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Hoping for another title at Euro 2020, Denmark faces Finland

While the closest thing Finland has to a star is Norwich striker Teemu Pukki, Denmark has an impressive spine that runs from goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel up through the centre-back pairing of Andreas Christensen and Simon Kjaer to Tottenham midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Inter Milan playmaker Christian Eriksen.

Finland, though, showed great cohesiveness in qualifying for its first major tournament under coach Markku Kanerva. That’s in part because the core of Kanerva’s team has been together since he led them to the Under-19 Euro in 2009.

With that kind of tight-knit bond, Finland could spring a few surprises at Euro 2020. And Denmark, of course, knows all about springing an upset at this tournament — having won the 1992 European Championship in one of the sport’s biggest shocks.

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Now Denmark has to deal with the status of being a big favorite — at least for one game. Russia and top-ranked Belgium are also in the group, which means a win against Finland is probably a must if Denmark is to advance to the round of 16.

And Denmark is already looking even further ahead than that. Because while many of the current Denmark players weren’t even born in 1992, that improbable title run clearly still lingers in their collective minds.

“The entire Danish people know what happened in 1992,” said Eriksen, who was four months old when Denmark beat Germany in that final. “They’ve made movies and TV series about that (title), and every player from that team is still really well known in Denmark. Their legacy is enormous. They showed it’s possible to win a big tournament.”

Denmark has the added advantage of playing all three group games at its Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, where about 15,000 fans will be on hand against Finland. That number could increase to 25,000 for the next two games against Russia and Belgium after the government on Thursday announced it would ease pandemic restrictions.

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It will be the first time Denmark plays a major tournament game at home. “It’s something completely unique and something I’ll probably never experience again,” Schmeichel said.

“I am really looking forward to it. But on the other hand, we must also keep a cool head and not get swept up in the emotions and the football fever that is happening in Denmark. We have to go in and do our job.”

The statistics are also heavily in Denmark’s favor. Finland has only won one of the last 22 meetings between the Nordic sides, with Denmark winning 15 of those. The last time Finland won in Denmark was in 1949.

Finland warmed up for the tournament with losses to Sweden and Estonia, and there is still uncertainty around Pukki’s fitness after he struggled with an ankle problem towards the end of the season.

Denmark, meanwhile, has only lost two of its last 23 games overall — both to group opponent Belgium — and went through its 2021 European Championships qualification undefeated.

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