With Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark, Group B is the “Group of Death” in the 2012 European Championships.
Denmark is the group minnow, with an SPI ranking of 23—a number that would rank no worse than third in each of the other three groups. However, the Danes are unlucky enough to be in a group with the teams ranked first (Germany), fourth (the Dutch), and seventh (Portugal).
Common sense says that Denmark has no chance to get out of the group. Using the basic guideline that a minimum of four points is needed to advance, Denmark would have to get at least one win and a draw. Indeed, this seems like a very difficult task.
But the schedule sets up relatively nicely for Denmark. In tournaments, the first game can oftentimes be a cagey affair, as teams are understandably wary of losing their first match. If the Dutch take that kind of approach, it’s possible that the Danes could force a draw and head into their next match with Portugal needing a win. Past performance is no guarantee of future results, but Denmark did beat Portugal in the final qualifying match, so there would be precedent for such an event.
Obviously, that would be in a best-case scenario, but the squad is talented enough to pull off those shockers. Five of the team’s projected starting XI play in one of Europe’s Big Four leagues, but those five are placed in the middle of the field and thus are the most important members of the team.
Striker Nicklas Bendtner will be looking for a strong performance following a disappointing season in the English Premier League, while 20-year-old central midfielder Christian Eriksen showed a great deal of potential playing for the Dutch superpower Ajax.
The team is backstopped by Manchester United keeper Anders Lindegaard, who was very impressive in his fill-in performances during David de Gea’s early-season struggles, and the center back pairing of Simon Kjaer (AS Roma) and Daniel Agger (Liverpool), each of whom has given good showings at the top of European soccer.
If everything breaks well for the Danes, they could pull a shocker and advance from the group with four (or even five) points. However, the other three teams are in such great form that it seems unlikely. Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo is coming off of one of the most prolific seasons in the history of the sport, while Germany and the Netherlands swept through qualifying with a combined record of 19-1.
Denmark has enough talent that they should be able to keep the games competitive, and in a short tournament like the European Championships, anything is possible. That being said, something would have to go wrong for two of the three elite teams in this group, and that simply isn’t likely to happen.