Underdog Danes flying high into 2010 World Cup

Team: Denmark

World Ranking: 36

Manager: Morten Olsen

Best World Cup Finish: Quarter finals

Projected Starting 11: (GK) Thomas Sorensen; (D) Simon Kjaer, Daniel Agger, Lars Jacobsen, Jakob Poulsen; (M) Christian Poulsen, Daniel Jensen, William Kvist; (F) Dennis Rommedahl, Nicklas Bendtner, Jon Dahl Tomasson

When one thinks of soccer powers, Denmark is rarely brought up in discussion. And while they may not be there yet, the Danes are perhaps one of the most underrated teams heading into the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

While they lack the star power of traditional first choice nations, Denmark plays a headache inducing defensive system that allows them to compete with any team in the world.

En route to South Africa, the Dynamite Danes finished the qualification on top of Group 1, ahead of Portugal, Sweden and Hungary. Impressively, the Danes only allowed five goals against while netting 16 of their own.

Liverpool’s Daniel Agger and Palermo’s Simon Kjaer—the 2009 Danish Talent of the Year—supply the defensive proficiency.

Christian Poulsen and Daniel Jensen lead their grid locking midfield, as both possess a good transition game that opens up room on the wings.

Denmark faces some serious questions between the sticks, as starting goalkeeper Tomas Sorensen dislocated his elbow in April and questions loom whether he will be fit come the start of the tournament.

The Danes biggest weakness will be their inability to score goals. Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner is the only major threat up front and if he goes cold or suffers injury, the Danes could be in big trouble.

Although the Netherlands is expected to win Group E, Denmark looks to be in good position to steal second place away from Cameroon and Japan.

Player to watch

Simon Kjaer, a 21-year-old centre back, is on the verge of becoming a big time star.

The 6’2” Kjaer has a maturity beyond his years and is praised for his strength, balance and patience on the pitch.

These attributes are unusual for a player his age and because of it, Kjaer has received significant interest from English Premier League powerhouses Liverpool and Manchester United.

His presence will certainly be a determining factor for Denmark’s success and a frustrating burden for opposing strikers.

World Cup 2006

Despite its meteoric rise in international respect, Denmark was nowhere to be seen in 2006.

Disregarding the failures leading up to 2006, Denmark enjoyed subtle success in 2002 after advancing to the second round. They also shocked many in 1998 where they advanced to the quarterfinals before being knocked out by Brazil.

In their previous three World Cup appearances (dating back to 1986), Denmark has made it out of the group stage, a factor that will weigh heavy on minds of the Danish side come their opener on June 14.