Denmark qualified for this edition of the World Cup with minimal fuss. Paired with the more talented Sweden and a Portugal side led by Cristiano Ronaldo, Denmark were expected to quietly accept their place as the third best team in the pool.
Morten Olsen was probably absent when the scripts were being handed out because, totally ignoring the inferiority complex, he led Denmark to a surprising but comfortable first place finish with impressive away wins in Portugal and Sweden under his belt.
They didn’t shock the world, but the manner in which Denmark made the World Cup—pretty much controlling their own destiny throughout from the word go—turned a few heads. A second spot may have been likely, but to win the group in such emphatic fashion wasn’t expected.
Despite the accomplished performances in the qualifying rounds, Denmark's World Cup history doesn't make such impressive reading. Having only qualified three times previously, South Africa being the fourth, they have only participated 13 World Cup matches.
With that said, here's Denmark's five best World Cup performances...
Denmark v. Brazil was surely as "David and Goliath" as they come. Denmark were in virgin territory and in only their second ever World Cup appearance while Brazil had won the whole thing four times and were the defending champions.
Surely not another upset?
Of course not, but it looked that way for a moment or two. The Danes shocked the world by taking the lead just two minutes into the match, when Martin Jørgensen got on the end of a sweeping move with a brilliantly taken goal.
Being the defending champions, Brazil weren't just going to sit back and let the little minnows from Scandinavia walk all over them. So it was no surprise when 20 minutes later, the scoreboard read: Brazil 2-1 Denmark.
With the whole world watching his every move, Ronaldo provided two beautiful assists for Bebeto first and then Rivaldo, to turn the match on it's head.
Denmark fought back and just after the interval, Brian Laudrup smashed in the equalizer after a mistake by Roberto Carlos.
It was obvious it was going to take something to special to put the brave Danes away and Rivaldo provided it with a superb goal from 25-odd yards out. Denmark were finally beaten but left the tournament with their heads held high after some smashing performances.
The Laudrup brothers never played for Denmark again. Michael had announced prior to the tournament that he would retire afterward. Little brother Brian followed suit shortly after the tournament.
The brothers' prolonged hug and the tears that followed captivated the watching audience.
It was the end of an era. A beautiful era...
Having beaten Uruguay and drawn with Senegal, the Danes oozed confidence as they went into the match against World champions France, who were on the opposite end of the confidence scale, having only managed to draw with Uruguay and lose to Senegal.
France could still progress mathematically but anything else but a convincing win would see them crash out at the first hurdle.
Their worst fears were realized just 22 minutes into the match as Rommedahl gave Denmark the lead.
Despite the high stakes, the French still couldn't snap out of their lackluster mood, and precisely 22 minutes into the second half, it was all over as Tomasson put the result beyond doubt with a classy finish.
The Danes marched on to the knockout rounds.
After scraping through the groups, Denmark faced the the impressive Nigerians, who had lit up the tournament with a couple of highly charged performances in the group stages.
Anything but a Nigerian win would have been a huge upset, but after just 12 minutes, they found themselves 2-0 down, thanks to goals from Peter Møller and Brian Laudrup. And the unfancied Danes, led by the Laudrup brothers, were pulling all the strings.
Nigeria mounted a mini-revival after the break but any chance of a comeback was quickly wiped out as Denmark went 3-0 up when Ebbe Sand scored just 60 seconds after entering the pitch as he latched onto a superb M. Laudrup pass. As if that wasn't enough, Helveg made it 4-0 finishing off a brilliant counter-attacking move.
However, there was still time for a consolation goal as Tijani Babangida reduced the deficit...
On paper, this appeared to be a no-brainer. World heavyweights and tournament favorites against the minnows from north of the border in their first ever World Cup.
However, the manner in which Denmark destroyed Uruguay in the previous match must have been a cause for concern for the West Germans.
Having said that, they certainly weren't prepared for how things unfolded, as the Danes ran out comfortable 2-0 winners with goals from Jesper Olsen (penalty), after a classic Morten Olsen run at the heart of the German defense ended in a spot kick and John Eriksen, who got on the end of a sweeping move.
Denmark got knocked out in the following round in a 5-1 defeat to Spain while West Germany reached the final before going down to a Maradona-inspired Argentina.
On the back of a 1-0 win over Scotland, Denmark were quietly confident; but beating Scotland and beating the talented but ultra-aggressive Uruguay were two different things all together.
After an evenly contested first half, goals from Elkjær, Lerby and a Francescoli penalty for Uruguay had the Danes leading 2-1.
Nobody could have anticipated what followed next!
Seven minutes into the second half, Laudrup picked the ball up, skipped past three Uruguayan defenders before selling the keeper a perfect dummy and putting the ball into an empty net.
It wasn't long before it was 4-1 when Laudrup went on another mazy run, dancing past a host of defenders, only to be denied by the keeper. Elkjær, however, was on hand to score his second of the match from the rebound.
With the match seemingly over as a contest, the Danes began enjoying themselves, if they weren't already—they were now toying with Uruguay.
Elkjær scored his hat-trick and Denmark's fifth when he raced onto a perfect eye-of-a-needle through ball from Jan Mølby, dummied the keeper and put the ball into the empty net. It was 6-1 not long after, when man-of-the-match and hat-trick hero Elkjær claimed his second assist of the day, as he squared the ball to leave Jesper Olsen with the simple task of hitting the net.
The newcomers had taken the world by storm.