Football: Schmeichel ready for record

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The Independent Online
PETER SCHMEICHEL is set to become Denmark's most capped player - but the bad news for the world's strikers is that the giant goalkeeper has no plans to retire in the near future.

The 34-year-old Manchester United custodian, who is said to scare his own defenders as much as opposition strikers, will make his 103rd appearance for Denmark against France in Lyons on Wednesday. His achievement beats the record of the centre-half Morten Olsen, who wore the red shirt for a staggering 19 years between 1970 and 1989.

However, the man widely regarded as the world's best goalkeeper, who cuts a physically imposing figure at 6ft 4in and 15st 13lb, says he is enjoying his football so much that he intends to carry on playing for years to come.

"Yes, of course, I'm very, very proud but I'm hoping to play for a few more years yet. I don't feel as if I have reached the end of the road yet," Schmeichel said. "As long as I am enjoying my football - and at the moment I'm enjoying it a lot - then I'll carry on playing. This tournament, the Premier League, the Champions' League - I've waited so long to get there that there is no way I want to give it all up now."

Schmeichel made his professional debut for the Danish side Hvidovre in 1984, before joining the country's leading club Brondby in 1987, going on to help them to four titles. He joined Manchester United for a mere pounds 555,000 in 1991 after catching the eye of their manager Alex Ferguson.

It was in the 1992 European Championship that Schmeichel established his reputation as one of the game's great goalkeepers with a string of outstanding saves in Denmark's remarkable triumph. He saved Marco van Basten's penalty in the shoot-out in the semi-final against Holland and then produced an incredible performance to deny Germany in Denmark's shock 2-0 win in the final.

The Laudrup brothers may grab the glory at the other end of the pitch, but there is no doubting Schmeichel's imposing authority in the Denmark camp.

"Schmeichel is a world-class player who always gives Denmark a chance in matches," said the former Denmark striker Preben Elkjaer. "Seeing the imposing figure of Schmeichel in front of you is the last thing a striker wants."

However, Schmeichel has insisted he will not be thinking about his record- breaking achievement until after France 98. "It's a great honour but it's not something for now," he said. "I'm thinking only about the World Cup at the moment, but it's something to look back on when you retire.

"It kind of sneaks up on you. I got to about 75 or 80 caps and people started talking about the record, so I've got used to it in the last couple of years. But I knew when I reached the 75 mark that I would almost certainly break the record.

"When I first started I was desperate just to reach 25 caps because then you get two free tickets for matches."

Schmeichel is facing his biggest test in the World Cup so far when the Danes play the free-scoring hosts, France. With four points already in the bag, Denmark are favourites in Group C to join the French in reaching the second stage with Aime Jacquet's prolific home side.

"In the warm-up games, they could barely find the net but now they are scoring almost at will," Schmeichel said. "But the last two times we have played them in France we have won. I see no reason why we can't get a result."