Ouch, Austria 2- Denmark 1
- – - – - – -Sørensen- – - – - – -
- – - – - – -Kvist – - – - – - – -
- – - -Kahlenberg- -Jensen- – - -
Subs45′ Rieks on for Rommedahl; 45′ Lumb on for Jessen; 57′ Eriksen on for Jensen; 61′ Lekic on for Bendtner; 76′ Nymann on for Kvist
First up, this is not as bad as it looks. This was definitely a friendly with Olsen pretty much using the game entirely to give everyone a cap for the last third of the game.
Today was one of those days and really emphasized the results that can happen on Friendly days. Ivory Coast lost 2-0 to South Korea, Norway beat Slovakia, Russia eked out a tie against Hungary, South Africa couldn’t put away Nambia.
Nicklas Bendtner played the first 20 minutes of the second half chewing gum and looking generally disinterested. And no, that’s not a joke.
Overall, the game wasn’t too bad. Despite the 2-1 deficit, the first half showed some strong attacking dominance, some beautiful loping runs down the left-hand side and a great header of a goal by Bendtner at 17 minutes in. The main problems were some brain-dead defensive plays by players who should have known better and an uncharacteristic sloppy display by Thomas Sørensen.
The second half was largely forgettable with Morten Olsen deciding not to risk any injuries or suspensions pushing for a victory and basically running out as many fresh faces as he could to see who could step up to the plate.
With that in mind and seeing as that’s how Olsen was focused, let’s look at who took over their roles with quality and who fell down on the job.
The Good: I’m naturally biased seeing as how Leon Jessen plays for FC Midtjylland, but the left side of play, especially in attacking was really alive and threatening during the first half when he was making passing runs with Dehli. Michael Krohn-Dehli also impressed with some beautiful precision still ball crosses. He was the one who delivered the ball to Bendtner’s head and earlier sent a free kick beautifully to Per Krøldrup that was criminally missed from inches out.
Thomas Kahlenberg also did reasonably well in the first half though he pretty well disintegrated once Bendtner was subbed off and Christian Eriksen showed an immense amount of passion during his first cap but failed to do anything with it. I didn’t see Peter Nymann doing much, but Denmark got its attacking prowess back up when he got subbed in so obviously he made some form of impact, so good on him for his first cap as well.
The Bad: Rajko Lekic won his first and quite likely only cap. Lekic was obviously nervous and proved completely incapable of filling Bendtner’s shoes. Decent attacks in the last 10 minutes fell apart and the preceding 20 minutes had mostly been dominated by him giving away the ball or completely failing to anticipate passes. William Kvist also struggled in the Christian Poulsen role highlighting how much we rely on the Juventus defensive midfielder and after Michael Lumb was put on, attacks petered out on the left side and the defense didn’t seem to improve much leaving me scratching my head as to his impact. Søren Rieks was pretty well invisible short of some bad crosses and corners making me wonder why Dehli wasn’t taking the corners in the second half.
Simon Kjaer was part of an abysmal defensive effort, though, ironically stood out as the better one of the three stooges and Thomas Sørensen was uncharacteristically out to lunch for the first half of the game. Overall the team showed that it still sometimes has trouble with counter-attacks and Nicklas Bendtner’s ego deserves a sad shake of the head and a slight worry both for chewing gum and grinning his ass off all through his participation in the second half (as well as bowling over a defender for a yellow card) as well as his Fonzi “I’m awesome” celebration of his goal. You’re really really good and critical to our hopes, but we can’t have you getting that over-confident in real matches.
The Ugly: As bad as some of the play was, especially the complete disintegration of attack for good stretches of the second half, most of it could be chocked up to inexperience and nerves. For the most part they were getting it together in the last 10 minutes and they dominated play for most of the game with lovely attacking total football. The midfield was more or less solid and the attacking in the first half was down-right dangerous. However, the main weaknesses tonight weren’t seen in the young bucks, but rather the old hands.
Per Krøldrup seemed mostly lost. He failed to clear the ball for the first goal, missed an early sitter with an open goal by bouncing it off the top woodwork, and set up the second goal by clearing a ball behind the goal from Janko that Janko wouldn’t have been able to do anything with. That play set up a corner the Austrian’s scored their winning goal from. The Fiorentinan defender was overall a mess, constantly being beat and caught out of position and often at a loss for clearances. Given his importance in central defense, this was a worrying performance. Hopefully the return of Daniel Agger will fix it.
I mentioned earlier there were threestooges in defense. Michael Silberbauer was the right back and really seemed out of position. He struggled to do much on the right-hand side and fell over Veli Kavlak to set up the free kick that Austria scored their first goal off of. As a mark of his performance, it’s worth noting that both Austria and Denmark focused a lot of their early run of play down the left-hand sides. This wasn’t a coincidence.
Speaking of right-hand sides, the most worrying factor was Dennis Rommedahl’s rather piss-poor effort on the right flank. He was constantly behind the ball, out of position and every one of his attempts at crossing (and this isn’t hyperbole) struck off a defender. He literally made no impact to the point where most of the play in the first half was being directed either directly to Bendtner or down the left. It’s quite possible that at 31, he’s starting to get too old to make the impact he used to.
So what’s the score? We’ve got some cover in case of injuries, but Poulsen, Agger, and Bendtner look to be fairly critical. The defense looked a mess without Poulsen and Agger and after Bendtner was subbed off, the attacking threat dropped by a good half. We’ll basically be requiring them to be healthy going into the World Cup, which makes it rather worrying that currently Poulsen and Agger are both out and Bendtner has just finished recovering from his injury and recapturing his form. Maybe we can shrink wrap them to keep them safe until June. On the lighter note, Christian Eriksen was showing pretty good pace and energy in his debut and may be a name to watch into the future (the kid’s only 18 and was playing better than most of the veterans). Michael Krohn-Dehli was similarly impressive. We also need to watch defensive, counter-attacking teams as our defense has an unfortunate habit of making dumb errors against them that lead to goal-scoring opportunities.
Overall, things look to be generally all right. The attacking play is beautiful to watch in its build-up and Bendtner is looking more dangerous than ever in his recent form. With a fully healthy squad, we may be able to make some impact and frankly, I’m feeling pretty good about the fact that all three of our group stage opponents are mostly known for their attacking football.
I looked around for a highlights video and even held off on putting up this post to see if it showed up this morning. It didn’t, which is probably for the best. We weren’t especially good today. I reserve the right to update this post if I do track one down though.
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