The end of the season draws nearer although it has been dragging on like a Nordic summer evening. My (in all likelihood) last game of the season sees a trip to Denmark’s national stadium to watch Denmark’s finest against those likeable chaps from Serbia. My first time as a roligan (rolig means peaceful in Danish apparently – pronounced as if you have a fish scale in your throat)
Earlier in the day, I managed to get a shaky feed to watch Hungary beat Finland in Helsinki thanks to an absolute thunderbolt from Zsolt Steiber who plays his football in the capital of Southern Denmark (c. 1850), Hamburg. Frankly shocked that a contemporary could score a goal of such technical ability, but it sets up an absolute belter against Romania in Budapest in September.
The Group of Five (cross-reference to my Pecs article for my avid readers)
Denmark find themselves in a pretty interesting five team group with Portugal, Albania and Armenia. Fortunately, their job of qualifying is made somewhat easier by that drone in Belgrade and Balkan temperaments, but with Albania and Armenia far from the minnows that they once were, this is a tricky little group. Denmark came into the game in second level on points with Albania in the knowledge that a win would more less dump Serbia out of the running meaning a straight run-off against the two As for second place and automatic qualification.
The antics of the Serb fans meant that neither the Serbian FA nor their Danish counterparts were willing to be responsible for an away section. Despite that, the Danish FA announced they would not stop any Serbs from entering the stadium, which led to the rather bizarre (and frightful) likelihood of unsegregated fans at 20.45 on a Saturday night. My concerns were not quashed by the groups of drunk Serbs loitering around the old town. In the end, the Serbs gave themselves a very low profile and there were no problems as far as I could see.
Not sure mass displays of red, white and black are de rigeur post 1935
A beautiful day in Denmark descended (as it seems to do regularly) into light drizzle come kick-off time and my decision to take all the beer in my fridge on a walk to the stadium left me feeling slightly perky on my final approaches to Parken. Perkiness that was sprinkled with confusion as to why the ‘match day scarf’ hawkers were all of Scouse persuasion. A) How do you end up leaving Liverpool to sell half-half scarves in Copenhagen B) Who buys half-half scarves (for a Euro Qualifier)? They were still selling them after the game at the same price which seems to me as poor pricing policy.
Parken is a bit of a monstrosity. It would not look out of place in the Premier League. Close to the pitch towering stands, with bland concourses churning out over priced processed food. Each of the four corner seems to resemble an office block. Not a huge fan. Although the alwas quiet public toilet outside the stadium has been a reliever on my last two trips.
Not the height of Danish design
The Danes were in good voice though. No doubt well lubricated by the late Saturday night kick-off coming off the back of the first (and likely last) day of Copenhagen’s summer: a healthy applause for the Serbian anthem (which no doubt refers to all sorts of recidivist dreams) was followed by a belting rendition of “There is a lovely country”. I am not sure of the lyrics, but I doubt it is blood-curdling, more an ode to equality and cargo bikes.
Only just over 30,000 made it to the ground. Possibly not helped by the GBP35 tickets which seem very expensive to me.
Am I back in Hungary??
The game itself was good. Easily the two best teams I have seen this year (which is not exactly a huge compliment). The Danes bossed the first half and great finish from Yussuf Poulsen (is football the best way to warm the populace to the rising tide of immigration? Probably not?) after a frankly sublime touch from Niklas Bendtner. (He was actually quite good although I suspect not as good as he still thinks he is.) Daniel Agger then missed a penalty trying to pretend to be Balotelli with the requisite stuttering run-up.
Yousef Poulsen scores – Danes go wild
Serbia came out a different team in the second half and totally dominated. Schmeichel Jr produced a great save from a point-blank header and it seemed to be a matter of time until the Serbs scored and their low-profile fans mad themselves known with a hail of flares (wistful thinking). But then another great finish, this time from Jakob Poulsen put the game to bed. Denmark probably deserved it, but the scoreline was flattering. Ivanovic and Matic are great players. Matic could dominate an opposition midfield single-handedly.
The reaction of the Serbs at full-time suggested that they knew the end was nigh. They are now nine points adrift of Denmark, but they might fancy there chances of catching Albania. Anyone fancy a trip to Tirana in October??