Denmark vs Russia preview: Direct battle expected in crunch clash
Group C: Denmark vs Russia, kick-off 8pm (UK time, BBC Two)
Group C remains remarkably open on matchday three with Denmark and Russia both still able to qualify for the last 16.
Only a win will do for the Danes, who squandered the lead against Belgium on matchday two and, even then, they may have to rely on being one of the best third-placed teams.
For Russia, already second behind Belgium, a point should be enough. Victory for Stanislav Cherchesov’s side will guarantee their progress.
Story so far
Denmark’s group opener — and indeed entire tournament campaign — was overshadowed by Christian Eriksen’s harrowing and dramatic collapse in a 1-0 defeat to Finland.
However, the Inter Milan midfielder has since been discharged from hospital and is recovering at home.
The Danes themselves recovered, to an extent, on matchday two but still lost 2-1 to Belgium despite Yussuf Poulsen’s early opener.
Russia, meanwhile, were blown away 3-0 by the Red Devils on matchday one.
They made heavy weather of overcoming Finland in their second fixture, but Aleksei Miranchuk’s goal in first-half stoppage time secured a crucial three points.
Poul-ing in the right direction
With Eriksen’s tournament ending prematurely, all eyes were on who would step up in the Inter playmaker’s absence.
The answer? RB Leipzig striker Poulsen.
It was he who capitalised on lax Belgium defending in the opening minutes of the clash in Copenhagen to fire home and, in doing so, draw level with Martin Braithwaite as the most prolific member of this Danish squad with nine goals.
Poulsen, 27, has never managed to repeat his 15-goal Bundesliga campaign of 2018-19 but the 6ft4in striker is a significant aerial presence and that could be crucial for the Danes tonight.
Only one nation — Spain — have attempted more crosses per 90 at Euro 2020 than Denmark’s 51 and utilising Poulsen’s aerial prowess against Russia could be a useful route to goal.
Russia are another side that put a heavy emphasis on getting crosses into the box — ranking fifth with 40 across the tournament to date.
And it’s little wonder, with 6ft6in striker and captain Artem Dzyuba leading the line.
The Zenit St Petersburg forward was one of the heroes of the 2018 World Cup, scoring three times for the hosts as they memorably reached the quarter-finals.
There’s little nuance to the giant striker’s game, but his 14 attacking aerial duel successes from an attempted 27 is the second-most at the European Championship.
Denmark’s defence will be in for a bruising evening’s work.
No team at the European Championship following the conclusion of matchday two had taken more shots than Denmark (45) and only Ukraine had hit the target more often (13).
But the Danes’ solitary goal from two games points to an underlying and long-standing problem in recent times: the lack of a reliable No9.
Braithwaite (nine goals in 52 caps) and Poulsen (nine goals in 56 caps) are the highest-scoring players in Kasper Hjulmand’s squad.
Former Cardiff flop Andreas Cornelius looks most likely to lead the line at the Parken Stadium tonight — but he scored just once in 29 Serie A appearances for relegated Parma last term.
As well as Russia’s predisposition to funnel their attacks down the flanks, they are a very direct side.
With 6ft6in Dzyuba leading the line that won’t come as a surprise. But stopping Cherchesov’s outfit will be easier said than done.
Russia have made 103 long passes forward at Euro 2020 — the fourth-most of any nation — and Igor Diveev (17) is one of just a handful of outfield players in the top 20 for long passes forward.
Having switched to a back three for the defeat to Belgium, introducing Southampton’s Jannik Vestergaard alongside Simon Kjaer and Andreas Christensen, Hjulmand would be wise to stick with the 6ft6in defensive colossus in the face of such a direct threat.