories when they host section winners Italy with the aim of staying in contention for second spot in FIFA World Cup qualifying Group B.
The nations have met 12 times, with four of those encounters having special resonance for the Scandinavians who trail second-placed Bulgaria by a point with two to play, though former midfielder Morten Bisgaard – who represented Udinese Calcio from 1998 to 2001 – said: "Denmark will have to have a perfect day to beat Italy, who must play below par. Every player needs to be at their best."
Highbury – the former home of Arsenal FC – staged Denmark's maiden international against Italy at the 1948 Olympic Games. The Danes prevailed 5-3 to ensure a smooth passage to the semi-finals, while many of their players impressed sufficiently to earn moves to Serie A later that summer.
Their fifth showdown will always hold a special place in the hearts of Danish supporters as Sepp Piontek's team swept aside the eventual world champions 3-1 in World Cup qualifying on 3 June 1981. It was the Azzurri's only defeat en route to lifting the trophy the following year and marked the dawn of a new era for Denmark's "dynamite boys" – a golden generation of players including Morten Olsen, Frank Arnesen, Søren Lerby, Preben Elkjær and Allan Simonsen.
In 1999, Bo Johansson's charges had to beat Italy in Naples to qualify for the UEFA EURO 2000 play-offs. Their hopes were hanging by a thread, however, when the Azzurri marched into a two-goal lead inside 35 breathless minutes. Not to be denied, Martin Jørgensen eroded the deficit before second-half strikes from Morten Wieghorst and Jon Dahl Tomasson completed a remarkable turnaround.
In comparison, an unspectacular 0-0 stalemate between the countries seemed a fairly innocuous opening to UEFA EURO 2004. However, the point proved a vital one for Denmark, who pipped their Group C rivals to second position by virtue of a superior goal difference. The subsequent quarter-final with the Czech Republic was one to forget, though, as Morten Olsen's side succumbed 3-0.