Denmark had double reason to celebrate over the weekend as their 1-0 victory over neighbours Sweden booked their place to next year’s World Cup in South Africa while effectively eliminating Sweden from the race.
Despite pre-match hype from Sweden, the visitors were unable to live up to Coach Lars Lagerback’s expectations in the showdown in Copenhagen. Eager to avenge a 1-0 home loss to the Danes in June Lagerback had boldly predicted that his side would “own Parken” stadium.
Swedish news source, The Local, echoed the disappointment of the nation in the defeat which, coupled with Portugal’s 3-0 victory over Hungary, means that Sweden must now pray that the part-timers of Malta can somehow achieve the greatest victory in their history when they visit Lisbon. Portugal leapfrogged Sweden into second place in the group which should see them into the play-offs as one of the best placed runners-up. They take on Albania in their last game but only an eternal optimist would bet on a Maltese triumph.
The match itself was lacking in genuine quality although high on passion. A 79th minute goal by Jakob Poulsen proved the eventual match winner. Liverpool centre-half Daniel Agger managed to keep the threat of Barcelona striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic at bay.
The loss means Sweden are likely to miss a major championship for the first time in six attempts although Lagerback has not given up hope. “It is not over before all the matches have been played and all the points counted,” Lagerback suggested wishfully.
For Denmark, qualification goes some way to burying poor recent history. The Danes failed to reach the World Cup in 2006 and European Championship in 2008.
Denmark is the only Scandinavian country to qualify for South Africa with Finland and Iceland having long been out of contention and Norway settling at the bottom of the runners-up pile.