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Denmark and Germany not ready for the end

UEFA EURO 2012's 'group of death' will claim its two victims on Sunday and leaders Germany, cautioned by events two decades ago, are taking no chances as they target the last eight.

Germany coach Joachim Löw
Germany coach Joachim Löw ©Getty Images

Germany have caught the eye in Poland and Ukraine, the only team to win their opening two matches. Impressive, but not enough for a place in the quarter-finals and Joachim Löw's men know better than to underestimate a Denmark side with high hopes themselves – two decades ago it cost them dear.

UEFA EURO 2012's 'group of death' is yet to claim any victims but the Grim Reaper lurks, scythe in hand – on Sunday he will take two victims. After their eye-catching victories over Portugal and the Netherlands, few expect Germany to be among them, but knowing that defeat could still spell the end, Löw is far from complacent. The suggestion that he may rest players in Lviv ahead of challenges to come was emphatically dismissed.

"We have not qualified yet," he scoffed. "It will be a tight, difficult match as Denmark too have hopes of reaching the last eight. Those who saw Denmark as outsiders before the tournament were wrong; we always knew they would be a threat as they're compact and dangerous on the break. We will not underestimate them and I'll not be letting anyone have a day off. If I make changes it will be because it's beneficial for the team."

He will have to make one, with Benedikt Höwedes and Lars Bender vying to fill in for suspended right-back Jérôme Boateng. Denmark have personnel posers of their own as Dennis Rommedahl, who scored in the 2-2 friendly draw when these sides last met in August 2010, is out with a hamstring problem. Tobias Mikkelsen is expected to get the nod while Niki Zimling looks set to shake off a calf strain.

Morten Olsen has also had to cope with the fallout from Denmark's "brutal" last-gasp defeat by Portugal on Wednesday, telling his players that "fixating on that failure or the win against the Netherlands doesn't help". He added: "Over the past week we've had two dressing rooms, one euphoric and one full of grave, dark feelings. We're keen to experience the first one again. We still have a chance to decide the outcome ourselves and that's a nice situation.

"This group has lived up to expectations," added the coach, whose side require victory to guarantee progress. "We're all very equal, though we've perhaps surprised more than most. Maybe the Dutch have disappointed the most, but they were given a lifeline by Portugal's late goal [against Denmark]. If that hadn't happened then the Netherlands would have been on their way home – sometimes you need a little luck from the other games."

Neither Olsen nor Löw are depending on events in Kharkiv, though, and the German in particular is wary of a match that portentously carries the Twitter hashtag, #DENGER. Twenty years ago many were hammering nails into Denmark's UEFA European Championship coffin before their final against Germany, only for the last-minute entrants to rise spectacularly from the dead and win 2-0. Löw's men will be keen to bury them this time around.

Additional reporting from Thomas Mark

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