Danes worried by great expectations

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The Independent Online
Last time it was a fairy tale; this time reality might hit Denmark like a cold, wet, towel. The champions flew into England for Euro 96 yesterday with hopes escalating in their native land, but with a healthy amount of trepidation among their players.

"Four years ago we came and nobody expected anything,'' Brian Laudrup, the Rangers Dane with great appended to his name in Scotland, said.

"This time around we're the title holders and the expectations are high. People expect us to at least get to the quarter final stages but it will be difficult.''

In 1992 the Danish players were recalled from beaches all over Europe after Yugoslavia were ejected from the European Championship finals with a week to go. They had virtually no build-up and few worries. It was a bonus just to be in Sweden and they played like it, surprisingly defeating Germany in the final.

Denmark arrived at their Leeds headquarters with the respectable record of only one defeat in seven build-up matches since they finished second to Spain in their qualifying group.

Their last match before the European Championship was against Ghana in Copenhagen on Sunday, which they won 1-0 without impressing anyone. "We didn't play particularly well,'' Laudrup, 27, said. "But that's almost a certainty in a game a week before an important tournament. We look good in training and mentally we are well prepared.

"Ghana were very skilful, just as the three opponents in Group D [Croatia, Portugal and Turkey] will be. The way we played tactically, hoping to attack on the break, perhaps it will suit us to play against skilful players.''