By Leo Linden
Though they are a young side at just 24 years old, FC Copenhagen are quickly setting up their own empire in the Super League. Coming from strong roots, dominating Denmark has become commonplace for FCK recently, but when it has tried to muster up a quality effort in Europe, the club has typically fallen short. This season, however, Copenhagen has one of the best chances ever for a Danish team to succeed in the Champions League, and if they can continue to play their cards right, they could end up in uncharted waters, which would be a major step in the right direction.
In truth, the club was always positioned to be a complete force beginning when, prior to the 1992 season, Kjøbenhavns Boldklub (KB) and Boldklubben 1903 merged to create FCK. Both teams were historical powerhouses –– KB to this day holds the record for Danish championships with 15 –– but neither had won a title since 1980 when the pair joined forces.
In their first season following the merger, the Loverne (The Lions) immediately broke that streak, winning the title after edging Odense BK by just a single point. It was exactly the start that fans of the new club could have hoped for, and it seemed like Copenhagen could continue to steamroll the league, but that didn’t prove to be the case.
During their second year of existence, Copenhagen again looked like they would take home the crown, but a final-day loss saw them slip to second, and that set off a string of mid-table results, a rut which took over half a decade to break out of.
They were able to capture their first two Danish cups in that period, taking home the trophy in both 1995 and 1997, but that was just the precursor as Copenhagen returned to the pinnacle in 2000-01, winning the Danish Super League under the management of famous English coach Roy Hodgson. That was just the catalyst, however, and while Hodgson would move up the ladder, so would the Loverne, capturing titles in 2003, 2004 (when they nabbed a domestic double) and 2006.
But while the domestic achievements were fantastic, FCK never made its way into the Champions League group stage and couldn’t get past the third round of the UEFA Cup (the round of 32). That changed in the 2006-07 season. That season, unsurprisingly, produced another Super League title, but also saw Copenhagen defeat MYPA of Finland and Ajax of the Netherlands in qualifying to advance to the UCL group stage, becoming the first Danish club to do so. They finished fourth in their group, but it was far from a lackluster performance as they ended with two wins (including one over Manchester United), one draw, and three losses (all on the road) and were only two points from making the knockout round.
Since then, Copenhagen have won two more domestic titles to bring their total to 11 (second-best only to their predecessors) and come runners-up three times, but while the Loverne have had multiple chances in Europe, they have failed to make the knockout round of either the UCL or Europa League.
This year presented a whole new scenario for FCK, however, as they battled through three rounds of qualifying, ultimately dispatching of APOEL in the playoff round, to return to the UCL group stage. They had the second-lowest coefficient of any team in the draw, but despite being in pot four, the soccer gods smiled upon FCK, placing them in a group with Leicester City, Porto, and Club Brugge. Copenhagen stamped their intentions on the group early with an impressive matchday one draw at the Estadio de Dragao in Portugal, and they followed that up by smashing Brugge 4-0. A loss to Leicester at the King Power Stadium derailed aspirations a bit, but, as it stands, Copenhagen are in second place, ahead of Porto on goal differential (with Leicester almost surely going through and Brugge likely going out).
Though Porto may be the stronger side, FCK are set up better in the second half of the group stage, getting to host Leicester today and the Portuguese outfit on matchday five in a fixture which will most likely decide the second team to go through.
Furthermore, if the side can hang onto its young
There’s even more talent on the back line, with center back Zanka leading the way, so Copenhagen look good for the long haul. The challenge for the Loverne, as it is for any quality team in a smaller European league, is holding onto what they have and not selling out to the poachers from the top countries. Whether or not this electric core can stay together remains to be seen, but for the moment, Copenhagen are in a good spot, and any result against Leicester this week could go a very long way in seeing that the Danish side makes its way back to the UCL knockout stages for the first time in half a decade.