Denmark vs England lineup for the first cracker of a semi-final at Wembley. While England will have home support, the Danes have Destiny on their side.
By Satej Paknikar | Opening Doorz Editorial | July 06, 2021
How many of us would have thought that the semi-finals of the UEFA Euro 2020 Championships would not feature fancied teams like France, Portugal, Germany and Belgium? Not many. While the semi-final lineup still features teams like England and Spain, the other two semi-finalists, Italy and Denmark have been the outsiders. While Italy is covering lost ground after missing out on Russia 2018, not many of us had Denmark on our minds.
Denmark knocking on the door of destiny
Were the Danes ‘destined’ to reach the semi-finals? Or has there been a well-planned, well-executed campaign behind their fairytale success at Euro 2020? Had destiny planned the trigger of Christian Eriksen’s emotion draining resurrection to push an entire nation to get behind their team? Or have the players simply played out of their skins for the sheer love of the game, for the love of one of them?
So what is it about the word ‘Destiny’ that is used in situations where someone achieves something against all odds?
Destiny is defined as an invincible necessity, an irresistible power or agency conceived of as determining the future. This seven-letter word has been a point of wonder among people from different walks of life, used in fairytale stories like this one. Over the last month, the Denmark Football team and all those Danish fans cheering for them have been on an emotional roller coaster ride where, in each passing moment, their belief in Destiny must have grown multifold. Their incredible journey has been filled with purpose. They are mathematically a minimum of 180 minutes away from their destination—the winners’ trophy which they surely believe can be theirs. As the famous Paulo Coelho quote goes “And when you want something all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Denmark’s Quarter-Final Czechmate
The attacking first half of the Quarter-final 2-1 win over the Czech Republic was enough to give the Danes the edge to be in the semi-finals after 29 years. Interestingly, Kasper Hjulmand fielded a 3-4-2-1 formation, which is an attacking option that enables you to field more strikers at once. Here, the two forwards can operate as strikers. You also have wing-backs who can alternate between defence and offence when required. Martin Brathwaite and Mikkel Damsgaard were the strikers while Joakim Maehle and Jens Stryger Larsen were given the wing-back role, which meant that they had to be on top of their game to stop the Czechs and also control the sideline play, which they did splendidly. The attacking mindset of the Danes fetched immediate results as Midfielder Thomas Delaney headed home from a Stryger Larsen corner kick in only the fifth minute of the game. From then on it was Denmark all the way in the first half.
Mikkel Damsgaard had a shot cleared away in the 15th minute and Delaney struck a close-range shot just wide of the post. Just before the break, Joakim Maehle, another important and in-form player, delivered an absolutely brilliant cross, which was equally well finished by Denmark’s in-form striker Kasper Dolberg. He had already scored thrice in two games that he had played and looked the complete player capable of finishing efficiently which is key for all strikers.
The Czechs had a lot of work to do to make a match out of it. They made two changes quite obviously, these had to be attacking ones for coaches are left with no choice but to reduce the deficit immediately on resumption and the Czech coach Jaroslav Silhavy did just that. Jakub Jankto and Michael Krmencík were brought it and it paid immediate dividends as Kasper Schmeichel had to save a couple of shots right at the beginning of the second half. Eventually, they got a goal back from Patrik Schick. In spite of their best attempts following this goal, the Czechs could not equalize and Denmark held on to the one-goal advantage.
England vs Denmark, clash of the spirits
The splendid Denmark fairytale now faces a stern challenge in the Semi-finals from a ‘spirited’ Gareth Southgate’s England side, basking in their thumping of Ukraine. To add to this, this mouth-watering semi-final is at Wembley, which makes it that much tougher for the Danes. Simon Kjaer though is confident of Denmark’s chances in the semis and he’s also targeting a spot in the final. “It is huge. This is insane. We aimed to go to Wembley and now we will but I would be lying if I said we’re OK with that.”
As England faced Ukraine in Rome in their QF, they made a strong statement with a thumping 4-0 win to seal their spot in the last four. Though they were the favourites; for a change, they lived up to expectations and won comfortably. Harry Kane, much to the delight of the English community, returned to his old goal-scoring self and added two more goals to his tally. This is something Denmark will have to address. In spite of their good show so far, the Danish defence at times has been challenged. But the real threat will be Raheem Sterling who has created chances as well as scored goals.
The percentage play is Denmark’s strength and it is about being alert to convert a higher percentage of chances coming your way. After all, possession and shots on goals stats are no use if you lose in spite of having higher figures on both as the Czechs did. It is essential for both teams to remember that it will be a test of temperament, more so because the spirits are high on both sides.
The Danes have got their task cut out because the quality of opposition they face now will test them to the brink. England meanwhile, also have a massive task at hand—of denying Denmark their ‘destiny’ in their own backyard at Wembley.
Tomorrow we will know if the Danes move 90 minutes towards their ‘Destiny’.
(Satej Paknikar, all of 18 years, is a young cricket enthusiast from D G Ruparel College in Mumbai, representative of the millions of young cricketers who play wherever and whenever they can. He is also game to tweet, write and discuss cricket, with statistics to back his point. Satej, who has had formal coaching stints in the western suburbs of Mumbai, is a self-motivated left-handed bowler by choice in a batsman’s world).