Few will expect Denmark to repeat their shock Euro 1992 triumph but a run to the quarter-finals or the last four this time out is a realistic target.
The Danes have a relatively favourable group and are expected to progress, with two eminently winnable games against Finland and Russia.
Belgium are a much more daunting opponent, however, and have the psychological edge of boasting two recent victories over this Denmark side.
We continue our series of Euro 2020 articles by examining their players in detail to see if any can compete for a place in your Fantasy squads.
ROAD TO QUALIFICATION
Denmark made it through all eight qualifying games unbeaten yet could only come runners-up to Switzerland in their group, with four wins and as many draws leaving them a point short of the summit.
That record, mostly against inferior opposition on paper, feels like a fair reflection of what we can expect.
They have proven to be a defensively solid side that can dominate weaker teams like group opponents Finland and even Russia but they will clearly be underdogs when it comes to facing down Belgium and any heavyweights in the later rounds.
However, Denmark are under new management since qualification, so perhaps we want to pay even greater attention to more recent results from the Nations League when evaluating this side.
Manager Kasper Hjulmand is relatively untried at the highest level but he has a good record with Denmark so far: eight wins, one draw and two losses from his 11 games in charge.
Again, this record showcases an ability to beat weaker opposition comfortably, which might help them in this group. And under the new coach, they still look defensively solid and tough to beat.
You could even point to their Nations League triumph over England as evidence that this Denmark side can cause upsets. They have also beaten Sweden, who are more than competent.
Denmark open with Finland, then face Belgium, with Russia coming last. And they may get an advantage from playing all three of these matches in front of home crowds in Copenhagen.
The Finland and Russia games could be considered good opportunities for both attacking and defensive returns in the Euro 2020 Fantasy game.
Finland’s attack isn’t particularly fearsome and they look leaky at the back too: they were probably lucky to ship just 10 goals in qualifying given the chances they were giving away.
Next will come Belgium and getting anything from that game is clearly a tough ask. They played the Red Devils in the Nations League as recently as November, a result which might weigh heavily on managers’ thinking.
The Danes lost 4-1 that day but this could be credited to excellent Belgian finishing and a kind bounce or two, rather than Denmark giving away too many quality chances.
On paper, Russia looks a bit tougher than Finland. But whilst Russia’s raw qualifying statistics speak of their supposedly monstrous attacking threat and defensive solidity, this is largely a result of them battering minnows like San Marino. They are not hitting those levels versus sterner opponents.
Overall, the Danes have a solid defensive record in qualifying and in more recent Nations League and World Cup qualifying games.
Hjulmand will probably favour a 4-2-3-1 or may put up a more attacking 4-3-3 when he thinks Denmark are the superior side. Either way, we can be sure one man will be at the heart of it – Christian Eriksen (€9.0m)
This can be both a blessing and a curse because when so much goes through one player it often makes them an attractive Fantasy asset.
Yet, whilst it would be wrong to call this a one-man team, if Eriksen were to get injured, Denmark could really struggle.
- Most starts: Kasper Schmeichel, Simon Kjaer, Christian Eriksen, Thomas Delaney, Jens Stryger Larsen (8), Yussuf Poulsen (7), Martin Braithwaite (6)
- Most goals: Christian Eriksen (5), Christian Gytkjaer (4), Martin Braithwaite, Robert Skov (3)
- Most assists: Christian Eriksen (5), Simon Kjaer, Daniel Wass (3)
- Goals scored: 23
- Goals conceded: 6
- Clean sheets: 4
THE KEY TARGETS
If Denmark score, the chances of Christian Eriksen (€9.0m) having something to do with it are very high.
He is the focal point of this team in open play and he takes penalties, free-kicks and corners. His record for Denmark has been stellar over the years, and he hit another purple patch in the October/November 2020 Nations League games, scoring four goals in as many games. He was unlucky not to add at least a couple of assists, too.
Numbers from recent World Cup qualifiers are less flattering. In fact, he blanked in all three of these games for Denmark in 2021. He still had some decent chances, though.
You could also point to a downturn in his domestic output this season. If you follow Serie A at all, you will know that he really struggled to win over Antonio Conte at Inter. Yet, from the turn of the year, he started to become an important player for the team on the way to winning the Scudetto.
He played a deeper role and was forced to fit in with Conte’s system but with Denmark, it’s different. This team is effectively built around him and he is given far more freedom, so we may not want to read too much into domestic struggles. Indeed, with Conte gone, Eriksen may want to prove a point about what he can do when given the chance.
€9.0m puts him up there in the top 10 most expensive midfielders but he has the ability to go toe to toe with pricier assets in the €9.5m-€10.5m bracket – at least against Finland and Russia.
The 22-year-old Jonas Wind (€6.0m) could make for a strong differential and budget forward. You can’t call him nailed-on but most informed observers consider him likely to start up top. He plays in the Danish first division where he has been scoring for fun and creating some chances, too.
Whilst we always have to be careful not to assume numbers from weaker leagues will translate to a bigger stage, Wind’s stats still make for impressive reading. And, they make the jump to international level quite nicely, with a deserved two goals and one assist in the last three games – including one against Belgium.
If you’re looking to get into the solid Denmark defence, probably with Finland and Russia in mind, Milan’s Simon Kjaer comes in at just €4.5m.
Perhaps don’t bank on it but he does have some reasonable goal threat from set-pieces: if he scored over the tournament, that would not be outrageous based on the chances he has been getting recently.
By contrast, likely centre-half partner Andreas Christensen (€5.5m) is significantly more expensive and comes with no obvious threat.
There is somewhat puzzling pricing from the Euro 2020 game with Denmark defenders here.
Perhaps the thinking is that Jannik Vestergaard (€5.0m) challenges Kjaer but that would be surprising given the latter is a regular starter, not to mention the captain.
Left-back Joakim Maehle (€4.5m) has a small doubt over his security of starts but if playing, he has slightly better goal threat than Kjaer. Either of these would be reasonable options in that price range and the decision here is whether you want to trade security of starts for slightly higher threat. Watch the team news closely, here.
Between the sticks, Kasper Schmeichel (€5.0m) looks fairly priced for a goalkeeper with two realistic clean sheet prospects in the group stage.
THE LONG SHOTS
Barcelona’s Martin Braithwaite (€7.5m) is often underestimated and is a credible mid-price forward. He’s not a name many think fits alongside Lionel Messi on a teamsheet but he does his job and he is a form player for Denmark, with attacking returns in his last three appearances. And that’s no fluke – he gets and creates quality chances with regularity.
The main objection would be that Wind is cheaper and arguably better. Braithwaite could be a differential, though, because many tend to underestimate him.
It’s hard to recommend Yussuf Poulsen at (€8m), who is running up a long goal drought for club and country. Frustratingly, he does get chances so if he scored you could not call it a surprise based on his expected goal (xG) numbers. Yet, if you follow him for Leipzig, you’ll be familiar with wasteful finishing and long dry spells.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (€5.5m) is a familiar name but despite a goal and an assist in his last game, it would be a reach to call him a Fantasy asset. You’d likely have to be looking for an extreme differential or a squad filler midfielder to be attracted to him.
Dortmund’s Thomas Delaney (€5.5m) is in a similar vein to Hojbjerg but arguably a little more likely to score and assist, though not by much.
Robert Skov (€7m) is a very talented player who could be dangerous, yet his versatility (read: unpredictability) and insecurity of starts is off-putting in light of that high price tag. It might be worth monitoring the line-ups in the warm-up matches as the tournament gets closer, as with a starting role, he could do well.
Youngster Andreas Skov-Olsen (€6.5m) is also a big talent and we may see him from the bench. In fact, he’s managed two goals and two assists in just 100 minutes for Denmark in 2021. That price tag feels a touch high for a likely substitute, especially with probable starter Wind sitting there at €6m. Yet, in the event of injuries, he could do some damage.
FANTEAM PRICE CORNER
Eriksen can be snapped up for an appealing €7.0m in FanTeam, with Wind just half a million cheaper.
Maehle at €4.5m catches the eye, with Skov one of the cheapest forwards in the game.