Denmark coach would rather face the Netherlands at Euro 2020
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — When the Czech Republic knocked the Netherlands out of the European Championship, most experts thought Denmark’s path to the semifinals got a little bit easier.
Not Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand.
“I would rather have played the Netherlands,” Hjulmand told Danish broadcaster DR. “Now we’re facing a team for the first time (in the tournament) that I think can match our own intensity.”
Denmark will face the Czechs in the quarterfinals on Saturday in Baku, Azerbaijan. Hjulmand’s team beat Wales 4-0 in the round of the 16 before the Czech Republic ousted the Netherlands 2-0, a result that many viewed as a surprise after the Dutch impressed during the group stage.
Hjulmand, though, pointed out that the Czechs employ a similar style to his own team, which is based on a collective performance rather than relying on individual stars.
“We have worn our opponents down gradually and have played with a high intensity in our press and transitions,” Hjulmand said. “Now we can’t be surprised that we face a team that has the same work ethic and the same intensity in their pressing.”
Denmark has already staged a remarkable turnaround in this tournament after Christian Eriksen’s collapse in the first game and two losses to start the group stage. Now the Danes have the chance to reach the semifinals of a major tournament for the first time since becoming European champions in 1992. The Czechs reached the final of Euro 1996 and beat Denmark 3-0 in the 2004 quarterfinals.
With a full week between games, Hjulmand gave his players the day off Monday before individual training sessions on Tuesday. He also gave a positive update on captain Simon Kjaer, who had to exit the Wales game with wrapping around his right thigh in the second half. Kjaer was still undergoing treatment, but Hjulmand said the center back is expected to be ready to play on Saturday.
”They’re working on Simon and we all think he’ll be ready,” Hjulmand said.
After playing all three group games at home in Copenhagen and then facing Wales in nearby Amsterdam, the game in Baku is likely to be the first time at Euro 2020 that Denmark can’t rely on having massive support from fans in the stadium. Baku is more than 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles) from Copenhagen, and those fans who do travel there could then struggle to attend a possible semifinal match in London because of British travel restrictions.
“Of course I want the fans to come to Baku,” Denmark forward Martin Braithwaite said. “I’m not thinking so far ahead (to the semifinals). If they can make it to Baku, we greatly appreciate it. But if not, I know we have massive support here at home.”
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