Still only 24, Nicklas Bendtner is set to win his 50th cap when Denmark take on Portugal on Wednesday, and while the striker will spare the milestone a thought he is focused on the task in hand.
“I’m so proud,” said the Arsenal FC striker. “It means a lot to me to represent my country, and though I have done it for so many matches, it still feels the same as it did on my debut. Every time I pull the Denmark jersey over my head I do so with pride. My eyes keep on getting a little misty. It’s a crazy feeling knowing that the fans in your country are cheering for you. It doesn’t get any bigger than that.”
It is nearly six years now since Bendtner, then 18, made his debut in a friendly against Poland, marking the occasion with a goal in a 2-0 win. He has scored 17 more in 48 appearances since then, including an eye-catching return of four in as many games against Portugal – Denmark’s next UEFA EURO 2012 opponents in Group B. “It’s merely a coincidence,” the striker insists.
The statistics say otherwise, and those billing Portugal as favourites for Wednesday’s meeting in Lviv may want to dwell on another: Denmark have won three of their last five meetings, drawing one and losing another. That makes Denmark favourites, does it not? “When you name all those things then yes, you could say that. But when you look at their players, they are all at top clubs and have shown their talent over the years,” replied Bendtner.
“We’re building a new team at the moment but we stand united and have great players of our own – as we showed against Netherlands. Portugal may have better players but which is the greater side we will have to wait and see. I think you rarely see a team like ours, always ready to make that extra run for your team-mate – no matter who the opponent is.” That ethos could serve Bendtner well on his 50th international appearance.