Denmark v Finland: Danes embrace spirit of '92 as home advantage offers chance for momentum against debutants
Denmark welcome Euros debutants Finland to Copenhagen on Saturday as Group B gets started.FotMob - 11 days ago
Danish footballers are frequently reminded of their country's Euro 1992 success, one of the competition's most-enduring underdog tales, meaning their failures can attract greater scrutiny.
Ever since their triumph some 29 years ago, Denmark have only reached the quarter-finals once in 2004, while their form at major tournaments in general has often been underwhelming.
For example, they head into Euro 2020 having not scored two goals in any of their previous 22 games in the Euros or World Cup, the last such occasion being a 4-1 win over Nigeria in 1998.
But there is arguably a greater sense of optimism for Denmark than they have had in a generation, with their squad an attractive blend of solidity and individual quality, while all three of their Group B matches will be played on home soil in Copenhagen.
"It's something completely unique and something I'll probably never experience again," goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel – whose father Peter was in the 1992 team – said of Denmark's role as one of the host nations.
"I am really looking forward to it. But on the other hand, we must also keep a cool head and not get swept up in the emotions and the football fever that is happening in Denmark. We have to go in and do our job."
On Saturday they go up against a Finland side competing at their first major tournament.
The newcomers will have to pay particular mind to Christian Eriksen, who has had a hand in 39 per cent (30 – 23 goals, seven assists – out of 70) of Denmark's competitive goals since the start of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Denmark – Jonas Wind
So much of the creative and scoring burden has been on Eriksen in recent years, with Denmark struggling to produce the type of centre-forward who can find the net on a reliable basis, but the winds of change may finally be here. Jonas Wind has just enjoyed something of a breakout season for Copenhagen, scoring 15 goals and getting eight assists (six in open play) in the Superligaen. His impressive physique coupled with technical efficiency make him an effective link-up player but he's also capable of finding the net.
Finland – Teemu Pukki
While Lukas Hradecky looks likely to have a busy tournament between the posts, if Finland are to have any hope of an unlikely trip into the knockout phase, they will likely need a goal or two. Norwich City's Pukki is, perhaps rather obviously, their biggest threat in this regard having netted eight goals more (10 in total, a national record) than any other Finn in qualifying. Although his electric start in the 2019-20 Premier League season fizzled out, his haul of 11 goals was respectable for someone in a relegated team and he followed that up with 26 this term in the Championship.
KEY OPTA FACTS
- Finland became the first European team to qualify for a major tournament for the first time (World Cup/European Championship) since Albania and Iceland at Euro 2016. The former were knocked out in the group stages whilst the latter reached the quarter-final.
- Finland won 18 points from their 10 Euro 2020 qualification matches; this is their best points return from a single qualification campaign since winning 18 points from 10 games during qualification for the 2010 World Cup. They finished third in their group on that occasion and failed to qualify.
- Denmark did not lose a single game in their last major tournament (W1 D3 at World Cup 2018) but were knocked out in the round of 16 by Croatia on penalties (1-1 a.e.t., 2-3 penalties).
- This is the first meeting between Denmark and Finland at a major tournament (World Cup/European Championship). Their last encounter dates back to a 2-1 friendly win for the Danes in November 2011.
- While Finland are taking part in their first ever major tournament (World Cup/European Championship), this is Denmark's ninth European Championship appearance and their first since 2012. They won the tournament in 1992, when they only qualified after Yugoslavia were expelled as a result of war in the Balkans.