Football: Laudrup to make up lost time

Denmark v Portugal Tomorrow, Hillsborough 7.30pm
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The Independent Online
If there was one Dane who had the edge knocked off his delight when his country won the European Championship four years ago, it was Michael Laudrup. He was pleased, of course, particularly as his brother Brian was a member of the winning team, but when you have blown a chance to share in glory you have every right to feel a mite silly.

The Real Madrid striker was in his prime as Denmark surprised everyone by prevailing in Sweden, but an argument with the team's coach, Richard Moller-Nielsen, over the style of play led to Laudrup's self- imposed banishment. As it turned out, it was a bad time to be sulking.

The coach is the same and the tactics do not appear hugely different, but Laudrup, who will turn 32 during the tournament, is back with a last chance of the international glory that should have been his in 1992. "When you take a decision, whether it's football or your private life, you have to stand by it," Laudrup, who will lead the Danish attack tomorrow, said.

As for his change of mind about playing for his country, he explained: "With a lot of things, if you have something it becomes normal. When you don't have it, you miss it. It's nice to be back."

The match is heavy with significance. Brian Laudrup has sign-posted it as a potential qualification decider as he expects Croatia to go through from Group D with either Denmark or Portugal with them.

The Danes prefer to counter-attack but the Portuguese are not the easisest team to hit on the break. "Just to go on to the quarter-finals would be a great success for us," Michael Laudrup said. By tomorrow night the holders will have a better idea whether that success is attainable.

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