Czech Republic v Denmark: Trigger-happy Danes out for revenge
The Czech Republic beat Denmark the last time the Danes reached a major tournament quarter-final – but a repeat would be a major shock.
Denmark will be hoping to end something of a quarter-final hoodoo when they tussle with the Czech Republic, who beat them in their most recent last-eight match back in Euro 2004.
Since winning Euro 92, Denmark have only reached the quarter-final stage of a major international tournament on two occasions, losing to 3-2 to Brazil in the 1998 World Cup and then 3-0 to the Czechs six years later.
The Danes will fancy themselves to at least ask questions of the Czech Republic on Saturday though, given they became the first team in Euros history to score four or more in successive games last time out.
While they took a little time to get up to speed, converting just two per cent of their first 44 shots, they have scored 26 per cent of their 31 attempts since.
But even when they were wasteful in front of goal, they still posed a threat, as highlighted by the fact their 18.8 shots and 7.3 shots on target per game are their highest averages on record at a major tournament.
That attack-minded approach coupled with their response to Christian Eriksen's ordeal on matchday one have seen Denmark have become the neutrals' favourite.
And while the Inter man has since left hospital following his cardiac arrest, Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand recognises that Eriksen will be on the players' minds again.
"Christian is the heart of the team," Hjulmand told reporters on Friday. "We will play for him tomorrow.
"We will not be afraid, you cannot play football if you are afraid. I want my players to go down to the pitch feeling free, with courage, showing the best."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Czech Republic – Tomas Vaclik
As highlighted, Denmark have been particularly potent in attack in Euro 2020, particularly in the past two games. As such, the Czech Republic goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik can expect to be kept busy. Nevertheless, the free agent has impressed so far, his 1.9 goals prevented being the most of any goalkeeper still in the competition.
Denmark – Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg
Tottenham midfielder Hojbjerg only created 14 chances in the Premier League last season, so the fact he's already on six and three assists in Euro 2020 will probably come as a shock to Spurs fans. Granted, he seems to have benefited from particularly good finishing by team-mates as his expected assists (xA) is only 0.7, yet only four players made more key passes before the quarter-finals.
Similarly, he has been involved in 30 shot-ending sequences, the most of anyone in the tournament before Friday, showing how he has also been essential to the Danes' build-up play.
KEY OPTA FACTS
- Mikkel Damsgaard has been directly involved in seven goals in his six appearances for Denmark in all competitions, scoring three and assisting four. He also created more chances than any other Danish player in their 4-0 victory against Wales in the last round (three).
- Patrik Schick has scored 15 goals in 30 appearances for the Czech Republic, netting four in four games at Euro 2020 so far. Only five players have scored five times or more in their maiden European Championship, most recently Antoine Griezmann in 2016 for France (six), while one of the other previous five was Schick's compatriot Milan Baros at Euro 2004 (five).
- Schick has scored three left-footed goals at Euro 2020, the most of any player. In European Championship history, the only player to score more than three left-footed goals in a single tournament was Griezmann at Euro 2016 (four).
- This is the Czech Republic's fourth European Championship quarter-final, progressing from two of the previous three (1996 vs Portugal, 2004 vs Denmark) but failing the last time they reached this stage in 2012, losing 1-0 to Portugal.
- Denmark have nine goals so far at Euro 2020, only scoring more in a major tournament in the 1986 World Cup (10).
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