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EURO 2024 Preview: Can Denmark rediscover their brilliant Euro 2020 form?

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (left) is among the players who will be leading the Danish national team in Germany
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (left) is among the players who will be leading the Danish national team in GermanyThomas Traasdahl/Ritzau Scanpix
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar was a tournament to forget for Kasper Hjulmand and the Danish national team after an otherwise fantastic European Championship in 2021. After a shaky qualifying campaign, the Danes have shown promise again in the build-up to Euro 2024, and the question now becomes whether Hjulmand's troops can rediscover their form from 2021.

Group winners in qualification

Denmark was placed in a decent group when the draw for the qualifying tournament for this year's European Championships was made in October 2022. Kasper Hjulmand and Co. were big favourites in a group that included Slovenia, Finland, Kazakhstan, Northern Ireland and San Marino in addition to the Danes.

But it wasn't a straightforward route to the finals for Denmark as, with two surprising defeats along the way, the first of those against a sensational Kazakhstan in Astana, Denmark actually ended up level on points with Slovenia at the top of the group.

Fortunately for Rasmus Hojlund and Co. there were two places with direct access to Germany, and with better results than the Slovenians, who Denmark first drew with in Ljubljana and then beat at home in Copenhagen, Denmark still ended up as group winners.

Despite a less-than-convincing qualifying stage, Denmark arrive in Germany in good shape
Despite a less-than-convincing qualifying stage, Denmark arrive in Germany in good shapeFlashscore

Last ride for several stars

With the group victory in qualifying, Denmark is now ready for this year's European Championship, and in Group C, they face a reunion with the aforementioned Slovenia, while England and Serbia also await the champions from 1992.

For several of the players on the team, it is not inconceivable that this year's finals will be the last major tournament in their national team careers or at least the last European Championship. Several of the biggest Danish names are now well into their 30s.

Kasper Schmeichel, aged 37, Simon Kjaer, 35, and Thomas Delaney and Christian Eriksen, both aged 32, are all unlikely to be able to make their mark at Euro 2028, and similarly, there has long been speculation about when national coach Hjulmand will step aside.

A strong collective

Despite the fiasco in Qatar and a shaky Euros qualification, it must be said to Hjulmand's credit that the Danish national team seems to be a very strong collective, and it will be precisely this feature of the side that will carry the Danes forward in this summer's tournament.

17 of the selected players already have more than 25 caps on their CVs, and seven of them have even played more than 50 games for the Danish national team, so most of the players know each other intimately on and off the pitch.

It was precisely this collective that, after Christian Eriksen's scary cardiac arrest in the Danes' opening match in Copenhagen at Euro 2021, took Denmark all the way to the semi-finals. There, England needed an own goal in normal time and a penalty kick in extra time, which was initially missed but followed up with a goal, to reach the final.

21-year-old Rasmus Hojlund is Denmark's biggest star
21-year-old Rasmus Hojlund is Denmark's biggest starLiselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

On the other hand, the Danish team offers very few real star names, with Hojlund by far the biggest name, while his Manchester United teammate, the aforementioned Eriksen, has been reduced to a bench warmer at Old Trafford.

Especially in defence, Hjulmand has a solid base, even if captain Kjaer is unable to play at all, with Barcelona's Andreas Christensen, Crystal Palace's Joachim Andersen, and the towering Jannik Vestergaard, who has been reborn at Leicester City.

In central midfield, Hjulmand also has two rock-solid players to lean on in the form of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Morten Hjulmand. Although the former rarely starts under Ange Postecoglou at Tottenham, the experienced Hojbjerg still has plenty to offer the team, as he proved with goals against both Sweden and Norway in the warm-up matches. Likewise, Hjulmand has proven to be a big player for Sporting in Portugal.

Formation & tactics

Denmark's final friendly match before the finals, a 3-1 win over Norway at Brondby Stadium, was 52-year-old Hjulmand's 50th game in charge, and during his coaching career, the former FC Nordsjaelland and Mainz coach has shown tactical flexibility.

The Danes have often fluctuated between playing with three and four men in the back line, but in the two aforementioned matches before this summer's finals, three men were deployed at the back in both cases.

Hjulmand is expected to do the same against Slovenia in the opening match in Stuttgart on Sunday, June 16th, because, in both meetings with Slovenia in the qualifiers, a three-man backline with two attacking wingbacks was deployed.

Denmark's starting lineup against Norway
Denmark's starting lineup against NorwayFlashscore

With Kaer's physical problems in mind, it seems most realistic that these three places will be filled by the three centre-backs Christensen, Andersen and Vestergaard, while the two wingbacks will probably be Joakim Maehle and Victor Kristiansen, although Alexander Bah started at right-back in both friendly matches.

In central midfield, Hojbjerg and Hjulmand are likely to take care of the two deep positions with Eriksen in front of them, while up front, it will probably be a dynamic duo consisting of the combative and creative Jonas Wind and the purer nine Hojlund.

A difficult route

With the group of England, Slovenia and Serbia in mind, most people expect Hjulmand's Danish squad to progress from the preliminary group stage. Paradoxically, however, finishing third might be an advantage for Denmark.

If, as expected by the bookmakers, England are group winners of Group C, while Germany, as expected by the bookmakers, take first place in Group A, the runners-up from the Danish group will face the German hosts at Westfalenstadion in the round of 16.

Denmark's group
Denmark's groupFlashscore

It will be a huge challenge very early in the knockout phase, but on the other hand, it is a big, big risk to take if you instead choose to go for third place, which does not necessarily mean advancement.

It's not at all inconceivable that Denmark will have to leave the tournament in the round of 16 if they finish second in the group stage and Julian Nagelsmann's German squad will be waiting in the first knockout round.

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