Denmark win is more proof pragmatism is prospering

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Denmark’s shock victory over Holland was a familiar sight, Chelsea fans will be able to reminisce gleefully at the underdog prevailing.

The Danish goal lived a charmed life and a long season looks to have caught up on one or two of the Dutch players, but they had their tactics down to a tee.

It is a method of playing that seems to have emboldened and galvanised teams that are maybe less glamorous and dictated by their limitations, rather than trying to facilitate their better players to greater heights.

Chelsea did it first against Barcelona, an astonishing smash and grab win at Stamford Bridge was followed by an even more unlikely last-gasp draw in the second leg at camp Nou.

The final was not much different as the side from Stamford Bridge 'parked the bus', as the saying goes, intent not to give anything away.

Bayern Munich were undone on penalties and went away wondering what had happened.

Arjen Robben was in that Bayern side and may have had a sinking feeling as Holland entered the final stages having missed a similar amount of chances to win the game.

He didn’t miss a penalty this time but it would have been no extra relief in a game that he will know his side should have won.

Denmark’s success would have been an encouraging sight for teams such as England, who look as though they have come to the realisation that a similar approach is going to be their best bet for getting something positive out of the tournament.

England’s limitations are vast in technical terms and they just do not have the personnel to allow them to play a possession game.

Portugal set out a similar stall when playing Germany, but they gave a poor example of how to utilise one of the world’s best individual talents when facing a superior side.

It feels a s though pragmatism has become prevalent among the second tier nations and clubs in Europe, as they come to terms with the fact they are not going to be able to match some of the brighter lights in the game.

The dominance of Spain and Barcelona over the past four years could be the reasoning behind this.

The two sides have managed to attain a level of brilliance that makes the game look simultaneously simple and fantastically intricate – hoarding possession has almost become an end in itself.

The response to such a gulf in brilliance can only really be met with a defensive approach, trying to snatch something from the snippets of opportunity that may be carved out of minimal possession.

It was seen with Holland’s Wold Cup 2010 final disgrace, where they deployed brutal tactics in an attempt to unsettle the eventual champions.

The first cracks in the assumed dominance of the tiki-taka age were seen in England’s fortunate victory over Spain in a friendly at Wembley.

Cracks grew with Chelsea’s Champions League triumph over Barcelona, now we see the ceding of territory and possession by sides that would usually be expected to compete.

Teams such as Germany have responded to Spain’s ascension by trying to raise the bar ever higher, but it is not the case for all.

While a few nations have been busy trying to ascertain the secret to producing greater footballing feats, those a level below them have been busy plotting their downfall. Pragmatism is king.

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