Sunday, June 14, 2015

Serbia 0 at Denmark 2 (Group I, Euro 2016 Qualifying) - June 13, 2015

Day 2 of my weekend trip to Matchday 6 of the European Qualifiers started with an early flight to Copenhagen on WOW Air, which bills itself as Iceland's most punctual airline. Considering that Iceland has but two international airlines, this is not saying much. Regardless, I slept the whole way as my tired old body is not adjusting to the jet lag very well, and the flight arrived on time. Even after checking in to my accommodation, I needed another nap and didn't wake until 6:00, just a couple of hours before Denmark took on Serbia.

Fortunately, I was only a short walk from Telia Parken, Denmark's national stadium. Located about 20 minutes from Østerport station, the stadium was opened in 1992, replacing the old national stadium which had been mostly demolished. As the locals referred to it as Parken, that is what it became. Only last year did telecom provider Telia take over naming rights, and it now provides high-speed wifi throughout the venue.

A large statue of three soccer players marks the main approach to the stadium along Øster Allé, which is the street you will take from the station. The stadium itself is quite large but architecturally bland from the outside. It looks more like a shopping mall; only the large banners of past Danish soccer greats alerts you to its real purpose.

There was a fan zone that was serving beer (Carlsberg naturally) and had a few other sponsor tents. It was crowded with drunk Danes, so I only made a cursory inspection before heading inside.

The four stands inside are separated so once you have entered, you are stuck there for the match. This is typical of soccer venues in Europe as it keeps fans from mingling. I wasn't even able to get to the upper levels in my own stand, so all the pictures are from the same spot.

Note the retractable roof; this reminded me of ballparks in Arizona and Seattle, though on a slightly smaller scale. The roof remains open for soccer games even if it is raining, as it was on this night, though all seats are covered. The venue is also used for concerts which is where the roof comes in handy.

The panorama gives you an idea of the entire stadium, which seats 38,065, with no standing room areas.

Food here is pretty standard, as I found it to be in all three stadiums I visited on this weekend jaunt. The hot dog comes outside of the roll, which is actually a hollowed out tube of bread. You put your ketchup and french sauce inside the tube, then insert the wiener (no jokes please). It is described as Czech style, but I found it a lot cleaner than the normal dog, when the condiments drip out the side onto your clothes. Another item worth noting here is that you can buy 5 large beers at once for 200 DKK (about $30). They are served in a cardboard carrying case equipped with a handle, and a moderately heavy drinker can purchase his game's supply before kickoff and then never have to leave his seat for the two hours, assuming his bladder can handle the load.

There are two scoreboards in opposite corners that showed highlights of past Danish victories before the game, but they did not show any live action during the game. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that smoking is allowed in the seats. I have gotten so used to smoke- free venues that at first I thought the person smoking was in violation of the rules, but security did nothing. I then looked around and noticed several other patrons puffing away. Turns out smoking is banned in all indoor locations and the family stand, but not where I happened to be sitting. Something to keep in mind if you ever find yourself there for a game.

Speaking of the game, the Serbs were in town to do battle in this Group I match. This group is the only one with 5 teams, so they only play eight games instead of ten like the other 8 groups. Denmark was second with 7 points, 2 behind Austria and tied with Albania. Serbia had only 1 point despite a forfeit win over Albania, because UEFA docked them those three points. Details of that incident are laughable if they weren't so depressing. At any rate, it did not seem as if any Serbian fans had made the trip and the visitors section was empty.

Denmark opened the scoring in the 13th minute when Nicklas Bendtner laid a sublime pass off the side of his foot to Yussuf Poulsen (above) who slotted just inside the left post for his first international goal.

Just after the half hour mark, Serbia committed a foul in the box, leading to a penalty attempt by captain Daniel Agger (#4 above) but it was brilliantly saved by Vladimir Stojković to keep the Serbs in the game.

Denmark maintained their 1-0 advantage until the 87th minute, when substitute Jakob Poulsen converted another Bendtner (#11 below, applauding the fans after the match) pass, beating Stojković to the right side this time.

That was the final as Denmark are pretty much assured of a spot in the tournament. They won it all in 1992 so they should never be counted out. (Update: Denmark went on to draw both Albania and Armenia 0-0 before losing to Portugal and thus being eliminated by surprised qualifier Albania).


The stadium is also home to F.C. Kobenhaven, whose initials might cause alarm in English speaking countries.



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