Denmark's new era to kick off in Hong Kong
DENMARK'S European Championship-winning coach, Richard Moller Nielsen, brought a new-look squad into Hong Kong last night for what he described as a ''fresh start'' for the national team.
Moller Nielsen, whose Danish side silenced Europe's big guns by winning the 1992 European Championship in Sweden after being allowed in as a late replacement for war-ravaged Yugoslavia, said this week's Lunar New Year Carlsberg Cup tournament in Hong Kongwas the beginning of their build-up to the 1996 European Championship in England.
Denmark failed to qualify for this summer's World Cup finals in the United States, missing out to Group Three winners Spain and runners-up Ireland, despite conceding only two goals in their 12 qualifying games.
''For Denmark this is a fresh start,'' said Moller Nielsen, who has brought a squad of 18 players with him, including seven from the national under-21 side.
''We must try to do better in scoring goals. Our next aim is to qualify for the 1996 European Championship finals and this is the start of the preparation for the qualifying matches.
''We are very sorry we are not going to the United States because we had only two goals scored against us.'' Spain won the group with 19 points from 12 games; Jack Charlton's Republic of Ireland were second with 18 points and Denmark were third, also with 18 points. Ireland's goal ratio was 19-6, while Denmark's was 15-2, missing out on the number of goals scored rather than on goal difference. One more goal for Denmark during the qualifying campaign would have taken them through to the States.
Moller Nielsen will have a close look at two young strikers in Hong Kong - Heine Fernandez, of Danish Superliga leaders Silkeborg IF, and Viborg FF's Soren Frederiksen, the country's 13-goal leading scorer and who has had trials with English Premiership club Southampton.
Their squad also includes midfielder Ronnie Ekelund, who is on Barcelona's books but playing only in their reserve team. Both Moller Nielsen and Barcelona's Dutch coach, Johann Cruyff, believe Ekelund will benefit from playing at this level in Hong Kong.
Denmark's squad includes five of the players who were on duty for the Denmark Under-21 side in last year's Lunar New Year tournament. They play the United States in the first semi-final on Thursday.
Added the coach: ''We are looking forward to two tough matches. The season has closed down in Denmark because the weather is rubbish, so it will be nice to train and play in better conditions here.
''We played the United States a year ago in Phoenix, Arizona, and drew 2-2 but hope to beat them this time to reach the final.
''We have come with quite a strong squad. During the last two, three or four years we have had a very strong defence and now I will try and bring some new young players into the midfield and the strikers' positions to see what they can do.
''We missed qualifying for the World Cup because we did not score so many goals, so I will try to give some new strikers a chance.
''Some of them have done well in the Danish tournament and I am looking forward to seeing if they can succeed here.'' The squad includes only two members of the 1992 European Championship-winning party - reserve goalkeeper Mogens Krogh, who was understudy to Manchester United's Peter Schmeichel, and defender or midfielder Morten Bruun. Krogh plays for Brondby - previous winners of the Lunar New Year tournament in Hong Kong - and Bruun for league leaders Silkeborg.
Of the 18 players, 12 of them have played for Denmark's Olympic Games team.