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‘Our Euro starts now’, says Hjulmand as Denmark aim for last 16

Copenhagen (AFP) – Kasper Hjulmand said Sunday that Denmark’s Euro 2020 campaign will begin for real in their final group game against Russia as they aim to honour their friend Christian Eriksen by making the knockout stage.

The Danes have no points after defeat in their opening two fixtures with Finland and Belgium, which were overshadowed by Eriksen’s mid-match collapse against the Finns and the subsequent outpouring of emotion as the Inter Milan midfielder slowly recovered from sudden cardiac arrest.

However a win over Russia by two goals or more at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen and defeat for Finland against leaders Belgium would guarantee Denmark passage from Group B as the second-placed team.

Victory by a single-goal margin other than 1-0 and a Finland loss would also be enough to put Denmark through.

“We’re going to be ready. We’re prepared to run out at the Parken and have a magical night… it’s like our Euro is starting right now,” Hjulmand told reporters.

“We’re not done. We had a difficult start and we’re going to start over now. We’re ready to get through the group and play more games.

“We gave our all against Belgium and we have to do the same… We have created so many chances, all the stats look like six points and we have zero.”

Hjulmand said that his team had been boosted by a visit from Eriksen, the creative heart of a team which has spent the last week trying to recover from the traumatic experience of seeing medics rush to save their teammate’s life on the pitch. 

“It meant a lot to the players who hadn’t seen him, especially those ones close to Christian. It’s one thing seeing him on video and another looking at him in the eye,” he said.

“That was good. The atmosphere is different for sure, but it was good to see him and his family again. It was important for some of the players.”

– ‘We deserve it’ –

Denmark will once again be able to count on the support of 25,000 so-called ‘Roligans’, the Scandinavian nation’s passionate fans who created a fiery atmosphere at their previous two matches.

“The support that we’ve seen at the game the other night (lost 2-1 to Belgium), even though it wasn’t a full stadium you’d never have known standing on the pitch that there wasn’t 100,000 in there. I’ve never experienced anything like that personally,” said goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

“It’s always been special to play for your country but this last week has shown exactly why we sacrifice what we do, spending so much time away from our families, from our children because this is special, and to see the way that football can unite a country like it has these last few days, that’s the reason I play.”

Captain Simon Kjaer, who earned plaudits for the way he handled both Eriksen’s fall and the aftermath with his teammates, said Denmark deserve to go through.

“It would man a lot… after everything that we’ve been through I think we deserve it,” said the AC Milan defender.

“You can be 100 percent sure that everything will be left out on the pitch tomorrow. With the quality that this team has I’m confident about that.” 

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