Group B of Euro 2020 gets underway on Saturday afternoon and it does so with the two Scandinavian rivals within it battling it out when Denmark take on the tournament debutants Finland at a vibrant Copenhagen.
Denmark are considered dark horses for this competition by a number of judges while Finland will be out to make a similar impression on debut to Iceland in Euro 2016. Both sides know Belgium are in the group so they’ll be eager to get going with a win here.
Where to watch
This third match of the tournament will be shown live in full on BBC1 for those of us watching on from the UK. The build-up begins at 4.45pm with the match itself kicking off at 5pm.
The Danes have already tasted success in this tournament when they surprised the world in Sweden back in Euro 92. They weren’t among the elite in Europe at that time, and indeed never qualified for the event by right, but they are much more established now and look to be coming into a generation of talent which suggests a deep run in an event like this is well within their compass once again. There is a connection between the team of 92 and this one in that Kasper Schmeichel is in goal now while his father was between the sticks 29 years ago.
Denmark have had a period of being a very defensively drilled side but under their relatively new boss Kasper Hjulmand there is more of an attacking intent as evidenced by the fact that the Danes have already scored 14 in three World Cup qualifiers including four away to Austria. This is a dangerous Danish side but with the strength in depth they have defensively, especially in the central areas, they are not abandoning that side of the game either.
This will be a historic day for all concerned with football in Finland. After years of trying they have made it into an international tournament and unlike some in this competition, they qualified automatically without needing the play-offs and they deserve bags of credit for that. When you consider they had regular tournament attendees in Greece and Bosnia-Herzegovina in behind them in their qualifying group, the achievement really needs to be highlighted.
Finland have had some wonderful individual talents in the past such as Jari Litmanen, Sami Hyppia and Mikael Forssell among others but this is probably the best collective team they have had and they are maximising their potential. They aren’t necessarily the prettiest side to watch. They’ll defend deep and keep things tight and look to counter and it will be interesting to see if they can make that style work. I’m becoming convinced this will be a tournament for possession of the ball.
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Denmark have no injury concerns going into this opening match so Kasper Hjulmand has a couple of selection decisions to make. He needs to decide whether Kasper Dolberg or Jonas Wind leads his line and then he needs to choose between a strong band of central defenders which include Chelsea man Andreas Christensen and Southampton ace Jannik Vestergaard.
Finland are sweating over the fitness of two key men ahead of this opening match. Teemu Pukki played 30 minutes in the warm up match against Estonia but that was his first action for a month and he may not be fit to play the whole game. Their captain Tim Sparv is also having his fitness monitored.
It is always good to see new footballing territories emerging in these tournaments but I think Finland have got a job on their hands here. I wouldn’t have fancied them that much if Teemu Pukki was completely fit but the fact that he is questionable is only going to make things a lot harder for them. To put a potential absence of him into significance, in qualifying he notched 10 of their 16 goals. The next best was two so if he isn’t on the pitch for 90 minutes and at his dangerous best Finland could struggle for goals.
They may do that anyway against a Denmark side who are very competent defensively but as I have suggested are much more intent on damaging sides at the other end of the pitch. They are creating a reputation for putting weaker sides to the sword too and they have plenty of attacking depth on the bench, another thing which is going to be a feature for teams who want to progress in this competition. I think Denmark win and the value is in them to win to nil. Eight of Denmark’s wins since last September have come without conceding and they can add to that statistic here.
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