Had it been either a fairly violent game like Australian football or hurling OR a very sophisticated game like cricket, Denmark would have been severely beaten.
Had it been a game of badminton or handball two of the few sports where Denmark is a major player we would certainly prevail!
But in terms of soccer we are fairly even, although Denmark is probably higher on the world ranking list. The two nations are also even in as much as nobody really knows much about the other teams players unless they have played in the English Premier League. This means that some Danes would know Kewell and Schwartzer, whereas Australians might have heard of Agger (Liverpool) and Bentner (Arsenal).
The final score...? We'd say Denmark 2 Australia 1.
We look forward to a friendly but competitive match - and hopefully (yet unrealistically) well meet on 11 July in the final!
Sculpture by the Sea - Dane in Australia
As a Danish football enthusiast (some might say fanatic) who has lived in Australia for over three years, and in the lead up to the Denmark Australia World Cup friendly on Tuesday 1 June, I've been asked to comment on the different attitudes of Denmark and Australia to their participation in the World Cup. I've had to provide some background on the place of football (sometimes incorrectly referred to in Australia as soccer) in Australia, because for most Danes their only knowledge of the Australian team would be limited to the 2006 World Cup.
With the danger of engaging in gross generalisations, Danes and Aussies in my experience share many values, and have a fairly similar sense of humour and a broad spectrum of common interests. Not the least of which is a great passion for sports. However, Im still puzzled by the very different approaches Australians and Danes have to World Cup expectations. With a large number of immigrants from European countries with strong traditions of football frenzy, for example the British Isles, Italy, Greece, Serbia and Croatia, you would expect football to have a long-held and significant place in the Australian hearts. To the contrary, prior to the World Cup in 2006 football was, at best, the fifth most attended team sport after cricket, AFL, rugby league and rugby union. In Denmark football is considered the only sport that counts and has the ability to really turn the nation upside down.
Australia has only qualified for the World Cup twice: in West Germany in 1974 and in Germany 2006. Denmark qualified in Mexico (86), France (98) and Japan & South Korea (02). Australia's attempts to qualify for the World Cup have been a story of disappointment at the last hurdle, with Australia losing final play-off matches in 66 (North Korea), 70 (Israel), 86 (Scotland), 94 (Argentina), 98 (Iran) and 02 (Uruguay). Qualification in 2006 came after two intensely close matches against Uruguay, the country which had broken Australian hearts four years earlier, but Australia forced the game into extra time, a penalty shootout and finally won. An estimated 7 million people watched this nail biter and football finally made it into the Aussie hearts for good. At this time, I had never been to Australia, and these World Cup qualification efforts had in large part blissfully passed my attention. I have since had many long discussions about Australia's World Cup efforts, and had the excitement of this moment relayed to me on many occasions.
However, the national excitement of qualifying for the World Cup was only the beginning, with Australian football reaching its most significant achievement ever in the tournament. The feeling for Australians must have been much like the Danes felt after its highly unexpected victory at the European Championship in 1992. The Danish team had initially failed to qualify, but Yugoslavia was disqualified due to the Yugoslav wars, Denmark found itself on the top of the podium a short 17 days later.
The first 84 minutes of Australia's 2006 World Cup campaign did not look good, with the team falling 1-0 behind to Asian rival Japan in the opening match. Through a stunning final eight minutes, Australia managing to claim a 3-1 victory and probably changed the Australian World Cup campaign from (a highly likely) failure to success. After an expected defeat to five time world champions, Brazil, Australia managed another comeback against Croatia to draw 2-2 and qualify through to the round of 16. My Australian fiance was lucky enough to be in Germany for that match, and describes how the thousands of Australians who had made the trip were going absolutely ecstatic, celebrating as if they had just won the entire World Cup tournament. Unfortunately, the ecstasy was short-lived, with four time world champions, Italy, waiting in the first round knockout stage. While a red card to Italy just after half time gave the Australians hope that the unthinkable could become thinkable, a controversial penalty awarded to Italy in the final seconds of the match saw Totti score from the eleven metre spot (sorry Aussies it was a penalty).
Recent media coverage of Australia's World Cup 2010 side portrays a team, coach, and supporters who all (I would suggest optimistically) believe that Australia CAN beat anybody they're faced with on the day, and possibly become the World Champions in South Africa. By contrast, Denmark has a long tradition of underplaying their chances, normally adopting the belief that Denmark, as a country of five million people, cannot even expect to qualify for every World Cup. If it manages to secure qualification, this mentality is then followed up with if we can make it through to the round of 16, it will be an amazing achievement for Danish football. While this more realistic attitude is very much reflective of the Danish approach in general, I've asked a couple of Aussies if they were not building themselves up for a potential big fall. The answer seems to be: If we win we win, and if we don't, nobody really expected us to anyway. However, the potential disappointment to go from talking World Champions to an early World Cup exit in only 11 days seems great, and the Danish approach is definitely the more cautious and safe one. But as an old football coach of mine used to say you miss all the shots you don't take.
After winning the European Championship in 1992 the Danish team struggled to perform in the 94 and 96 qualifying campaigns. This was due to a couple of factors Firstly, expectations from the public, the press and not least from within the team itself had increased overnight and Denmark was suddenly expected to win every game. Secondly, opponents had increased respect for the Danish team playing more defensively, leaving it to the Danes to control and dominate the game. While Denmark on occasion has had some of the best players in the world, we have never had more than one or two at any given time, and certainly not eleven. The fact remain that Denmark always performs best when it is the underdog. There is a lot of strength in a fully fit Australian side, but Australia is in a similar situation to Denmark following its European success - after a successful campaign it has built expectations. Being the underdog worked in 2006, but the stakes have been upped this time around. We will just have to see whether or not the Aussies can cope with this pressure better than the Danes did.
No matter what approach the two countries have toward expectations for their World Cup campaigns, it seems realistic to expect that both teams will still have something to play for in the final (third) match of the group stage. And should either or both teams qualify for the round of sixteen, then anything can truly happen after all, that is why football, with all its beauty and its unique ability to unite and excite across national borders and racial boundaries, is truly the world game. Maybe it is exactly this optimistic Australian approach that has made me call Sydney home, despite my desire to do things the Danish way. But when it comes down to match day (both the upcoming friendly and in the unlikely event of an actual World Cup clash between my two countries) I will be cheering for the cautious nation. Go Denmark