Having watched on from the sidelines as an exciting qualifying competition unfolded, hosts Denmark now feel that they are part of the action following Tuesday's draw in Aalborg.
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Qualifying for the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Championship began 20 months ago, but for Denmark Under-21 coach Keld Bordinggaard the competition really starts now.
While the rest of Europe have been engaged in a compelling tussle for one of seven qualifying berths alongside hosts Denmark next June, the home side have been watching on from the sidelines. Not any more, though. Following the draw in Aalborg for the final tournament, they feel a part of the action.
From today, we're part of the competition," Bordinggaard told UEFA.com. "We've been looking around Europe following the group stage and the play-offs and from today on we are part of it and it is very exciting."
Denmark have been drawn alongside Switzerland, Belarus and Iceland in Group A, with the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Spain and England making up Group B. With the fixtures now known, the excitement can begin to build in earnest.
"There is growing awareness now among Danes that a very huge tournament is being hosted by us next summer and that we will see some of the biggest talents in Europe here," Bordinggaard said. "It will be an exciting summer. I experienced the 2009 finals in Sweden and what that did to football in Sweden, and we hope to do the same thing here."
Denmark should have plenty to be excited about come June. At centre-back, Mathias Zanka Jørgensen has impressed during FC København's UEFA Champions League campaign, catching the eye notably in their 1-1 draw with FC Barcelona last week.
Bordinggard will also be able to call on senior internationals Christian Eriksen and Simon Kjær, of AFC Ajax and VfL Wolfsburg respectively. "It's been challenging to put together a programme as we are not part of qualifying," Bordingaard said. "But we'll be ready next summer. We are a very competitive team."
As the snow fell on a wintry afternoon in Aalborg, next summer's finals may have seemed a long way off, but not for Christian Bordinggaard. The national team coach's older brother is the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Championship tournament director, and his work is about to crank up a gear.
"This is what we've been waiting for for the past two years since we were appointed hosts," he said. "Now there is no 'if' and 'when' and 'who' – we know exactly the match schedule and that is exciting. The level of football is extremely high and it's now up to us to tell the spectators, to tell the Danish fans, that it is worth coming to the four stadiums to watch the matches even if Denmark are not playing. They will be excited and thrilled by the skills and talent of the players on show."