Denmark face Czechs for Euro 2020 semi-finals
BAKOU from Azerbaijan
From desperation to see a teammate suffer cardiac arrest to the quarter-finals of the European Championship, Denmark continues one way or another.
Denmark will face the Czech Republic on Saturday, exactly three weeks after midfielder Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch in the team’s opening game and had to be resuscitated with a defibrillator.
As Eriksen recovers – first in hospital and now at home – Denmark has improved at Euro 2020. A 4-1 win over Russia took Denmark out of the group stage after two defeats. Beating Wales 4-0 in the round of 16 equaled the team’s best performance since “Danish Dynamite” won the 1992 European Championship.
âFrom a cultural point of view, there are similarities. The values ââof sticking (together), one for all and all for one, “Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg said Thursday.” There is also this pride in playing for your country and all these values ââwhich I think , have not changed too much. since 1992.
âBut my greatest respect for the â²92 guys because they won. We haven’t done anything yet.
Since the âshockâ of Eriksen’s sudden collapse, Hojbjerg said, Denmark has gone through huge emotional ups and downs.
âNow we’re in the quarterfinals, so it’s been a bit of a roller coaster, a big mountain,â he said. âAnd the good thing is we’re still hungry. We’re still determined to push further.
More than half of the 26-man squad had yet to be born when Denmark beat Germany 2-0 in the 1992 final. The only European quarter-final appearance since then was in 2004, a 3-0 defeat against the Czech Republic. Hojbjerg was 8 at the time and remembers he was “not very happy” that he couldn’t watch the game because of a school trip.
This tournament also ended in a disappointment for the Czechs. They lost to the future Greek champion 1-0 in the semi-final. As Czechoslovakia the team won the European title in 1976. As the Czech Republic the highlight was to be runner-up to Germany in 1996.
Denmark and the Czech Republic both performed at their best at Euro 2020 playing high intensity physical football against opponents who wanted possession. They could end up canceling each other out in the quarterfinals. This plays into the minds of Danish coach Kasper Hjulmand, so much so that he admitted he was disappointed that the Czech side had beaten the Netherlands 2-0 in the round of 16.
“I would have preferred to play in the Netherlands,” Hjulmand told Danish broadcaster DR on Monday. “Now we are facing for the first time (in the tournament) a team that I think can match our own intensity.”
Danish striker Yussuf Poulsen could return after missing the game against Wales with a muscle injury, when substitute Kasper Dolberg scored twice. Another goal would see Czech Republic forward Patrik Schick take on Cristiano Ronaldo as the tournament leader with five goals.
Few Danish or Czech fans will be at the Baku Olympic Stadium for the game. Only Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, has so far had more than a few hundred fans during matches in the city.
âIn my opinion, it doesn’t really make sense (to play in Baku). We are a little frustrated but we respect this decision, “Czech Republic midfielder Michal Sadilek said on Thursday through an interpreter on our next game.
Plans for a Czech charter flight to Baku fell apart because too few fans agreed to go. Denmark could have up to 1,000 supporters and offer 50 of its most loyal supporters a ride on the federation plane.
Denmark felt closer than most to their fans, who pushed the team to beat Russia in Copenhagen. In Amsterdam, too, the Danes were home favorites in what looked like a home game against Wales.
“Every time we put on the jersey, every time we wear the Danish national team badge, we play for the country, we have the country with us,” Hojbjerg said. âSo that way they will always be with us. Everyone will always be with us.