28 years on from their stunning triumph at Euro 1992, Denmark will be looking to rewrite their name in history for this summer’s edition.
Euro 2020 will be a return to the competition for the Danes after they failed to qualify four years ago, although they banished those failings two years later in the 2018 World Cup, going on to reach the round of 16 stage before being toppled by eventual finalists Croatia on penalties.
Europe boasts some footballing titans with the likes of France, England *cough*, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Belgium all set to feature in the summer – the latter of whom are pitted against Denmark in the group stage, with their group completed by Russia and Finland.
Ahead of the summer, we’re going to assess Denmark’s key strengths and weaknesses, and predict how far they will go at this summer’s European Championships.
It may have come down to the final group match to ensure that Åge Hareide’s men reached the tournament without the need for a playoff match, but the fact is that Denmark rarely looked troubled during their qualifying campaign.
Their only major slip up came during a 0-0 stalemate away at Georgia on matchday six. Prior to that, they secured a commendable 3-3 draw in Switzerland and narrowly missed out on three points at home to Ireland. They would then go on to beat the Swiss on their own patch before securing the point they needed against Mick McCarthy’s men to clinch second spot in the group on the final matchday.
While four draws in an eight-game group stage can leave you lingering in dangerous territory, Denmark looked solid throughout. In the biggest matches of their qualifying campaign they secured three draws and a win, and in doing so demonstrating a sufficient level of determination and mental toughness that will stand them in good stead when they go head to head with sides like Belgium in the summer.
There is a steel about Hareide’s side that makes up for the lack of world-class talents in their team; if they’re not going to beat you, they’ll sure as hell make sure you don’t beat them. That isn’t to say there isn’t quality in the side, though. Far from it.
They boast one of the Premier League’s finest goalkeepers in Kasper Schmeichel, a safe pair of hands between the sticks with experience and leadership abilities that are the backbone of this Danish side.
Notably, they also possess one of best attacking midfielders England has played host to in recent years: Christian Eriksen. The former Spurs star’s quality is unquestionable, and against sides who will likely adopt a low block like Russia and Finland, his guile and nous in the final third will be crucial.
A midfield duo of Thomas Delaney and Lasse Schöne have bags of experience and offer stability in the centre of the park, meanwhile captain Simon Kjær has been a rock in defence throughout qualifying.
This is a Denmark team who are tough to beat but boast enough quality in the right positions to ruffle a few feathers whoever they come up against. Sure, their qualifying group contained minnows Georgia and Gibraltar, but when you factor in their performances against their closest rivals, you’ll realise that they’re a well-drilled unit who make life difficult for the opposition.
For all the praise Denmark have rightfully earned for being an organised and tough to beat side, they lack quality in a couple of areas on the pitch.
At full-back, the performances of Henrik Dalsgaard and Jens Larsen were pivotal to them successfully navigating their way into the summer’s tournament, but they’re two untested defenders – one of whom is being regularly played out of position.
Dalsgaard looks destined for great things but his level at present is in the Championship with Brentford, and that added injection of quality at right-back is essential for sides looking to progress to the latter stages of an international competition. Larsen, meanwhile, is a right-back by trade, but made to play on the left of defence by Hareide due to a lack of suitable options.
The forwards are often forced to drop back into wide areas to accommodate the opposition flooding the wings, so an attacking threat is lost. And speaking of forwards, this is where Denmark are arguably at their weakest.
Gone are the days of Jon Dahl Tomasson and Preben Elkjær, with Hareide forced to choose between a set of forwards who have failed to be prolific since breaking into the national fold. Yussuf Poulsen (scored just five goals in two of his last three seasons) and Martin Braithwaite (last double-figure goal league season: never) don’t inspire, while Kasper Dolberg has netted five in just 15 outings. The lack of a regular goal scorer for De Rød-Hvide is cause for concern.
Russia’s surge into the 2018 World Cup semi-finals was one of the stories of the tournament, and the fact they’ve built on that to comfortably qualify for Euro 2020 means they’ll be no pushovers for Denmark.
However, the Danes will have enough quality in their side to see past the Russians, and Finland’s first foray into a major international tournament is unlikely to produce any shock results.
Because of that, Denmark should sneak into second spot behind unanimous favourites Belgium. If they do so, a round of 16 clash will await them against the side that finished second in Group A; which could be either Wales, Turkey or Switzerland should Italy win the group as expected.
Having beaten Switzerland already during qualifying, there is a good chance they can repeat that feat and – based on FIFA rankings at least – they could also see themselves past the other two options.
That would result in a quarter final berth, but it’s hard to see Denmark going past that stage. There is quality in the squad, no doubt, but the calibre of sides in the competition is simply too strong for the Danes, and this could be the end of the road.