Puneet Varma (Editor)

Denmark national football team

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Most caps  Peter Schmeichel (129)
FIFA code  DEN
Manager  Åge Hareide
Captain  Simon Kjær
Confederation  UEFA
Home stadium  Telia Parken
Founded  1889
Arena/Stadium  Parken Stadium
Head coach  Åge Hareide
Denmark national football team uploadwikimediaorgwikipediaenthumb44fDansk

Nickname(s)  De Rød-Hvide (The Red and White) Danish Dynamite
Association  Dansk Boldspil-Union (DBU)
Top scorer  Poul Nielsen (52) Jon Dahl Tomasson (52)

The Denmark national football team (Danish: Danmarks fodboldlandshold) represents Denmark in association football and is controlled by the Danish Football Association (DBU), the governing body for the football clubs which are organized under DBU. Denmark's home ground is Telia Parken in the Østerbro district of Copenhagen, and their head coach is Åge Hareide.


Denmark were the winners of the Football at the 1906 Intercalated Games and silver medalists at the 1908 and 1912 Olympics. However, as amateurs who prohibited their internationals from becoming professionals at foreign clubs, Denmark did not qualify for the World Cup until 1986, although they won another Olympic silver in 1960.

Since 1983, the team has continuously been visible as a solidly competitive side, with the triumph in the 1992 European Championships in Sweden as its most prominent victory, beating the European champions from Netherlands in the semifinal, and the World champions from Germany in the final. They also managed to win the 1995 Confederations Cup, defeating Argentina in the final. Their best FIFA World Cup result was achieved in 1998, where they narrowly lost 3–2 in a quarter-final against Brazil.


Apart from the men's senior A-level team, Denmark competes with a women's national team, and has teams at various youth levels for both men and women, most prominently the U21 national team. Historically, the A-level team competed in the Olympics until and including the 1988 tournament, whereafter Olympic games count as U21 national games. In addition to the A-level team and youth teams, Denmark also have a special league national team named Ligalandsholdet, with the best Danish footballers from the Nordic leagues. Ligalandsholdet was created in January 1983, and has ever since (except in 2005 and 2011), each year played some unofficial games for the national team, during the winter break of the Nordic leagues. Sometimes the media also refer to Ligalandsholdet as Denmark's B-team, as the best Danish footballers selected for the A-team often play in leagues outside of the Nordic countries. As such, the national team coach also at several times, outlined the purpose of having unofficial matches played by Ligalandsholdet, to be an opportunity of testing new potential upcoming Danish players for the A-team.

Amateur years

The first three editions of the Olympic football event in 1900–1906 had an unofficial status, as the event was not yet open for national football teams to compete, and only had limited participation of three or four club teams from a few nations. Denmark had no club team invited in the 1900 Olympics and the 1904 Olympics, but then received a special invitation for the 1906 Olympics, to compete against 1 Greek club team (Athens) and 2 club teams from the Ottoman Empire (Smyrna and Thessaloniki). The team to represent Denmark was compiled of players from the Copenhagen Football Association (KBU), and they managed to win the event, and thereby an unofficial gold medal. Two years later, in the first official football tournament at the 1908 Olympics, Denmark won a silver medal. At the next 1912 Olympics the team again managed to win a silver medal, which was followed by a golden era from July 1912 until August 1920, with Denmark ranked most of the time as number one in the world by the elo ranking.

Although Denmark figured fairly prominently in the pre-World Cup era, international success would elude them for years from the first World Cup in 1930 and forward. Despite the country's ability to produce outstanding football talents, DBU only had ambition (or economy) to let the national team play friendly matches and the regional tournament Nordic Championship, during the time from October 1920 until June 1948. When DBU decided to set their sights higher, they allowed the national team to start contesting the Olympics again, this promptly resulted in a bronze medal at the 1948 Olympics. After the team only reached the quarter-final at the 1952 Olympics, DBU however decided not to contest the next 1956 Olympics. As football remained an amateur pastime, most of the best Danish footballers moved abroad to make a living, and due to DBU enforcing the rule to bar all professionals from the national team, it started to become difficult to assemble a highly competitive team.

Denmark experienced their next revival at the 1960 Olympics, with a third set of Olympic silver medals. This was followed by another notable performance in the Euro 1964, where Denmark managed to achieve an impressive fourth place. The fourth place was however by many people considered as being more the result of a comparatively easy draw, rather than a result of a well-playing team. In order for Denmark to qualify for the semifinal, they only had to beat Malta, Albania and Luxembourg. At the semifinal, Denmark received a clear 0–3 defeat against the Soviet Union, and then finally also lost the bronze match to Hungary.

The strict rule of only allowing amateurism at the national team was finally abolished by DBU in May 1971, as they had acknowledged this change was needed, in order to build a highly competitive team. In February 1978, when DBU also decided to allow professional football to be introduced in the Danish leagues, the way was at the same time paved for the national team, to sign its first sponsorship with the well-known Danish brewery Carlsberg. The new sponsorship enabled DBU, to hire Sepp Piontek from Germany in July 1979, as the first full-time professional coach of the national football team. The full transition of the national team from amateurism to professionalism had now been accomplished, and indeed, this would soon lead to a vast improvement in the performances of the team.

According to Rob Smyth and Lars Eriksen, authors of a 2009 book on the "Danish Dynamite" team that would soon emerge:

Danish Dynamite (1980–1990)

In the 1982 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Denmark finished with 8 points from as many games, including a 3–1 win against eventual World Cup champions Italy, but Denmark failed to qualify for the final tournament despite the impressive result. Qualification for the Euro 1984 saw the team beat England at Wembley Stadium when Allan Simonsen converted a penalty kick for a 1–0 win. Denmark qualified for their first international tournament since 1964, and the team was dubbed "Danish Dynamite" in a competition for the official Danish Euro 1984 song. Denmark's participation ended in the semi-final when the team lost on penalties to Spain, most remembered for Preben Elkjær's penalty miss, his shorts torn apart. Following the strong performance at the finals, the name of "Danish Dynamite" became a mainstay for the following decade of Danish national team football under coach Piontek.

Denmark made their first World Cup appearance in the 1986 FIFA World Cup, and with the attacking duo of Michael Laudrup and Preben Elkjær the team surprised the world, sweeping the group, including a 6–1 thrashing of Uruguay. In the second round, Denmark once again faced Spain, and once more Denmark lost out. The team received a trashing of their own, losing 5–1, including four goals by Emilio Butragueño. The first Spanish goal was caused by a miss-timed backpass by Jesper Olsen to Butragueño, an unfortunate action subsequently coined as "a real Jesper Olsen" (en rigtig Jesper Olsen). The phrase would live on for 13 years, and was repeated by the Danish TV commentators in 1999, when an identical backpass was carried out by Jesper Grønkjær to Filippo Inzaghi, at his debut game for the national team. After the glory days of 1986, the success of the team continued, as it first qualified for the Euro 1988 tournament, and then had a nearby qualification for the 1988 Olympics. In the qualification group for the Olympics, the job to coach Denmark in these particular games, had for the first time been given to Richard Møller Nielsen, and he proved his skills, as Denmark initially managed to secure a spot for the final tournament – ahead of West Germany. But following the discovery that Dane Per Frimann was not eligible for the team's 2–0 win over Poland, Denmark was penalised the points of the win, and subsequently did not have enough points to qualify. After this disappointing news had arrived, Denmark had to pin all its hope and faith, for a successful performance at the Euro 1988, instead. The straight opposite however happened, as Denmark's participation ended in early defeat after Denmark lost all the group games to Spain, West Germany, and Italy. A period of transition with faltering results, had now started, and as Denmark subsequently also failed to qualify for the 1990 FIFA World Cup, Sepp Piontek decided to stop as coach for the national team in April 1990, where he was replaced by his assistant coach Richard Møller Nielsen.

1992 European Championship victory

The first goal for the newly appointed coach was to qualify for the Euro 1992 in Sweden. Denmark started out with a secure home victory against Faroe Islands, but the following results in the qualification were an away draw against Northern Ireland and a 2–0 home loss against Yugoslavia. Due to the bad start, and a strong disagreement with the coach about the new defensive team tactics, the two best Danish footballers at the time, Michael Laudrup and Brian Laudrup, decided to quit playing for the team in November 1990. When the coach subsequently also decided to dismiss quality players like Jan Mølby and Jan Heintze from the team, due to disciplinary problems, several newspapers started to demand that Richard Møller Nielsen should step down, as the team was clearly falling apart under his influence. Despite this strong criticism, the team managed to win the rest of their five games in the group, including a 2–1 away win against Yugoslavia. This strong comeback was however not enough to qualify, as the team still had to settle with a second place in the group, behind Yugoslavia.

What initially appeared to be a failed qualification, would however soon turn out, to become Denmark's finest hour in the international competitions. Due to international sanctions resulting from the Yugoslav wars, UEFA announced on 31 May 1992 – only 10 days before the competition commenced – that Yugoslavia was to be excluded from the competition and their place given to Denmark, who entered as the second-placed team in its qualifying group.

Contrary to popular belief, the team however did not enter the tournament completely unprepared, after having rallied home from seaside vacations. The majority of players were already assembled to play a friendly match against the CIS, when Denmark officially got the spot at the tournament. Relying heavily on goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel and his defense, as well as creative spark Brian Laudrup – having decided to make a comeback for the national team in April 1992 – the Danish team created one of the biggest surprises in the event's history, as they went on to win the European Championship trophy, under coach Richard Møller Nielsen's defensive playing style. Advancing from the group stage ahead of England and France, Denmark beat the Dutch defending Euro 1988 champions on penalties in the semifinal, and with the 2–0 win against reigning 1990 FIFA World Cup champions Germany in the final, Denmark had won its first international trophy.

Decline and Revival (1993–2000)

In August 1993, one year after the Euro 1992 win, Michael Laudrup decided to settle his ongoing dispute with Richard Møller Nielsen about the team tactics and made a comeback for the national team. The following years Denmark saw mixed results, as they first failed to qualify for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, but then managed to win the 1995 Confederations Cup, beating Copa América champions Argentina 2–0 in the final. As defending champions at the Euro 1996, Denmark was not able to continue its previous success, but disappointed with a lacklustre performance, causing an early elimination already in the group stage. Result wise the tournament was not a complete disaster, as the team had achieved a respectable win against Turkey, a draw against Portugal and only a defeat to Croatia. The reason why both the coach and team faced strong criticism after the tournament was mainly because of the defensive and boring playing style. As controversy previously had occurred in fall 1995, over DBU's decision to prolong the contract with Richard Møller Nielsen, there was a strained relationship to the press already ahead of the Euro 1996 tournament; and facing a new wave of criticism, the coach decided in a mutual agreement with DBU, to terminate his contract already by the end of June 1996.

The new coach to be assigned, was the sympathetic Swede, Bo "Bosse" Johansson, who gave the team a more offensive strategy, and the 1998 FIFA World Cup saw the revival of the Danish team, starring both Laudrup brothers in their last international campaign. After beating Saudi Arabia 1–0, drawing with South Africa and losing 2–1 to later champions France in mediocre games, the Danish team qualified to the knockout stages as second in the group. In the next game however, Denmark played some of the best football of the entire tournament, beating Nigeria 4–1 in a fantastic game. In the quarterfinal against Brazil, the Danes went out with a beautiful 2–3 defeat to the later silver medalists, in a very close and emotional game. Next challenge then was, to qualify the team for the Euro 2000, for the first time without the Laudrup brothers. When this goal indeed was achieved by "Bosse", he received a lot of praise. But when the team showed up for the final tournament, and disappointed big time with 3 lost games in the group stage, "Bosse" was heavily criticized for his squad containing several players with injury problems and poor form.

The Olsen Gang (2000–2015)

The new coach, starting for Denmark in July 2000, turned out to be the former national team captain from the successful team of the 1980s, Morten Olsen, and the team was quickly dubbed the "Olsen Gang", a reference to the series of Danish movies based around the main character Egon Olsen and his genius (criminal) plans. The nickname was also sometimes used for the Danish team as an alternative to the more commonly used "Danish Dynamite", already back in those days when Olsen played as a captain. In the era with Olsen as a coach, his great experience from among others Ajax Amsterdam was transferred to the national team, as Denmark's tactics shifted from the preferred 4–4–2 formation practised by Bo Johansson, to an even more attacking style, with an emphasis on the speedy wingers available to him at the time, namely Jesper Grønkjær and Dennis Rommedahl. Based on that, the preferred starting formation with Olsen as coach, has always been either a 4–3–3 or a 4–2–3–1. He even poses an outspoken opposition to the 4–4–2 system, as he announced the desire to leave his position as national coach, in case he was asked to play with this system as a standard. To support the development of players for the new tactical 4–3–3 system used by Olsen, all the national youth teams also changed their formation into the same 4–3–3 system. Another change Olsen brought to the national team, was to stress the importance of only using fit players, who were granted regular playing time at their club team. A principle that he however later has been forced to compromise with at several times, as the player material available in such a relatively small nation, doesn't always provide many realistic substitute options.

Denmark qualified both for the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the Euro 2004, but despite impressive results in the group stage in both tournaments, especially the 2–0 win against reigning World Cup winners France in 2002, Denmark didn't manage to advance any further, and in both tournaments got clearly defeated with a score of 0–3 in the first round after the group stage. At the World Cup 2002 Denmark were defeated by England at round 16, and at Euro 2004 the defeat took place in the quarterfinal against the Czech Republic. The Euro 2004 will also be remembered for an incident in the game with Italy, where Italian star Francesco Totti was caught on camera spitting on Danish player Christian Poulsen; and then subsequently the joint elimination of Italy by Denmark and Sweden in the last group stage match, when the two teams drew 2–2 following a Swedish goal in the 89th minute, making for the exact and famous result that would see the Italians eliminated.

For the 2006 World Cup qualification, Denmark was paired with, among others, 2002 World Cup bronze winners Turkey and Euro 2004 champions Greece competing for only one guaranteed spot at the final tournament. Following a poor start of the qualification, Denmark were trailing both Turkey and surprise leaders Ukraine. Denmark needed Turkey to lose points in the final games in order for Denmark to clinch the 2nd place of the group and one last chance to qualify via two play-off games. Indeed, had Turkey lost points to Albania in their last game, Denmark would have gone through, but instead they had to settle for 3rd place in the group and a longer summer break. After failing to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, coach Olsen considered leaving the job, having received several offers from club teams, but decided to stay and extended his contract until after the 2010 FIFA World Cup, spurred on by his and the team's popularity among the Danish population.

When the next attempt to qualify for the Euro 2008 also failed – after among other things to have received an administrative defeat against Sweden at home turf, due to a spectator's intrusion on the field – the team got heavily criticized, with many Danes asking for the departure of Morten Olsen as a coach. This suggestion was however refused by DBU and the majority of coaches in the Danish Superliga, who still had trust in Olsen being the best coach for Denmark. In the qualification group for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the trust in Olsen was immediately paid back. Despite a difficult group with both Portugal and Sweden as higher ranked opponents, Denmark managed to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup by winning the group, after among other things, getting two victories against Sweden and one victory plus a draw against Portugal. After having celebrated the successful World Cup 2010 qualification, the contract with Morten Olsen as coach was extended for two more years, until the Euro 2012.

At the 2010 World Cup, Denmark was grouped with Japan, Cameroon and the Netherlands. Denmark lost the first match 2–0 to Netherlands, but then had a vital 2–1 victory against Cameroon, which enabled further advancement in case of victory over Japan, in the last third match. The game against Japan however ended with a 3–1 defeat, and thereby Denmark didn't reach their declared goal of advancement to round 16. Apparently the biggest reason for the lack of success, was however this time, that Denmark in both the preface – and during the 3 games at the tournament – had struggled with a lot of injuries hitting their best players. However, Denmark wouldn't wait for long to please the Danish public once again. In the qualification for Euro 2012, Denmark was once again grouped with Portugal, among other countries. For a second time, Denmark clinched first place in the group, and thereby qualified directly for the final tournament. Out of 8 qualifying games, Denmark managed to win 6, draw 1 and losing only 1 game. Mostly because of these results, Morten Olsen and DBU decided to extend his contract as national team coach until after the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

At Euro 2012, Denmark were drawn in the proclaimed "Group of Death", along with powerhouses Germany, Netherlands and Portugal. Few gave Denmark a chance of proceeding to the second round before the tournament, but after upsetting Netherlands with a 1–0 victory, there was cause for optimism in the Danish camp. A narrow 3–2 loss to Portugal however meant that Denmark would probably have to beat Germany in the last game, in order to advance further in the tournament. Despite Michael Krohn-Dehli's equaliser, Denmark ended up losing 2–1 against Germany, and with the same result for Netherlands against Portugal in the other game, Denmark was eliminated from the tournament by finishing third in the group. The Danish team was mostly received with praise after the tournament, considering the fact that Denmark had exceeded expectations and actually had been close to advancing to the knock-out stages, despite ending up in a difficult group.

Overall statistics for The Olsen Gang

When measuring the performance of the national team by winning share and earned points, Olsen's reign of the Danish national team from July 2000 until January 2012, has so far been the second most successful in the era of full-time professional coaches, which began in July 1979. As of January 2012, Morten Olsen has a winning share of 52.8%, and with three points for a victory and one for a draw, Olsen has an average of 1.84 points per game. In comparison, Richard Møller Nielsen still has the best record among the professional coaches of the Denmark national football team, with a 54.8% winning share and an average of 1.89 points per game. This kind of statistic of course only provide an overall indication of the performance, as it doesn't take the difficulty of the opponents into account – and/or the number of "difficult games". For a more accurate evaluation of the performance of the national team under the guidance of various coaches, one should also compare the development in the team's position at the official FIFA ranking or Elo ranking, where the merits of qualification and results in the final European Championship and World Cup tournament get the highest weight. Beside of the success of Olsen to qualify Denmark for the World Cup in 2002 and 2010, and the European Championship in 2004 and 2012, he also gained several great results in the friendly games. In example, a friendly 4–1 win over England in 2005; being the worst loss for the English team since 1980, and a repetition of the friendly 3–2 win achieved by Denmark on English ground at Old Trafford in 2003.


Apart from the national team, Denmark is equally famous for its traveling fans, known as roligans. The movement emerged during the 1980s as the declared opposition to hooliganism. The goal of the roligan movement is calm, yet cheerful, support during the matches, as rolig means calm in the Danish language. The roligans have since developed an image of easy-going nature and rabid support, and are often considered amongst the world's best national team fans, along with the Tartan Army of Scotland. They were collectively given the FIFA FairPlay Award at the 1984 European Championships. Just before the 1986 World Cup, the roligan movement was organized in order to support the national team at the tournament.

The good reputation of the Danish supporters was however sullied by the 2008 UEFA qualifier fan attack, happening in June 2007 at the Euro 2008 qualifying game against Sweden, when an enraged Danish supporter invaded the pitch and tried to attack the referee, following his decision to hand out a red card for Christian Poulsen and a penalty kick to Sweden at the last minute of the game. The attacking fan was stopped by some of the Danish football players on the field, before he reached the referee, but due to the episode the game was immediately canceled by the referee, and UEFA subsequently decided to award a 0–3 defeat for Denmark, as a punishment.


The team kit is currently produced by Danish company Hummel since 2016. It is all-red with white details to reflect the colours of the Danish national flag. Prior to a brief period of Adidas sponsorship, the kit provider was also Hummel (1926–2004). In January 2016 it was announced that Hummel would be again the kit provider for the Danish national team.

Kit history



Media coverage

Denmark's home and away matches are broadcast by SBS Discovery Media (Kanal 5, 6'eren, Canal 9).


First home game of the Denmark national football team, was a 2–1 friendly win over England at 25 May 1910, taking place with 12,000 spectators at the stadium "KBs baner" (located in the area "Granen", where Forum Copenhagen later was built). As the facilities were considered too small, a new stadium in Copenhagen was built with the name Idrætsparken, that since its opening 25 May 1911 hosted all the home games of the football club KB and most of the home games of the national team. During the first 82 years of the national team, from October 1908 until November 1990, Denmark played a total number of 254 A-level home games, of which 232 were played in Idrætsparken. Among all the played home games in Idrætsparken, Denmark achieved 125 victories (54%), 41 draws (18%) and 66 lost games (28%); and the stadium reached a record of 51,600 spectators for the 1–2 game against Sweden in June 1957. In regards of the first era from 1908–1990, only 22 home games were played at other stadiums than Idrætsparken; of which 11 took place at NRGi Park (then known as Atletion) in Århus, followed by Aalborg Stadion in Aalborg with 6 games, and the remaining 5 games hosted by four other stadiums. Whenever another stadium than Idrætsparken was used for a home game, it was however only for some of the less important friendly games or Olympic qualifiers. While only Idrætsparken was used to host the games related to big important tournaments, like the Nordic championship, European Championship and World Cup. When a major rebuilt of Idrætsparken began in December 1990, the subsequent two official Euro 1992 qualification games, were however moved to Odense Stadium in Odense.

On 9 September 1992, the rebuilt Idrætsparken, now called Parken and later rename Telia Parken, became the biggest venue in Denmark with 42,358 seats, and was opened with a friendly 1–2 defeat against Germany. This first game in Parken had a visit of 40,500 spectators; while the current stadium record at 42,099 spectators was reached 8 October 2005, for a World Cup qualifying game against Greece.

The capacity of the stadium was later reduced to 38,009 seats, after the upper part of the D-side was converted from 4,000 extra seats into office and VIP areas, in June 2009. Despite this decrease in capacity, the stadium is today still the biggest venue in Denmark by far; as the next biggest venue Brøndby Stadium only has a capacity of 26,000 seats. During the time from September 1992 until May 2006, Parken was the sole stadium of all the men's senior national team matches. However, meagre spectator support at some of the friendly matches at Parken, which for the years in 2000–2005 attracted an acceptable average of 23,862 per game, but down to 9,598 for the friendly 3–1 win over Israel in April 2002; caused the decision by DBU, to start moving many of the friendly matches to other stadiums around the country. These other stadiums had less spectator capacity than Parken, but just about enough, to cover the Danes somewhat lower interest for the friendly games.

At 27 May 2006, Parken's 13-year monopoly on national team matches got broken for the first time, when Denmark played a friendly game at the NRGi Park stadium in Århus, against the World Cup 2006 participants Paraguay. This particular game got outsold within a short while, with almost 19,000 of the 20,227 tickets being sold within the first hour of sale, and was support-wise a big success with a total audience of 20,047 spectators. When the two next friendly games were played at some other new venues, 16 August at Fionia Park in Odense with Poland as opponent, and 1 September at Brøndby Stadium with Portugal as opponent, the number of spectators however dropped to a disappointing level. The match against Poland only attracted 11,088 spectators, while the match against Portugal only attracted 13,186 spectators; and the match against Portugal was in particular deemed as a support-wise failure, as it featured a higher ranked opponent, which spectators normally would have a high interest to watch. The main reasons why Brøndby Stadium failed to attract a high number of spectators, were generally thought to be a combination of the poor rainy weather, and the fact that this stadium is located on the outskirts of Copenhagen; and as such does not attract a new demographic audience compared to Parken, due to the travel distances being more or less the same for the majority of the population.

Currently, while most of the friendly games continue to be played at some of the smaller stadiums in Denmark, it has been decided to continue playing all of the qualifying games for the European Championships and World Cup, only at Parken Stadium. Those friendly games, which are believed to create a high interest from spectators, will also continue to be played at Parken. In example, the friendly game against Germany in August 2010, took place at Parken Stadium, due to the general expectation of many spectators having a desire to watch the game. After the weak performance of Denmark at the World Cup 2010, the friendly game however only managed to draw a total number of 19,071 spectators. During the last 19.5 years, from September 1992 until January 2012, Denmark played a total of 77 A-level games at Parken Stadium; of which 49 were won (64%), 16 were drawn (21%), and only 12 were lost (15%).


Denmark national football team Wikipedia