The second semi-final of Euro 2020 sees current tournament favourites England face-off with Denmark in front of 60,000 fans at Wembley.
It’s the fifth home fixture ( out of six) for The Three Lions who return to London after a successful few days in Rome – Ukraine were brushed aside by four goals to nil in what turned out to be as routine a quarter-final as you may ever see.
Whilst that may seem critical of the opponents, it is also immense credit to Gareth Southgate’s side, Harry Kane’s opener after four minutes set the tone in what would turn out to be a an excellent showing on their behalf. In the Danish though it appears England may be about to face their toughest test yet.
Another stubborn defensive outlook like themselves, but a team who have more than enough quality to cause problems on the counter if they are given the chance. They aren’t built with star-power and big names like the English, but they’re a side who takes pride in being a collective unit; built to implement a highly effective system.
Of course England are the deserving heavy favourites – but tonight has the potential to be far from the walkover sections that the media are predicting. Here’s three things Brig Sport thinks are worth looking out for in the match.
Repeat of the mirroring strategy?
Since being beaten by the 500-1 outsiders Finland in the opening game, Denmark switched from a 4-3-3 formation to a 3-4-3 dynamic. A system that has not only benefited themselves but one that several teams have recently found success with including England’s last 16 opponents Germany.
The English tend to set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but when they took on the Germans at Wembley Atlético. Full-back Kieran Trippier came in for Jack Grealish to move the system into another 3-4-3, essentially mirroring their opponents and going man for man instead.
This of course wasn’t a tactical ploy without faults – especially in the first-half Germany had the better of play and created some decent half-chances for themselves – but all in all it was an effective decision from Southgate as his side in the end done enough to deserve their win.
Whether we see a repeat again tonight though is a different question. Denmark are a much more defensive side than Germany which may encourage the England boss to bring his team out a bit to try and dominate the play, not to mention the 60,000 inside the ground. This might be more demanding of attacking football against a side they see as lesser than themselves. Early indications of team news convey that the 4-2-3-1 is the likelier set-up, however as the match goes on it will be interesting to see any potential adaptions that take place.
Mæhle and Larsen
Euro 2020 has undoubtedly been the summer of the wing-back, and perhaps none have been more impressive than Denmark’s Joakim Mæhle and Jens Stryger Larsen.
Each with an assist to their name against the Czechs in the last round, the pair have terrorised defences so far. Larsen offers support down the right-hand flank whilst Atalanta full-back, and arguably the breakout star of the tournament, Joakim Mæhle plays the more unorthodox role of a left-footer on the right.
One might think that being against his natural side would hinder Mæhle, but in reality that couldn’t be further from the truth, take for instance the Czech game last weekend. The wing-back looked to be on his weaker side but still managed to put a quite sensational outside the foot cross onto the awaiting Kasper Dolberg in the middle, with the striker tapping in at the back post to give his side a two goal lead.
On both sides Denmark have players with exceptional pace, dribbling and crossing, but it can’t be forgotten that if given the chance Mæhle can shoot as well, he already has two goals to his name so far and if given the chance tonight may well look to add to that tally. If England are to progress tonight a lot of emphasis will have to go towards stopping both wing-backs attacking exploits.
As mentioned earlier, and as there always tends to be, there are early indications and leaks as to how England are expected to line-up.
Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka is rumoured to be the only change Southgate will make from the quarter-final – with the 19-year-old replacing on the right-wing.
Saka might be seen as inexperienced by some, but those who have watched him play for his country so far will be far from surprised to see his name back on the team sheet. He was praised for having “a real standout performance” after the 1-0 win over the Czech Republic, a game where the youngster not only completed over double the dribbles of any player, but was solely responsible for 41.6% of dribbles in the entire match.
Another impressive but this time tactically disciplined outing against Germany put more plaudits in the teenagers direction – so when it was announced he would be consequently dropped for the next round it was more than a great surprise.
Tonight though reports are suggesting Bukayo Saka is back on the team – if he can deliver another excellent showing for his country they have a real chance of progressing to the final.
Featured Image Credit – Sky Sports