At various points during Denmark’s World Cup qualification process, the mission looked impossible. A bad start to the campaign had left a steep hill to climb but somehow they managed to get to the play-offs and beat Ireland to secure a place in Russia.
The mood in Danish football was great, full of optimism for the future and there was a real togetherness. There had been a player dispute during qualifying, with Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen and others starting a campaign to force the country’s FA to provide more for players in terms of better accommodation, food and personnel.
That was all forgotten, this was a new era.
In Russia, they got through the group stage and in the round-of-16, Kasper Schmeichel made himself a national hero by saving a late Luka Modric penalty. In the subsequent penalty shootout, the goalkeeper saved two more but it wasn’t enough for his team who saw Croatia progress.
Now ahead of their next international matches, against Slovakia and Wales, Denmark don’t have a squad. Literally.
Those who have been called up are in Denmark, but training away from the national team’s facilities as a row erupts over commercial deals and the cut given to players.
Negotiations have been going on for a while, and when at the weekend a breakthrough couldn’t be made, the players offered to continue the old agreement for a month, to let the matches take place.
The DBU rejected it, wanting everything sorting out once and for all, so there’s currently no national squad.
Christian Eriksen is the subject of a big Ekstra Bladet feature, and the Tottenham player is angry at what has been fed to the media: “We are making a big surplus for the DBU every year and therefore it is disappointing that the DBU tries to tell a story that we don’t think of anything else but our own wallets.”
Eriksen added: “The DBU is pleased to say in the media that now we must look at solidarity, community and togetherness – as if we do not really care about the whole.
“Is that not what we do when we always enthusiastically go, for example, to DBU’s events with children. Like when I’m home in my childhood club and playing soccer with the kids. It’s simply not fair, or fair to blame us for not thinking about anyone but ourselves. In fact, it’s really uncomfortable to listen to.
“None of us have forgotten what it’s like to be a little football boy with big dreams and big idols.”
Clearly very annoyed about the situation, the Tottenham player reminded those in charge of Danish football where the money actually comes from: “It is strange to see the DBU completely forget that all the money they can spend on projects with children and football actually comes from the results we have with the national team. The DBU does not need to thank us for doing that, because we are proud to be able to help the whole of Danish football, but it’s hard to paint a fake picture of us as bad guys.
“How will DBU, once when the agreement is hopefully in place, go out and sell advertisements and sponsorships on our good image as a national team when they try to tear the image down and drag it through the mud?
“The DBU tries to make it look like it’s us players who do not want to play, but it is the DBU who do not want to negotiate and make a deal that we can play with.”
The DBU have now emailed second and third tier Danish clubs to try and get a squad together to play the Wales and Slovakia matches. Players from the top tier, the Superliga, have been told by the player’s union that they mustn’t accept a call-up.