Verdict: Denmark win
Best odds: 4/9
Denmark and Finland are set to begin their respective Euro 2020 campaigns when they face each other in Group B on Saturday afternoon at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen. Belgium and Russia, the remaining two teams of the pack, play in the evening of the same day at the Krestovsky Stadium (Gazprom Arena) in Sankt Petersburg.
Denmark’s history at European Championships took an unexpected turn in 1992, when they failed to qualify for the tournament but were still given the chance to take part due to Yugoslavia being banned from all international sporting events while war blasted the Balkan country apart. They stunned the football world by going on to win the trophy, beating reigning world champions Germany in the final by 2-0. At the time, Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel stood between the posts, and now, 29 years later, the place is reserved for his son, Kasper, who won the Premier League in 2016 with Leicester City. However, there was luck for Denmark that would see them enter the Euros that year, as they failed to qualify again.
This time around, they managed it by finishing the qualification process second to Switzerland in Group D, picking up 16 points from eight matches.
The team, under the command of Kasper Hjulmand, lost only once in their previous 12 matches in all competitions, drawing 1-1 against Germany and beating Bosnia and Herzegovina by 2-0 in the friendlies leading up to the tournament.
There are several Premier League players in the Denmark squad. Apart from Schmeichel, there will be defenders Andreas Christensen and Jannik Vestergaard of Chelsea and Southampton, respectively. Midfielder Christian Eriksen is also there, whose name became famous during his days with Tottenham Hotspur but who now plies his trade with Inter Milan in the Serie A. AC Milan centre-back Simon Kjaer in nailed on to start, as is midfielder Thomas Delaney of Borussia Dortmund.
Upfront, they have the likes of Barcelona’s Martin Braithwaite, RB Leipzig’s Yussuf Poulsen, and Kasper Dolberg of OGC Nice.
The task of progressing from this group will be extremely difficult for Finland, and there’s no hiding from the fact that they’ve done extremely well to get to this point in the first place. However, the players chosen by Markku Kanerva will certainly not be content by just making up the numbers at the tournament; like all the others, they are there to do the best they can.
This will be Finland’s first appearance at a European Championship, which highlights the fact that these players achieved something that the likes of Jari Litmanen and Sami Hyypia in their day could not. It was therefore a great day in their football history when they secured second place in Group J of the qualifications, behind Italy.
On the other hand, Finland’s preparations for the upcoming tournament haven’t gone extremely well. They suffered two defeats in the pre-Euro friendlies, 3-2 to Switzerland and 2-0 to neighbours Sweden.
Finland’s starting XI for this match should include the squad’s top scorer, Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki, though there had been some concerns over his fitness in the last few days. Joel Pohjanpalo, set to return to Bayer Leverkusen from his loan with Union Berlin at the end of the month, should play alongside Pukki upfront.
In the middle of the park, there should be a place for Tim Sparv, regardless of 34-year-old being set to run out of contract at AE Larisa in Greece, as well as Glen Kamara of Rangers. Leverkusen’s Lukas Hradecky is the first choice in goal.
With all due respect to Finland, Denmark simply have more quality in their ranks and are therefore the favourites to win the game. What’s more, they have to make sure they do win if they intend to go through, because tougher opposition awaits in the two rounds that come after.
Verdict: Denmark win
Best odds: 4/9
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