A View from the Opposition: Brøndby IF
Tonight Danish giants Brøndby will take on Club Brugge in Belgium. Yet only two years ago that is a statement that may never have come to fruition. Brøndby was on the brink of going into receivership, unable to pay off their debt and bills at the time, but as is often the case in football – a lot has happened since then.
Historically, Brøndby are one of the most successful clubs in Denmark and certainly the most iconic to people outside the nation. Winning back-to-back championships, cup finals and getting into Europe was always a sure thing for the club and many people remember them for their matches against Bayern Munich or the win at Anfield against Liverpool. Their most memorable moment, though, was back in 1991 when they made it all the way to the semi finals only to be knocked out 2-1 to AS Roma. That Brøndby team included legends such as Peter Schmeichel, Brian Laudrup and Uche Okechukwu.
Recently, though, the club hasn’t had the same success as the ’91 team and the fans are hungering for it again. Turmoil has ruled the roost for a long time now, with four sporting directors in 2 years saying it all. For the time being though the club is on the “right track” with new ownership seeing the club prosper and fans has been delighted by the actions in the transfer market, seeing icons such as Johan Elmander, Khalid Bouhlarouz (now Feyenoord) and Thomas Kahlenberg playing for the club.
The Danish Superliga has already started and Brøndby has played 2 matches; a 3-1 loss to Midtjylland and a 2-0 win against Silkeborg showing both the positives and the negatives of the team. While the club isn’t quite up to the task of being favourites yet, the new team – including five new signings with more expected – are starting to gel.
Tactically, Thomas Frank opts for the 4-5-1 with inverted wingers cutting inside. This system has its roots in Danish national coach Morten Olsen’s “The Red Thread” (The Common Thread red.) and is used all the way into the national set up including the under 15 sides. The benefit of this system is that it suits big forward Simon Makienok, a player often linked to mid-table teams in the Premier League. Makienok will be the one who will go up against Oscar Duarte and Brandon Mechele in the heart of the Club Brugge defence, and it will be Makienok’s job to distribute the ball to the pacy wingers Ferhan Hasani and Elba Rashani.
In the middle of the park we have Brøndby’s talisman. Thomas Kahlenberg, internationally capped and formerly of Wolfsburg and Auxerre Former Wolfsburg and Auxerre will be vital if Brøndby are to get a result on Thrusday night. Since his arrival at the club Kahlenberg has given this Brøndby team another side of flair to its game, and it’s a flair the team requires should they wish to be great again.
Despite Makienok and Kahlenberg, the most important player for this Brøndby side is the man between the sticks. Just like in 1991 where Danish legend Peter Schmeichel used to keep goal, the club now have another talented goalkeeper. This time it’s Finnish 24 year old Lukas Hradecky. Hradecky has been ever-present for this Brøndby side since arriving from fellow Superliga club Esbjerg. A great shot-stopper and a man who commands his area extremely well the club would be well-advised to move heaven and earth to keep hold of him for as long as possible. In a recent friendly versus Spartak Moscow, Spartak striker Artem Dzyuba hailed him as one of the best keepers he’s ever played against.
With Club Brugge playing attacking football, and seeing Mushaga Bakenga return from a loan stint in Denmark while letting veteran defender Tom Høgli depart to FC Copenhagen there will be some added interest in this qualifier. Brøndby need to be on their toes, but might be able to cause an upset despite being the underdogs.
One thing is certain though. Morten Olsen, who resides in Belgium, will look on from the sidelines and hopefully spot a Danish side playing like the one he coached in ’91.
Article written by Claus Røndbjerg-Christensen, who is editor of Danish Football News and can be followed on Twitter @DanishFooty – your best source for the latest news in Danish Football. We thank Claus for his time and cooperation. May the best team win!