Danes pencil in HK date
Former European champions Denmark are almost certain to appear in next year's Carlsberg Cup Lunar New Year tournament - an event they won on their last visit to Hong Kong in 1994.
'There's a strong possibility that Denmark will be coming. They are a very good team as we know, but obviously some players will be missing because of club commitments [in Europe],' said Carlsberg spokesman Derek Currie.
Denmark - winners of the European Championship finals in 1992 after only being invited to take part following the exclusion of war-hit Yugoslavia - qualified for the second round of this year's World Cup finals after finishing top of a tough group that also included reigning champions France, Senegal and Uruguay. Having defeated France 2-0 in their last group match, Denmark were beaten 3-0 by England in the second round.
Organisers have always found it tough bringing the top European-based players to the SAR and next year's tournament, scheduled for February 1 and 4 at Hong Kong Stadium, is no exception. Club commitments mean the chances of AC Milan forward Jon Dahl Tomasson, PSV Eindhoven winger Dennis Rommedahl and Chelsea winger Jesper Gronkjaer travelling with the squad hang in the balance.
Tomasson and Rommedahl each scored in the victory over France that condemned the 1998 world champions to a humiliating early exit from the finals in Japan and South Korea.
But Currie insisted: 'Denmark will send a very strong team to Hong Kong regardless of whether they have their European-based team members or not. We will be delighted if Denmark can come.' The Danes are led by two legendary former players in coach Morten Olsen and his assistant Michael Laudrup - and both are expected to be in Hong Kong.
Currie added: 'Two teams are more or less signed [for the Carlsberg tournament] and we will make a formal announcement in due time.' The South China Morning Post has learned the other team headed for the tournament are Uruguay. The South Americans failed to make headway in the World Cup finals, falling at the first stage as Denmark and surprise package Senegal advanced to the knockout stages.
The Hong Kong League XI and another team, possibly from Europe again, will complete the four-team line-up.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong have been drawn against Sri Lanka in the preliminary round of the Olympic qualifiers for Athens 2004 in May next year. The winners of the tie will play South Korea in the second round.