Denmark are Wales’ Euro 2020 round-of-16 opponents in Amsterdam on Saturday.
The Danes made the knockout stage on a wave of emotion after midfield star Christian Eriksen collapsed after suffering a cardiac arrest during their tournament opener against Finland in Copenhagen.
Here, the PA news agency puts the focus on Denmark ahead of their clash with Wales at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
Denmark came into Euro 2020 in outstanding form, losing only twice in 28 games. Those defeats both came against Belgium, the world’s top ranked team, in the Nations League last autumn – 2-0 in Copenhagen and 4-2 in Leuven. Denmark took four points off England during that campaign, including a 1-0 win at Wembley, to finish second in the group. The loss of Eriksen hurt them in Euro 2020 defeats to Finland and Belgium, but Denmark bounced back to beat Russia 4-1 and qualify for the round of 16.
Kasper Hjulmand was originally due to become Denmark manager after the original Euro 2020 tournament, before it was delayed, when his predecessor Age Hareide’s contract expired. But the 12-month postponement of the tournament due to the Covid-19 pandemic allowed him to be in charge after all. Hjulmand, 49, was forced to end his playing career at the age of 26 due to a knee injury. He began his coaching career at Lyngby and had two spells at Nordsjaelland either side of an unhappy nine-month spell at Mainz in Germany. Hjulmand has won 10, drawn two and lost four of his 14 games as Denmark coach.
Denmark began the tournament in a 4-3-3 shape but the loss of playmaker Eriksen prompted a rethink and a switch to a three-man central defence. Skipper Simon Kjaer is flanked by Jannik Vestergaard and Andreas Christensen at the back, with central midfielders Thomas Delaney and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg protecting the defence and starting attacks. Yussuf Poulsen operates as a false nine and drifts into deeper positions, allowing third-man runs from midfield and Martin Braithwaite to play further up the pitch.
Denmark won the 1992 European Championship with Peter Schmeichel in goal, and his son Kasper provides another formidable barrier three decades on. Central defender Kjaer, as he showed during the Eriksen incident, is an inspirational leader and the midfield pair of Delaney and Hojbjerg are two streetwise campaigners. Denmark do not have a natural goalscorer, with Poulsen and Braithwaite far from prolific at international level. In the absence of Eriksen, exciting Sampdoria winger Mikkel Damsgaard is capable of sprinkling Danish stardust.