A new Åge for Denmark in 2016

With the managerial merry go round that is associated with modern day club football, the safe haven of international management could deem a two year qualifying job a minimum stay, but as national association’s become more tyrant like, it’s become a rarity to see a boss last more than one tournament before they get their P45. Romantically this trend was bucked by the Danes for quite a while until recently when Morten Olsen decided enough was enough and stepped down.

Whether or not it was deemed a successful period or not Morten Olsen’s 15 year tenure can be seen as a longevity achievement and something for the football purists to really admire in this day and age of chopping and changing. Olsen was of course a hugely respected ex legend with over 100 Danish caps from his playing days so he was well regarded within his national conscience and took the reigns in 2000. After over 160 matches he oversaw Olsen left the post with close to a 50% win ratio and 4 major tournaments qualified, the furthest Denmark reached was Quarter Final at Euro 2004. With a country of only 5 million people that would normally seem quite a feet but as this was Denmark, plenty more was expected both nationally and globally. A last soiree at the Euro’s in France this summer could of been Olsen’s parting gift Denmark but following an awkward 5 team qualification group that controversially featured deducted points, flying drones, match fixing allegations and a red hot Cristiano Ronaldo the Danes had to settle for a 2 leg play-off with their old foe Sweden, the rest was ‘Zlatan history’ and Olsen’s time was prematurely up, as this was the first 24 team European Championships and a 3rd place in qualifying technically good enough to reach the finals it seemed like a huge opportunity was missed for the Danes and for Olsen.

The DBU didn’t have to travel very far to find the man to fill his Olsen’s 15 year old boots, In December 2015 it was announced that 62 year old Åge Hareide was to take charge of the side from March 1st 2016. The Scandinavian connection is there for all to see, Hareide hails from Norway where he won 50 national caps in the 1970’s and 1980’s playing and in his homeland and a 3 year stint in England with Man City and Norwich City, after he hung up his boots in 1987. After 10 years managing Molde he embarked on a successful managerial spell in neighbouring Sweden at Helsingborg IF winning the title in 1999 then moving to Denmark and lifting the Superliga with Brondby in 2002. A year later Hareide won his third title in 3 different countries as Rosenberg took the 2003 Norwegian Tippelegaen. An unsuccessful stint as national manager of Norway saw Hareide miss out on qualifying for 3 national tournaments, going back into club football in his familiar surroundings of Norway and Sweden, Hareide’s next success would only come in 2014 where he guided Malmo FF to the Swedish league and cup double. His final season would end with a 5th place league finish, a surprise victory over Celtic saw the club enter the Champions league group stage where a last place finish was as expected.

As Åge Hareide sits at home this summer watching Europe’s best mix it up in the extended edition of the Euro’s he must have some faith in the players Morten Olsen left at his disposal for the upcoming World Cup 2018 qualification. With a FIFA ranking of 24 Denmark were seeded number 2 and ended up in Group E with Romania, Poland, Montenegro, Armenia and Kazakhstan which on paper seems a group more than capable of negotiating. What Hareide will have at his disposal is a squad still in transition, the old guard of Daniel Agger, Lars Jacobsen, Michael Kron-Delhi and Thomas Kalhenberg will be seen as disposable if the likes of Eric Sviachenko, Vicktor Fischer, Pione Sisto and Pierre Hojberg can show the promise that their early careers have hinted. Hareide will also feel fortunate to have Premier League keeper Kasper Schmeichel, play-maker Christian Eriksen and the elusive Nicklas Bendtner contributing to the cause.

If the Norwegian Hareide manages to stay a quarter of Morten Olsen’s tenure he’ll have the opportunity to see Denmark co host the Euro 2020  tournament that’s being staged across 13 European cities including Copenhagen’s home Parken, time will tell and another ‘Olsen reign’ may never be seen  by the Danes again, Åge Hareide isn’t the first Scandinavian boss to take the national job and he won’t be the last but taking the national side to Moscow in 2 years will be a platform he aims to reach.

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