On-fire Danes still in con­struc­tion, says coach

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

The Dan­ish team that sent eight­time cham­pi­ons Ger­many pack­ing in the women’s Euro quar­ter-fi­nal is still un­der con­struc­tion, aim­ing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic, says coach Nils Nielsen.

“The truth is we are still de­vel­op­ing this team,” the man with a gold ear­ring in his left ear told AFP ahead of to­day’s semi-fi­nal with Aus­tria.

“We are try­ing to de­velop a team that can maybe not be as good as Ger­many and maybe not as good as France and all the other big teams, but maybe we can cre­ate a team that can stay up in the top and not have th­ese ups and downs all the time.”

Den­mark were trail­ing Ger­many af­ter three min­utes last Sun­day, but sec­ond­half head­ers from Na­dia Nadim and Theresa Nielsen ended the su­per­power’s dreams of a sev­enth straight ti­tle in a game post­poned from Satur­day be­cause of rain. New­com­ers Aus­tria beckon in the semi-fi­nal to­day, and Nielsen’s mem­o­ries of their last en­counter are not the best as Den­mark lost 4-2 in Wiener Neustadt less than a month ago.

“We played them just be­fore the Eu­ros and they killed us, to be hon­est, they were too strong, they were too fast for us, and they were go­ing di­rectly at our goal and we didn’t like it at all,” he said.

“So it’s go­ing to be a re­ally tough match for us. We will def­i­nitely have a bet­ter plan for that match than we had for the other match but enough to beat Aus­tria I don’t know-they’ve had an amaz­ing tour­na­ment so far.”

Build­ing his team, the 45-year-old Nielsen needs “to be very pa­tient and also make a mix of play­ers, to give some young play­ers the chance to play and still to have some more ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers who can hold the team to­gether when it’s tough”. “And in this team we have Pernille Harder and we have Simone Boye, they are re­ally strong char­ac­ters and they can re­ally hold this team to­gether when we are in trou­ble, also with Ger­many, they were keep­ing us in the game.”

For­merly coach­ing Den­mark’s youths, Nielsen took the women’s team over in 2013 with this long-term plan-a chal­lenge cater­ing to his taste, as he said.

FAIRY­TALE END­ING

“This group of play­ers are meant to have a real go to make a qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the Olympics, that’s the plan we had when we started this project four years ago.”“And we have to qual­ify through the World Cup and it’s go­ing to be re­ally tough for us, just to qual­ify for the World Cup, so we have to find this self-con­fi­dence some­where.”

“So this is a big boost for us that we could ac­tu­ally beat Ger­many. Now the play­ers start to think: OK, maybe we can even beat Swe­den when we play them in the qual­i­fi­ca­tion” for the 2019 World Cup in France.

So far, he can be happy with the team spirit, an es­sen­tial fac­tor in his team’s progress at the tour­na­ment where the Danes beat Nor­way and Bel­gium and lost to hosts the Nether­lands in the group.

“We all help, ev­ery­body in the team is de­fend­ing, ev­ery­body is at­tack­ing, no­body is big­ger than any­one else.” Be­fore the quar­ter-fi­nal, Nielsen said he wanted a Hans Chris­tian Andersen fairy­tale, and he has got one, but like the greedy char­ac­ters in Andersen’s books, he wants more now. “I will say that in a fairy­tale there is al­ways a happy end­ing and our happy end­ing would be a gold medal,” he said.

BREDA: Den­mark’s na­tional team play­ers stretch dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion on the eve of the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 foot­ball match between Den­mark and Aus­tria, yes­ter­day in Breda. — AFP

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