Football: Danes steel themselves for Greek onslaught

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The Independent Online
Peter Schmeichel has become used to keeping goal in front of hostile crowds during all his years with Manchester United, but even he might be taken aback by what lies in wait for him and his Danish team-mates tonight.

Denmark hold a three-point lead in Group One, but if they lose to Greece in front of 75,000 fervent fans in Athens' Olympic Stadium tonight they will have to settle for a place in the play-offs and the Greeks will snatch the automatic qualifying place.

Schmeichel is one of five British-based players in the Danes' likely starting XI. Another, Brian Laudrup of Rangers, who is hoping to recover from a tendon injury, knows what is needed tonight. "We have come here to win," he said. "The Greeks have come a long way but I still believe we are a better team."

His brother, Michael, is fit after a thigh injury but the Derby defender Jacob Laursen will miss the match after pulling a groin muscle. Mikkel Beck, the Middlesbrough striker, has joined the squad as a replacement. "The choice of Beck, a striker, to replace Laursen, a defender is strange," one Danish journalist said. "I fear he was called because Brian Laudrup is still in pain."

The Greek coach, Costas Polychroniou, knows what his plans will be. "We will attack from the first minute hoping for an early goal," he said yesterday.

If the Greeks lose they could be eliminated altogether - if Croatia win in Slovenia. That scenario would earn the Croats a place in the play-offs, where they could be drawn against Yugoslavia.