Euro 2020 profile: Denmark look to leading light Eriksen

by | Jun 9, 2021 09:10 | Editorial, Euro 2020

12 June – Finland (4pm GMT, Parken Stadium, Copenhagen)

17 June – Belgium (4pm GMT, Parken Stadium, Copenhagen)

21 June – Russia  (7pm GMT, Parken Stadium, Copenhagen)

After missing out on the last edition of the European Championships, Denmark will be hoping to make a major splash at this summer’s showcase event, writes Michelle Osei Bonsu.

High hopes   

Every tournament has its share of dark horses – teams that manage to take the entire field by surprise. Denmark, for the most part, have not been really mentioned amongst them, which is quite surprising considering the caliber of players De rød-hvide have within their ranks. Yes, the Scandinavian side do not have the best track record at the European Championships; to date, they have won just once in their history. And even that win was thanks to fortune really smiling down on them – in 1992, Denmark failed to qualify for the competition. However, Yugoslavia were kicked out 10 days before the tournament commenced, with the Scandinavians given a chance to feature in their stead.

The rest, as the hackneyed statement goes is history; as we all know, it was in 1992 that Denmark went on to win their first, and only, European Championships, beating a recently reunified Germany 2-0 in the final. Interestingly, Denmark and Germany recently locked horns in a pre-tournament friendly that resulted in a stalemate. Will we see the two sides meet at this summer’s showcase spectacle? Perhaps, and given that it will be in the knockout stages, it will hopefully make for some interesting viewing.

Kasper Hjulmand oversaw a pretty solid, but not spectacular Euro 2020 qualifying campaign during which Denmark finished second in their five-country group. They were pipped to top spot by Switzerland – but only by one point – whilst ensuring they easily avoided the play-offs by putting a three-point gap between themselves and third-placed Republic of Ireland.

Meanwhile, with players like Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel, Milan’s Simon Kjær, Leipzig’s Youssuf Poulsen, Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen, and rising starlet Andreas Skov Olsen, who’s currently on the books at Bologna, the Danish Dynamite have solid options to compete with the best of the best all over the pitch as their personnel are presently plying their trades in all of Europe’s big five leagues.

And of course, there’s Christian Eriksen. It took him a bit of time to fully settle in at Inter, but once he hit his stride, it was readily apparent why the Nerazzurri were so keen on getting him from Tottenham Hotspur as he played an integral role in their first Scudetto win since 2010. Currently, the 29-year-old attacking midfielder is not only Denmark’s most active capped player (slightly ahead of the veteran defender Kjaer), but also the team’s top goalscorer (with 36 goals). In essence, if Denmark want to have any shot at making a deep run this summer – à la Croatia at the 2018 World Cup, perhaps – they will be hoping that Eriksen will be on top of his game to keep things ticking.

Denmark also have the advantage of playing all three of their group stage matches on home turf. Arguably, Belgium will present their toughest foes, but football is indeed an unpredictable beast, and anything can happen. Statistically, their record against Russia doesn’t look good, with just one win from their last 11 encounters, but whilst stats don’t tell the full story, the Russians also did manage to finish second in their group – with their sole losses being to none other than the Red Devils.

Debutants Finland will be the wild card: although Denmark have a fantastic home record against their fellow Scandinavians (with just two losses in their national history), the Danish Dynamite will not be leaving anything to chance as they hope to make a grand return to the big stage this summer.

Coach: Kasper Hjulmand — Brought in to take over from Åge Hareide after the initial Euro 2020 tournament last year before it was postponed due to COVID-19, Hjulmand ended up assuming his current position anyway in July 2020. Among his accomplishments include winning the Danish Superliga title in his first season with Nordsjælland during the 2011-12 season – so will he be able to bring that same winning streak to this summer’s competition?

Preferred XI: Schmeichel; Wass, Kjaer, Christensen, Maehle; Hojbjerg, Delaney; Poulsen, Eriksen, Olsen; Braithwaite

For the most part, Denmark generally tend to play with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Barcelona striker Martin Braithwaite leads the line but it is Eriksen behind him that makes the team tick.

Look out for: Andreas Skov Olsen. He’s a player quite a few Serie A followers will be familiar with due to his time with Bologna, but if he can have a strong Euro 2020, his name will become legion to many more. The 21-year-old may have just a smattering of caps, but he’s been directly involved in seven goals for Denmark so far – three goals, and four assists. And that’s all in just his first five of appearances for the senior side.

Denmark versus…

…Finland P59 W39 D9 L11 F154 A58

…Belgium P13 W6 D3 L4 F23 A21

…Russia P11 W1 D1 L9 F10 A32

Stats

Population: 5.8m

Nickname: Danish Dynamite, De rød-hvide

Top Division: Superliga

FIFA World Ranking: 10

International honours: European Championship (1992), Olympic Gold Medal (1906), Confederations Cup (1995)

Most capped player: Peter Schmeichel (129)

Leading international scorer: Poul “Tist” Nielsen & Jon Dahl Tomasson (52)

Denmark at the European Championships:

1960 – Did not qualify

1964 – Fourth Place

1968 – Did not qualify

1972 – Did not qualify

1976 – Did not qualify

1980 – Did not qualify

1984 – Semi-Finals

1988 – Group Stage

1992 – Champions

1996 – Group Stage

1996 – Group Stage

2004 – Quarter-Finals

2008 – Did not qualify

2012 – Group Stage

2016 – Did not qualify

How they got to Euro 2020: Denmark finished as runners-up in Group D with four wins and four draws from their eight matches.

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