EURO 2020.com’s Denmark reporter Sture Sandø has been with his team on an emotional rollercoaster ride, and they are now within sight of the final. Is this really happening?
There’s team spirit and then there’s Denmark’s team spirit
After a shocking start, the spirit within this team has just grown and grown. Seeing Yussuf Poulsen’s reaction in the stands after Kasper Dolberg, his direct rival for a place in the starting line-up, scored against Wales said it all. The players are there for each other, and nobody questions that the team comes before the individual. All the players know that they are “a part of something bigger”, as the Danish Football Association’s motto says.
Knowing that your team-mates have got your back no matter what makes a difference. That’s how dark horses like Denmark have made it to the semis, and why they could still go further.
The 12th man
Lots of teams at EURO 2020 can call on impressive support, but the backing for this Denmark team has been like nothing I’ve ever seen. Every time they play, time stands still. Right now, the only available time slot for a COVID vaccination in Denmark is when the final kicks off. The Danish ‘roligans’ – literally ‘peaceful hooligans’ – blew the roof off Parken Stadium when Denmark played at home during the group stage, and brought their passion to Amsterdam and even distant Baku in the knockout rounds.
Meanwhile back at home, it seems like every little square or local village hall has been turned into a public viewing facility on matchdays, and traffic has stood still on city streets at full-time as fans come out to celebrate in the streets. Martin Braithwaite put it best after the quarter-final win against the Czech Republic: “I wish I were [on Copenhagen’s City Hall Square]! I would love to be able to be part of it.”
Denmark keep coming back stronger
The Hydra of Greek myth was a nine-headed water serpent; every time an assailant chopped one of its heads off, two more grew back from the fresh wound. It is a story that has kept coming back to me when I have been thinking about the national team during EURO 2020. Following Christian Eriksen’s medical emergency, Denmark lost their most recognised player and their leader on the park. In his absence, 21-year-old Mikkel Damsgaard – the youngest player in the squad – has stepped up to fill that sizeable creative gap.
When Poulsen and Daniel Wass were ruled out for the round of 16, Kasper Dolberg and Jens Stryger just took over. When Thomas Delaney’s tank is empty, Christian Nørgaard slips in to replace him to perfection. The starting XI is great, but the back-up players continue to take Denmark to a new level.
On the other hand…
Denmark have scored in every game since that awful opening-night encounter with Finland. Their tally of 11 is already a national EURO record, but they are about to come up against an England side that have not conceded a single goal during this tournament. Getting to the final will involve breaking down that defence (or taking Gareth Southgate’s side to penalties at 0-0), and I’m not confident that anyone can do that at the moment.