Denmark failed to qualify for the quarter finals following their 2-1 loss to Germany in Lyiv.
Despite Michael Krohn-Dehli clawing a goal back for the Danes, goals from Lukas Podolski and Lars Bender meant that the Germans top the group and qualify to face Greece in the first quarter final.
Needing a win against one of the tournaments favourites, Denmark went into the game as underdogs against a German side with the lowest average ever to compete in the European Championships.
With less than twenty minutes on the clock, Lukas Podolski broke the deadlock to cap his 100th appearance for his country. A throw on from the right wing landed at the feet of Thomas Muller, who did well to turn and put a ball into the 6-yard box. The driven ball deflected off Mario Gomez, who failed to control, and into the path of the deadly Podolski, who was ready to pounce on the loose ball and slam into the net to mark his centenary game in the national colours.
However, despite the German dominance, just 6 minutes later, Denmark grabbed an equaliser against the run of play. Following good work from the aged Dennis Rommedahl to win a corner on the right flank, Lars Jacobsen hit a raking ball into the box from the set piece. Again, the ball was aimed for Nicklas Bendtner; he jumped highest to head the ball back towards goal before Michael Krohn-Delhi redirected the ball over the helpless Neuer to score his second goal of the tournament and drag Denmark back into the game.
Towards the end of the first half, Germany continued to camp inside the Danish half and went close when Lukas Podolski struck a vicious free kick over the bar from the edge of the box before Sami Khedira shot wide when in space inside the Danish area.
With Denmark needing at least a draw to qualify, pending other results, the famous red and white returned from the interval looking to press Germany. With five minutes gone in the second half, the underdogs almost took a shock lead when Jacob Poulsen grazed the base of Neuer’s post from a lovely passing move down the left flank.
The Danes began to show much more invention and creativity during the second half as Bendtner started to influence the attacking play in the final third.
With Denmark in need of one more goal to confirm qualification, they were cruelly punished for pushing forward. With Simon Poulsen completely out of position following his advance up field to attack, the Danish back line was stretched. As Poulsen lost possession, the Germans counter attacked with fluidity and pace to deservedly take the lead with just ten minutes to play. Khedira broke from midfield and found Mesut Ozil, whose over hit pass to the recently introduced Miroslav Klose was collected by Lars Bender at the back post to tuck the ball into the corner. Bender’s first international goal was a hammer blow to the Danish fortunes and the Olsen Gang were unable to steal a late second as they crashed out in the group stage.
Denmark leave the tournament with their heads held high, finishing 3rd in the proverbial ‘Group of Death’. They held on to their one goal lead against Netherlands in their first group game and were unfortunate not to take at least a point away from their game with Portugal. Their defensive approach managed to restrict their opponents, however, this limited their options in the final third and the Danes often looked to have little inspiration when going forward. Christian Eriksen improved slightly as the tournament progressed but will still feel that he could have offered and provided much more.
The defensive duo at the heart of the Danish defence, Simon Kjaer and captain Daniel Agger both had good tournaments and certainly kept Denmark in the tournament on several occasions. Nicklas Bendtner’s performance and two goals against Portugal in their second group game will be seen as a personal highlight for the controversial striker.
The nation outstripped their initial expectations for the tournament and although Morten Olsen could not lead his side to glory, or even into the next round, he should feel proud of their efforts and discipline throughout the Championships.