First-time participants Finland will kick-start their UEFA Euro 2020 campaign on Saturday when they face Denmark at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen on Saturday.
Following Friday’s curtain-raiser between Italy and Turkey, the 2020 edition of the UEFA Euro will truly get up and running on Saturday, with Denmark playing hosts to Finland, at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen.
It will be a special afternoon for the visitors, Finland, who are participating in a major footballing tournament for the first time in their history. The Huuhkajat, after all, enjoyed a terrific qualifying campaign for the Euros that saw them outclass the likes of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Greece & Armenia, finishing second behind Italy with six wins in ten matches.
Denmark, too, finished second in their group, behind Switzerland. They secured four wins in eight matches, missing out on the top spot only by a point, thanks to a late equaliser from Matt Doherty that saw them play a 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland in their final match. The Danes, nevertheless, finished the campaign ahead of Ireland, as well as Georgia and Gibraltar.
Kasper Hjulmand’s men are in an exotic run of form heading into the tournament as well, securing three back to back wins in FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers while holding off Germany and winning 2-0 against Bosnia & Herzegovina in the warm-up matches.
Finland, in contrast, have not fared all too well, having yet to secure a single win since their 2-1 victory over Bulgaria in November. Markku Kanerva’s side lost the two pre-game friendlies to Sweden and Estonia as well, meaning they do have some work to do if they are to do well in the tournament.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this Group B opener at the Parken Stadium this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Denmark under Kasper Hjulmand have harboured quite a reputations for being an attractive, attacking team who can outscore the opposition at any day. In Yussuf Poulsen and Martin Braithwaite, they have two gritty forwards who can cover a lot of ground for their team and become quite useful in the first line of press.
However, neither of them are expected to start in the number nine role. Instead, Denmark are likely to accompany Christian Eriksen in the creative department with Jonas Wind, who will be spearheading the Danish attack.
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Both Poulsen and Braithwaite, though, are more than likely to drift in centrally, with Wind’s ability to move out wide giving Denmark quite an unpredictable front three serviced by the creative powerhouse that is Eriksen.
In case the experiment with three centre forwards does not work, Hjulmand has at his disposal explosive wingers like Robert Skov and Mikkel Damsgaard. These two is likely be unleashed as substitutes in the second half, adding more energy to the Danish attack.
Supporting their attack, Denmark have two reliable midfielders too, in the shape of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Thomas Delaney. Both of them are known for their composure and work ethic in the middle of the park, and their combination in the double pivot in Hjulmand’s 4-2-3-1 will go a long way in helping the hosts dominate this affair.
Defensively, Hjulmand is facing a major selection dilemma with Joachim Andersen, Andreas Christensen, Jannik Vestergaard and Simon Kjaer competing for two places.
Kjaer, as the team captain, appears to be an automatic pick. As for his defensive partnership, Denmark are likely to go with Joachim Andersen as he offers more variety in the build-up. Joakim Maehle and Daniel Wass, meanwhile, are the guaranteed starters elsewhere in the backline, providing cover for Kasper Schmeichel in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Wass, Kjaer, Andersen, Maehle; Hojbjerg, Delaney; Poulsen, Eriksen, Braithwaite; Wind
Finland coach Markku Kanerva plays with two strikers up front. Unfortunately, the involvement of star striker Teemu Pukki is uncertain due to an ankle problem, and though we do expect him to return to full fitness, he might not feature in the entirety of the game.
That is where Joel Pohjanpalo, as the supporting striker could play a vital role for Finland, due to his snap shooting ability while Marcus Forss should serve as a backup for Pukki.
— Huuhkajat (@Huuhkajat) June 11, 2021
Elsewhere, Kanerva is most likely to stick with the 3-5-2 setup that should give his team more passion options in midfield. It might prove to be useful especially in the possession phases, with Glen Kamara, in particular, tipped to play a vital role in the second line of press, alongside fellow midfielders in Robin Lod and captain Tim Sparv.
Defensively, the back three might comprise Daniel O’Shaughnessy, Paulus Araajauri and Joona Toivio, with wingbacks Nikolai Alho and Jere Uroben providing additional assistance, although they are more than likely to camp themselves in the defensive third, either way, providing cover for Lukas Hradecky in goal.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Hradecky; O’Shaughnessy, Arajuuri, Toivio; Alho, Kamara, Sparv, Lod, Uronen; Pukki, Pohjanpalo
- Denmark and Finland’s last meeting on the international stage came way back in 2011, when Niklas Bendtner’s second-half winner helped the Danes secure a 2-1 victory.
- De rød-hvide also dominate the head to head record against Finland, emerging victorious in 40 occasions out of the 62 times these two teams met each other.
- Denmark have been in excellent scoring form lately, netting at least two or more goals in six of their last seven matches in all competitions, including the eight goals scored against Gibraltar earlier this year.
Players in Focus
Christian Eriksen (Denmark)
Christian Eriksen is the undisputed top player for Denmark, even more so following an excellent second half of the 2020/21 campaign that saw him help Inter Milan secure the Serie A title. His experience, creativity and proficiency from set-pieces are sure to be helpful in Denmark’s offensive game this weekend, as the hosts look to tear apart the Finland defence.
From a tactical perspective, Eriksen is expected to operate in the number ten position, with Martin Braithwaite and Yussuf Poulsen operating as inverted wingers. Defensively, the former Tottenham playmaker might drop in midfield, offering aid to the double pivot of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Thomas Delaney.
Lukas Hradecky (Finland)
There is no doubt about that the fact that the Finnish defence is poised to get bombarded by the excellent Denmark attack this weekend. As such, one of the country’s more well-known players in Lukas Hradecky could play a critical role in between the sticks.
The Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper is one of the best shot-stoppers in the Bundesliga, and it won’t be surprising to see him emerge as one of the best performers in the game, regardless of the result.
Denmark 2-0 Finland
Denmark are the undisputed favourites heading into this affair, owing to their excellent attack and a strong defence that offers a nice balance between the two. Although Finland are no short of surprises, their poor form heading into the tournament, coupled with the lack of star players might ultimately lead to their demise in this Group B opener.