‘Vikings without fear’ is the slogan written in large letters on the side of Denmark’s team coach, and Saturday evening’s memorable win against the Netherlands brought those words to life for one player in particular.
Central midfielder Niki Zimling left Denmark’s final training session ahead of the game in an ambulance, but, despite fears of a broken toe, the Club Brugge KV man played every minute against the Oranje as if nothing had happened the day before.
“It has a nice blue colour, but the swelling is going down so things are brightening up,” Zimling said, before explaining that he will be able to play a full part in training before Morten Olsen’s men continue their campaign against Portugal on Wednesday. “I’m certain I can join in. Today it’s a light training session all about recovery, but by tomorrow I’ll be training with everybody once again.”
The 27-year-old has twice broken the very same toe and was a doubt to start despite scans ruling out the worst-case scenario, yet nothing seemed to affect his performance against one of the pre-tournament favourites. He nonetheless felt that the whole team deserved praise for holding firm under pressure.
“We have a reputation for fighting until the very end,” he said. “We did that yesterday as well. The Netherlands weren’t all that good when it came to finishing. They had some chances, but they finished with 28 shots and only eight on target, and not all of those were dangerous, while Stephan [Andersen] made a couple of great saves.”
Olsen was similarly pleased as he reflected on the previous day’s action. “It was positive for Denmark and brings even more respect to our national team as well as Danish football in general,” said the coach. “That’s also one of the reasons we are here. We’re here because we want to win matches, but also because we want to show that we’re a good football team.”
That said, the result has not given him a false sense of security regarding the Danes’ position in the group. “Three points gives us belief in ourselves, but we’re realistic enough to know that we need to improve things. We were also lucky against a Dutch team that played well. There are things we can bring into the next game but also things we can and have to do better if we want to continue in this tournament. What those things are will remain between myself and the players.”