HAVING won four of the five games they have played at Euro 2020, England stand just one step away from a place in the final. Denmark are the opposition team between Gareth Southgate’s side and the tournament’s showpiece event and they have more than earned their place in the final four.
Indeed, Denmark have the quality to beat England and maybe even go all the way. Kasper Hjulmund has built a team that is more than the sum of its parts, which is saying something given their individual quality. Here’s what Southgate and his players should expect from their semi final opponents on Wednesday night.
What sort of team are they?
It’s impossible to analyse Denmark at Euro 2020 without referencing the cardiac arrest suffered by Christian Eriksen in their opening group game. The physiological toll that event took on Eriksen’s teammates makes it all the more remarkable that they have made it to the semi finals, but the loss of the Inter midfielder for the tournament meant Hjulmund had to change the approach of his team.
Indeed, while Denmark entered Euro 2020 looking to control games in the centre of the pitch through passing triangles and patterns, they have now become a team focussed more on hard running and exploiting the space in the channels. This has been to the benefit of players like Joakim Maelhe and Martin Braithwaite for whom this game plan suits.
Denmark still like to construct passing moves in the middle of the pitch, but this is most commonly a ploy to create space either in behind or out wide, with opposition defenders drawn to the ball. This is something England must be wary of. They must maintain their shape or could find themselves warped by the Danes’ intelligence.
Who are their key players?
Maelhe has been one of the players of Euro 2020 so far. In a tournament not exactly short of wing backs playing in back five systems, the 24-year-old has been among the most eye catching in his position, playing a key role in Denmark’s run to the final third. Maelhe is mobile, quick to burst into the attacking third and boasts an exceptionally consistent delivery despite being right-dotted on the left side.
#DEN get their first through Mikkel Damsgaard
— B/R Football (@brfootball) June 21, 2021
Mikkel Damsgaard has been a breakout star for Denmark at this tournament, providing some much-needed spark from his position as the furthest forward midfielder. The Atalanta youngster is afforded freedom by Hjulmand to roam and exploit space wherever he can find it. Damsgaard can score from distance, as he did against Belgium, or play intricate passes to set up teammates.
In defence, Simon Kjaer has been a rock in red. Supported by Andreas Christensen and Jannik Vestergaard, the AC Milan centre back has been a leader for a real presence at the back for Denmark, as has Kasper Schmeichel who has underlined his status as one of the best goalkeepers in the game with a series of important stops.
Why should England be worried?
While Denmark have significant momentum behind them as the neutral’s favourites at Euro 2020, they have made it to the semi finals by being a well-coached team with good individual quality. What’s more, Hjulmand’s system could expose some of England’s weaknesses and overload the Three Lions in defence.
Denmark have made great use of their wing backs at Euro 2020, with Maelhe a particularly effective outlet down the left. He has a good understanding with the front two of Kasper Dolberg and Braithwaite, with Damsgaard the link between the midfield and attack. Will Southgate match up with a back three of his own like he did to combat a similar system by Germany in the round of 16?