Euro 2020 preview, Group B – Denmark: Thomas Pyndt fancies Danes to progress to knock-out stages
Our Matchday Squad will cover every nation at the Euros
For Euro 2020, we’ve assembled 24 expert journalists to give you the latest insight and tips on every team throughout the tournament.
Here, Thomas Pyndt gives us his take on Denmark..
Give us an overview of your team’s chances at Euro 2020
There is a lot of optimism in Denmark before Euro 2020 because the team hasn’t looked this strong on paper for a long time. The starting 11 are made up of players from the biggest leagues, beginning with Kasper Schmeichel at Leicester and then moving on to Valencia, Chelsea, AC Milan, Atalanta, Tottenham, Dortmund, Inter, Barcelona, Nice and RB Leipzig.
In the last year the national team has been coached by 49-year old Kasper Hjulmand, who is a modern manager with an attacking philosophy. He has built on the impressive defensive groundwork that his predecessor Age Hareide instilled in the team and has also incorporated a higher pressure as well as a more ballplaying style.
Finally, Denmark has home advantage in the group games against Finland, Belgium and Russia that are all being played at Parken in Copenhagen, so the expectations are that the team will make it through the group stage. If they don’t run in to some of the favourites right away after that, they could make it far – maybe even as far as the semis at Wembley, where they beat England 1-0 in the Nations League eight months ago.
What would you say are your team’s major strengths?
Since October 2016, Denmark have only lost two games out of 44 in regulation time – they lost to Croatia in the last 16 in the World Cup in Russia after penalties.
So this team knows how to get a result and part of that is due to the very strong spine starting with Kasper Schmeichel in goal, continuing with Simon Kjær in central defence and ending with Christian Eriksen in midfield. It is a very important trio that has played together in the national team for seven years and of course have a lot of experience.
And any weaknesses?
Even though Denmark began the World Cup qualification in March by scoring fourteen goals in the games against Israel, Moldova and Austria, there is some concern about the attack.
Neither Yussuf Poulsen nor Martin Braithwaite are natural goalscorers and the young Kasper Dolberg from Nice has so far not lived up to expectations with seven goals in 24 games for Denmark.
If this team had a Preben Elkjær, a Jon Dahl Tomasson or a Nicklas Bendtner in his best of form, then who knows what could happen.
Give us the lowdown on your team’s star player?
A lot of people thought that Age Hareide was too defensive minded but one claim to fame is that he released Christian Eriksen for Denmark. Before Hareide, Eriksen had six goals in 57 games but with Hareide as manager he has scored 25 goals in 38 games.
With Hjulmand the numbers are five goals in eleven but he has dropped a bit after the transfer to Inter. He ended the season on a high note though as Serie A-winner so the hopes are that he will have a strong Euro 2020 and continue to score important goals for Denmark.
And tell us about a player from your team who could be a breakthrough star at this tournament?
As mentioned above the 23-year old Kasper Dolberg has so far not lived up to expectations and has also had a tough season with Nice so maybe Kasper Hjulmand will start one of the few players from the Danish Superliga in attack, FC Copenhagens’ Jonas Wind.
The 22-year old is both a strong and technically gifted player with a nice touch and he also plays with a lot of confidence, scoring with a Panenka-penalty against Red Star in a Champions League qualification-game in front of 41.000 spectators in Belgrade when he was 20.
How far do you think your team can go in this tournament?
Denmark will play all three group games at Parken, Copenhagen which could prove important, especially as Group B joint-host Russia will travel to Denmark for the fixture between the two teams.
The first game against Finland looks like three points against a country playing in their first European Championships ever, while Belgium must be favourites to win the group and also one of the favourites to win the tournament. Denmark lost both Nations League games against Belgium in the last year (0-2 and 2-4) so a point here would be more than expected. Then it all comes down to the final game against Russia where playing it at Parken is an advantage.
So Denmark could finish second in the group setting up a game against number two in Group A (Turkey, Wales or Switzerland – hopefully not Italy) which is also a winnable game, and then they are in the quarter-finals (against the Netherlands possibly), where injuries and luck will play a part along with tactics and stamina.
Easy one to finish with, who wins the tournament, and who do you think will be top scorer?
Lot of contenders but I’ll go with France with Romelu Lukaku as the topscorer.