After San Marino’s Giampaolo Mazza, Denmark’s Morten Olsen is the longest serving international manager in Europe in charge of the national team since July 2000. Andy Greeves speaks to the former star midfielder about his playing days, managerial ambitions and an upcoming friendly with England.
When the 20th FIFA World Cup kicks off in Brazil this summer, spare a thought for Denmark and Morten Olsen. In qualification, the Dane’s had all but booked their place in the play-offs as a best runner-up, leading Group B rivals Italy 2-1 in Copenhagen on October 13, 2013 at the end of 90 minutes.
Alberto Aquilani sneaked a stoppage time equaliser for the Situs Domino99 visitors though and despite a 6-0 win over Malta in the final group match, Olsen’s men had missed out on a play-off place by one point.
“We were very unlucky in qualification,” sighs Olsen. “Had it not been for (Alberto) Aquilani’s stoppage time goal, we would have made it into the play-offs for qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and then who knows. It wasn’t our time in 2014, but we’ve qualified four times for big tournaments under my management and now I’m after a fifth with qualification for UEFA Euro 2016.”
Not only has Olsen been a manager of Danish teams at the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championships, but as a player he also wore the famous red shirt at these competitions. He captained the side which qualified for Euro ’84 – Denmark’s first major tournament since the Olympic Games of 1972 – and they subsequently went on the reach the semi-final, losing to Spain on penalties. Two years later, the Dane’s reached their first ever World Cup, the same year as Olsen was voted Danish Player of the Year.
“1986 was the first FIFA World Cup tournament that Denmark had ever qualified for, so it was a massive thing for the whole country, not just the players involved,” recalls Olsen. “We performed very well in our group, winning all three games against Scotland (1-0 on June 4, 1986), Uruguay (6-1 …