Danes alive in group of death
It was supposed to be a three-horse race in Group B. Denmark were heavily odds on to finish bottom of the group of death but a determined victory over Holland followed by a late, but not discouraging, defeat against Portugal has given Morten Olsen’s men a fighting chance of making the last eight.
And at 11/4, we’re prepared to back the Danes to qualify at the end of an evening dripping with permutations. To be clear (as clear as we can be), a Denmark victory against Germany on Sunday would see their progress secured. A draw would be enough if Portugal lose, while any sort of defeat and they’d be heading home.
In this situation, Denmark would seem to represent the value: while the Portuguese statistically stand a better chance of making the next stage (56.7%, according to Euro Club Index), compared to the Danes at 39.6%, Paulo Bento’s men are no better than 4/9, which seems too short for a side which has made hard work of their two games so far.
Olsen’s side, meanwhile, may have enjoyed some good fortune in their opening success but they displayed plenty of battling qualities in Wednesday’s 3-2 defeat against Portugal. And they can be forgiven for conceding late on, with their opponents backed into a corner which demanded all-out attack. They are unlikely to face such an onslaught in their final match, with top-of-the-table Germany already well placed to make the knockout stages.
Indeed, it is far from out of the question that Joachim Low’s men will ease off – intentionally or otherwise – and wrap their star men in cotton wool. The onus is not on them to do the running, and if they do give any quarter they would feel little disappointment in sending Holland and Portugal home.
But that convenient outcome alone is not reason enough to side with the Danish. Consider the cards which have to fall into place to see Denmark finish second or better. First, can Holland defeat Portugal? While the Dutch face an uphill battle to make the last eight they ought to finally opt for a more attacking line-up, with Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar likely to come in from the start.
And with their need for goals, we simply don’t trust Portugal to offer enough resistance. On another day Cristiano Ronaldo might have wrapped up that Denmark victory sooner but the manner in which they allowed their opponents back into the game must be a cause of concern. The misfiring Ronaldo may yet find his shooting boots but there remains a feeling that the Real Madrid man is feeling the pressure.
Secondly, can Denmark earn a point? Nicklas Bendtner was at his clinical best on Wednesday, ably supported by a functional midfield, and the 24-year-old will fancy his chances of taking the game to the Germans, who will be forced into a reshuffle at the back with Jerome Boateng suspended. His absence is likely to see skipper Philipp Lahm restored to the right side with the inexperienced Dortmund defender Marcel Schmelzer thrown in on the left.
Can we see both those questions being answered favourably? Yes. The end result would see Germany topping the group ahead of Denmark, with Holland and Portugal missing out on a transistors-to-the-ear evening in Ukraine.
But a bet on the Danes also serves as a handy saver. Should Germany and Portugal qualify we’re on for a three-point profit, after Mike Holden tipped the pair to make it through in his ante-post preview of the group stages.
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