Sunday June 23, 2024

Denmark ready for more Euro drama in Germany

By Reuters
June 05, 2024
Denmark players pose for a team group photo before the match. — Reuters/file
Denmark players pose for a team group photo before the match. — Reuters/file 

BERLIN: From Denmark’s high of winning Euro 1992 to midfielder Christian Eriksen’s heart attack in the last finals, the country’s participation at the tournament usually means drama and in Germany they will be hoping for the more positive kind.

Having famously triumphed as rank outsiders in 1992, the Danes bounced back from Eriksen’s traumatic collapse in their opening Euro 2020 game to reach the semi-finals, where they were eliminated by England, before Kasper Hjulmand’s swashbuckling side breezed through qualifying for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Things have been tougher since, however. They crashed out at the group stage in Qatar after failing to fire and, although they topped Euro 2024 qualifying Group H, they did so only on goal difference ahead of Slovenia.

“We had a difficult 2023 in the qualifying campaign -- finally, in the end, we qualified, which is the main thing, but we struggled in certain games,” Denmark assistant coach Morten Wieghorst told Reuters.

The former Denmark midfielder said his side went into qualifying knowing they would enjoy a vast amount of possession, but, as in Qatar, they often struggled to break down teams. That, however, is unlikely to happen in Germany, where they take on England, Serbia and Slovenia in Group C, none of whom are likely to just sit back against the Danes.

“The term easier I wouldn’t use but the games are going to be different,” Wieghorst said wryly. Despite Eriksen’s heart issue, and him not being as fleet-footed as he once was, the 32-year-old is still expected to play a key role for a team in which he has been the dominant creative force for more than a decade.

“He can find that space and time to exploit the defences of the opponents, so that’s his major strength. And then in terms of pressing, we have to accommodate a player of his stature,” Wieghorst explained.

Up front, Denmark will look to Eriksen’s Manchester United team mate Rasmus Hojlund, who netted 10 Premier League goals in a dysfunctional side, three more than he scored in qualifying for the Euros. Another major strength for the team will be the estimated 50,000 Danes expected to attend the games over the border in Germany, an asset Wieghorst does not underestimate. “We want to make it exciting, we want to give them something to shout about, and to have a great party and a great time in Germany,” he said.