Denmark's national football squad surprised a lot of people when it advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals in 1998. But after winning its qualifying group on the way to a berth in the 2002 finals in South Korea and Japan, the Danes probably will not be able to sneak up on their opponents this time around.

Denmark's football team has been a bit of an enigma over the past several years. After a better than expected World Cup performance in France four years ago, the Danes followed up with a disappointing performance in the Euro 2000 tournament.

International football commentator Derek Rae explains why. "The Danes have been under-rated for sometime, and yes, they disappointed everyone at Euro 2000 when they played three matches without managing to pick up a single point," he said.

But Rae says one problem for the Danes at Euro 2000 was being drawn in the same group as France, which, along with Uruguay and Senegal, has happened again at the World Cup. "They know France rather well," he said. "I think France is viewing Denmark as potentially speaking, their most formidable opponent.

"Everyone talks about how solid Denmark is in the back, but what should not be forgotten is that they have one of the most explosive strikers in Europe in Ebbe Sand, who last season was the top scorer in the German Bundesliga."

But Mr. Rae said Denmark must beat Uruguay to advance to the second round. "For my money, this will be the game that will really determine whether Denmark is up to much at the World Cup Finals. If they lose to Uruguay, it is a bit difficult to see a way back for Denmark. If they win or draw, then I think they will fancy their chances of going through to the round of 16," he said.

That critical match will be played June first in Ulsan, South Korea.