During the 1980s, the Danish team had become a household participant at the international stage with three major tournaments in a row (1984, 1986, 1988). Could they live up to their favourite tag in qualification Group 1 for the 1990 FIFA World Cup?
Sepp Piontek was still manager (since 1979), but a new national team was taking shape in the aftermath of the 1988 Euros where they crashed out with zero points in the group stage. Stalwarts Morten Olsen, Søren Lerby, Søren Busk and Preben Elkjær had since retired from the national team. This meant that the backbone of the much favoured team from the 1986 World Cup now was gone. The outlook of the new Danish team could in fact be spotted in the lineup in their last match in the group stage of the 1988 Euros, with players like Peter Schmeichel and Lars Olsen. The home public was also aware of the big changes, and this group of players was touted as the “new” national team.
Three international friendlies were arranged before the 1990 campaign would kick off in October against Greece away.
31.08.1988: Sweden 1-2 Denmark
Goals: Elstrup 2
Line-up: Schmeichel – J A Hansen, L Olsen (c), K Nielsen – Sivebæk, Bartram, Helt, J Jensen, Vilfort – Elstrup (Jørgensen 77), Povlsen
14.09.1988: England 1-0 Denmark
Line-up: Rasmussen – J A Hansen, L Olsen (c), K Nielsen – B Jensen (Heintze 65), Bartram (Kristensen 85), Ja. Mølby, Helt, M Laudrup – Vilfort (Jørgensen 77), Elstrup.
28.09.1988: Denmark 1-0 Iceland
Line-up: Schmeichel – Sivebæk (J A Hansen h-t), K Nielsen, L Olsen (c), Heintze – Helt, J Jensen, Vilfort (Moseby h-t), Bartram (B Jensen 85) – Elstrup, Strudal
In the pre-qualifiers, Piontek looked to change his formation from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2. Lars Olsen would be the new libero, partnered by Kent Nielsen in defence. Emerging players were Lars Elstrup (striker) and Jan Bartram (midfield and left back). In the centre of midfield, Piontek held a place for John Helt, who also had started the first group game in the Euros, before suffering an injury.