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Scouting report: Rasmus Hojlund key to Denmark hopes of more European Championship drama in Germany


Denmark’s previous triumph as rank outsiders in the 1992 European Championships means they cannot be underestimated by England in Group C.

In the last tournament, the Danes reached the semi-finals where they were eliminated by Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions, before Kasper Hjulmand’s swashbuckling side breezed through qualifying for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Things have been tougher since, however.

They crashed out at the group stage in Qatar after failing to fire and, although they topped Euro 2024 qualifying Group H, they did so only on goal difference ahead of Slovenia.

Denmark will boast plenty of Premier League experience
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Denmark will boast plenty of Premier League experience

What can we expect from Denmark this time around? Solid and unpleasant is how they have been described while Hjulmand showed during the qualifying campaign a tactical flexibility having changed formation on numerous occasions.

The Danes have a good chance of escaping their group, but they are not expected to replicate the feat of three years ago. Mikkel Damsgaard, who scored a brilliant free-kick in the semi-final defeat by England, has seen his career stall at Brentford on these shores.

Christian Eriksen’s powers also appear to be on the wane while it was a surprise to Celtic supporters to learn that Matt O’Riley hadn’t been included in the squad despite scoring 19 goals and providing 18 assists this season.

Denmark face Slovenia in their Group C opener
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Denmark face Slovenia in their Group C opener

Did you know?

Denmark’s 33 matches at the UEFA EURO have produced on average 2.79 goals (42 for, 50 against), that’s the highest ratio amongst the 12 teams to have played more than 20 matches in the competition.

On O’Riley’s omission, head coach Hjulmand said: “I have chosen six other midfielders but it was tight. Damsgaard and Andreas Christensen can also cover positions in the midfield. It has gone beyond Matt, but it was a difficult choice. I know he will play a lot of international matches.”

Pressed on what O’Riley could have done differently for Celtic to earn a spot, he responded: “He couldn’t have done anything differently. He could hardly do better than what he did this season.”

Wieghorst: Denmark must find way to accommodate Eriksen

Christian Eriksen will look to inspire Denmark to glory
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Christian Eriksen will look to inspire Denmark to glory

“We had a difficult 2023 in the qualifying campaign – finally, in the end, we qualified, which is the main thing, but we struggled in certain games,” Denmark assistant coach Morten Wieghorst said.

The former Denmark midfielder said his side went into qualifying knowing they would enjoy a vast amount of possession, but, as in Qatar, they often struggled to break down teams.

That, however, is unlikely to happen in Germany, where they take on England, Serbia and Slovenia in Group C, none of whom are likely to just sit back against the Danes.

“The term ‘easier’ I wouldn’t use but the games are going to be different,” Wieghorst said wryly.

Head coach Kasper Hjulmand is aiming for the knockouts
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Head coach Kasper Hjulmand is aiming for the knockouts

There have been the highs of winning Euro 1992 to the moment which transcended the sport in the last tournament when midfielder Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest.

Despite Eriksen’s heart issue, and him not being as fleet-footed as he once was, the 32-year-old is still expected to play a key role for a team in which he has been the dominant creative force for more than a decade.

“He can find that space and time to exploit the defences of the opponents, so that’s his major strength. And then in terms of pressing, we have to accommodate a player of his stature,” Wieghorst explained.

Another major strength for the team will be the estimated 50,000 Danes expected to attend the games over the border in Germany, an asset Wieghorst does not underestimate.

“We want to make it exciting, we want to give them something to shout about, and to have a great party and a great time in Germany,” he said.

How did Denmark perform in qualifying?

Kasper Hjulmand is the second Denmark head coach to lead the team in three consecutive major tournaments, after Sepp Piontek (EURO 1984, 1986 World Cup, EURO 1988). Morten Olsen was in charge at four major tournaments, but never three in a row
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Hjulmand is the second Denmark head coach to lead the team in three consecutive major tournaments, after Sepp Piontek (EURO 1984, 1986 World Cup, EURO 1988). Morten Olsen was in charge at four major tournaments, but never three in a row

Denmark topped their qualifying group with 22 points, the first time they had topped a European qualifier group since the 2012 edition. The Danes won all five home games in this qualifying campaign but lost two of their five away from home (W2 D1).

Experience could be key in Germany. Croatia’s squad have the most caps in the tournament, 1,169, with Luka Modric (175) one of four centurions. Portugal are 39 behind with Switzerland and Denmark the other teams above 1,000. England’s 651 is the seventh-lowest total with Scotland ninth-lowest on 744.

Surprisingly, Denmark – along with Albania – are the only teams without a domestic-based player in their respective squads.

England have a tournament-high 24 home-based players, with Madrid star Bellingham and Bayern striker Kane the only exceptions, while Italy have 23 – Jorginho and Guglielmo Vicario play in England with Gianluigi Donnarumma at PSG.

How have Denmark’s warm-up games gone?

Denmark's training base is the Hermann-Saam-Stadium in Baden-Württemberg
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Denmark’s training base is the Hermann-Saam-Stadium in Baden-Württemberg

Denmark wrapped up their Euro 2024 preparations with a 3-1 win over Norway at Brondby Stadium that saw Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg score for the third international game in a row, with Erling Haaland grabbing a consolation goal for the visitors.

Midfielder Hojbjerg got Saturday’s proceedings underway with a 12th-minute strike from his powerful right foot, and the Danes added a second when defender Jannick Vestergaard headed home Andreas Skov Olsen’s corner nine minutes later.

Did you know?

Since winning the UEFA EURO in 1992, Denmark have reached the knockout stages of the tournament on only two occasions: quarter-finals in 2004, semi-finals in 2020.

With Denmark making a slew of second-half changes, Haaland had a goal chalked off after a VAR review in the 65th minute but there was no stopping him seven minutes later when a superb Martin Odegaard pass teed him up to reduce the deficit. Youssef Poulsen netted a third in second-half stoppage time.

It capped a successful week of warm-up matches after Eriksen scored a stunning late winner in a 2-1 victory over Sweden at a sold-out Parken stadium four days earlier.

It cemented his spot as the Danes’ most potent creative force ahead of the tournament in Germany, where they will face Slovenia, England and Serbia in Group C, with the Slovenians up first in Stuttgart on June 16.

Can Hojlund haunt England?

Rasmus Højlund scored seven goals in UEFA EURO 2024 qualifying for Denmark
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Hojlund notched seven times in qualifying, more than any other player, also having the most shots (23), shots on target (13) and highest xG (5.2) of any Danish player

Rasmus Hojlund will be motivated more than most to wrestle top spot off England after a rather indifferent first season in the Premier League as part of a dysfunctional Manchester United side.

The 21-year-old scored 10 league goals in 30 appearances following his £72m move from Atalanta – three more than he scored in qualifying for the Euros – and at international level, he has rarely let his country down.

His hat-trick against Finland in March made him the youngest (20 years and 47 days) hat-trick scorer for Denmark in a Euro qualifier since a 19-year-old Michael Laudrup in 1983 against Luxembourg.

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A look back at Rasmus Hojlund’s red-hot streak before an injury setback derailed his season

Speaking ahead of the tournament, manager Hjulmand said on Hojlund: “I played with Rasmus’ father and have known and seen Rasmus since he was very young. I’ve watched many of his matches as a youth player and know where he comes from. His great quality is his personality.

“He is one of those young players who looks around every single day and thinks: ‘What can I learn? How can I improve?’ He has such an open mindset that revolves around: ‘I want to be better.’ That’s what shapes Rasmus. He constantly wants to become better, and he wants to be told that as well.

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Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville disagree over Manchester United’s Rasmus Hojlund as the Danish striker comes towards the end of his debut campaign at Old Trafford.

“He wants to be challenged, and thrives on getting better. When he didn’t make it to the World Cup, for example, which I thought was just too early, I went down to him in Bergen and showed him some clips regarding running and heading the ball in those situations.

“And then suddenly, one winter day, I was told that he was training hard. And then I saw, for example, that match against Finland where he scored three goals. He moves incredibly well and it’s not by chance that Rasmus takes steps forward because it’s his mindset, it’s his personality.

“It’s about leveraging the things that are around him for the better. That personality can take him a long way. We’re already very pleased with him but there’s more to come.”

Who could emerge as a household name?

Andreas Skov Olsen could emerge as a breakout star
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Andreas Skov Olsen could emerge as a breakout star

Denmark have produced more than their fair share of goalscoring wingers with the ability to captivate fans and the latest is Skov Olsen, who is set to step out of the shadow of players such as the Laudrup brothers.

After breaking through at FC Nordsjaelland and spending three seasons with Bologna, the 24-year-old from Hilleroed has rediscovered his best scoring form this past season at Club Brugge in Belgium, with 26 goals in all competitions.

Skov Olsen’s breakout scoring season in Belgium comes at an intriguing time for Hjulmand’s side and may well prompt a positional shake-up from the Denmark manager in Germany.

Previously playmaker Eriksen occupied the space on the right of midfield that Skov Olsen prefers but the latter’s pace, close control and lethal left foot make him a huge threat as he cuts in from the wing.

As an added bonus, Skov Olsen is also more than capable with his right foot as shown by some deft chipped finishes in his club career.

Denmark struggled badly to create chances at the World Cup in Qatar but Skov Olsen is helping fill the void
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Denmark struggled badly to create chances at the World Cup in Qatar but Skov Olsen is helping fill the void

To truly prosper in Germany, Skov Olsen will need to show that he is able to score against high-level opposition – he netted only three times in 70 games for Bologna and his last international goal came in September 2022 against France.

Like many of Denmark’s top players, demands will be placed on Skov Olsen’s intelligence and tactical flexibility as his side seek to navigate their way out of a difficult group.

If he stays clear of injury, Skov Olsen may well be the latest in a long line of Danish attackers to excite the team’s fanatical supporters.

Skov Olsen has had a breakout scoring season in Belgium
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Skov Olsen has had a breakout scoring season in Belgium

By the way, keep an eye out also for holding midfielder Morten Hjulmand. There’s no relation with head coach Kasper, in case you were wondering.

The 24-year-old arrives off the back of a stellar season with Sporting as part of Ruben Amorim’s Portuguese league title-winning team.

Hjulmand only made his Denmark debut in September, so is a bit of a late bloomer on the international stage.

Full Denmark squad

Goalkeepers: Kasper Schmeichel (Anderlecht), Frederik Ronnow (Union Berlin), Mads Hermansen (Leicester City).

Defenders: Andreas Christensen (Barcelona), Simon Kjaer (AC Milan), Joachim Andersen (Crystal Palace), Jannik Vestergaard (Leicester City), Victor Nelsson (Galatasaray), Alexander Bah (Benfica), Joakim Maehle (Wolfsburg), Rasmus Kristensen (Roma), Victor Kristiansen (Bologna).

Midfielders: Christian Eriksen (Manchester United), Thomas Delaney (Anderlecht), Morten Hjulmand (Sporting Lisbon), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Tottenham), Christian Norgaard (Brentford), Mathias Jensen (Brentford), Mikkel Damsgaard (Brentford).

Forwards: Jacob Bruun Larsen (Burnley), Andreas Skov Olsen (Club Brugge), Anders Dreyer (Anderlecht), Kasper Dolberg (Anderlecht), Rasmus Hojlund (Manchester United), Jonas Wind (Wolfsburg), Yussuf Poulsen (RB Leipzig).



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