Denmark and the Czech Republic both welcome back injured players for their European Championship quarter-final in Baku on Saturday after an extended rest since their last-16 victories over Wales and the Netherlands respectively
Denmark and the Czech Republic both welcome back injured players for their European Championship quarter-final in Baku on Saturday after an extended rest since their last-16 victories over Wales and the Netherlands respectively.
The Danes, who won the Euros in 1992 after a last-minute inclusion instead of Yugoslavia, are back in the quarter-finals for the first time since 2004.
The Czechs, who won in 1976 and were runners-up in 1996, made their last appearance in the quarters in 2012.
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Striker Yussuf Poulsen returns after missing the Danes' 4-0 drubbing of Wales in Amsterdam last Saturday in a game that saw his replacement Kasper Dolberg score two goals, giving coach Kasper Hjulmand a pleasant selection headache.
"I feel ready to play on Saturday, but it's Kasper's decision," Poulsen, who netted in the group stage games against Belgium and Russia, told a news conference on Thursday.
Having missed playmaker Christian Eriksen since his cardiac arrest in their opener against Finland, Hjulmand's other attacking players have stepped up, with Mikkel Damsgaard a revelation as the replacement for Eriksen, who is at home recovering.
The Czech Republic booked their berth in the last eight with a 2-0 win over Netherlands on Sunday, and they too have been making the most of their days off.
Czech team captain Vladimir Darida and left-back Jan Boril trained this week after injury issues and will fly with the team to Baku. Darida missed the last-16 match against the Netherlands with an unspecified leg injury while Boril missed out due to two bookings. However, the Slavia defender also had not trained in recent days due to minor injuries.
Coach Jaroslav Silhavy praised Antonin Barak and Pavel Kaderabek, who filled in for them against the Dutch.
"Kaderabek didn’t play for a long time and he did great. The same for Barak," Silhavy said.
"The players were ready and did well."
The winners of Saturday's tie will face a much quicker turnaround as they meet either England or Ukraine in their semi-final at Wembley on Wednesday.
HEAD TO HEAD
Denmark and Czech Republic have tussled in 12 games so far, with the quarter-final fixture being the 13th fixture between the two sides. The two sides have played out seven draws, with Denmark winning twice, while the Czech Republic clinching three wins. One of those draws came in their last meeting came back in 2016. Czechs have won all their games in major competitions against Denmark, winning 3-0 in UEFA Euro 2004. Denmark however are unbeaten in six games against the Czech Republic since that fateful encounter in the quarter-finals in Porto.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tomas Vaclik (Czech Republic)
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.Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Denmark)
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.
WHO'S SAYING WHAT
Jaroslav Silhavý, Czech Republic coach: "Denmark are really strong as a team, their style is similar to ours. We have to match them in commitment and approach. One simple mistake can decide the whole match. I believe that it will be us who can take advantage of some of our opponents' mistakes. I think it will be a very tight match and the little things will decide it."
Vladimír Darida, Czech Republic captain: "When you say Denmark they may not sound as strong as the Netherlands, France or Italy, but we are fully aware that they are a very strong opponent of high quality. I think they rank tenth in the world. We do not see it that we are favourites but we want to succeed."
Antonín Barak, Czech Republic midfielder: "We have been following Denmark games throughout the tournament and know how they play. They have a well-balanced team and play an interesting style which is very demanding."
Kasper Hjulmand, Denmark coach: "I can't look anywhere without getting motivated. We're doing it for the whole of Denmark and we have two dreams: to win something and to inspire and excite. We have a framework and philosophy that we stick to but, inside that, there is also space for tactical things, positions, and the skill of the individual players. We always try to find the right framework for the players to work in and, of course, it's the same way with the Czechs."
Kasper Schmeichel, Denmark goalkeeper: "I've always said that all international matches are big. To be here and playing tomorrow is a big experience, but it will only be great if we win."
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Denmark midfielder: "The Czechs are very committed. Defensively, they are very strong and when they attack, they attack in numbers. There is strength and speed in their side and they are also technically great with some of the players they have. They're a team that can hurt you."
KEY OPTA FACTS
Czech Republic: Vaclík; Coufal, Čelůstka, Kalas, Kadeřábek; Holeš, Souček; Masopust, Barák, Ševčík; Schick
Misses next match if booked: Coufal, Hložek, Masopust
Denmark: Schmeichel; Christensen, Kjær, Vestergaard; Wass, Højbjerg, Delaney, Mæhle; Braithwaite, Dolberg, Damsgaard
Misses next match if booked: Damsgaard, Delaney, Jensen, Wass