'We'll never have a better chance to beat England!'

Wednesday 07 July 2021 10:50

When Manchester United players appear for their international teams, fans will usually cheer them on and hope they do their countries proud.

But sometimes, it’s complicated. So spare a thought for Danish Red Anton Hagelund, who tonight will be urging Denmark on at Euro 2020, as they try to reach their first international final since 1992.
To do that, his nation will have to overcome three Manchester United favourites – Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw – who could all represent England on the pitch.
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Schmeichel: Why Denmark will beat England

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It brings up some conflicting emotions for Anton, who is a member of the Scandinavian Manchester United supporters’ club, but he’s clear where his allegiances lie ahead of the game at Wembley!
“I'm really excited,” says Hagelund. “I think it's a massive step, both for Denmark and England, to be in this position. From the Danish perspective, they've been playing really promisingly and shown great character and great courage to play, even though our biggest star, Christian Eriksen, is out of the tournament. Even though they might have been underdogs in some games so far. So I'm really excited.
“I wish the greatest success for all United players, but the journey they are on right now, they are only going to get better, so I think there's a better chance for us beating them in this tournament rather than the next one!”
Anton expects a tight game, between an England side that are yet to concede a goal at the competition and Denmark, who have the highest goals-per-game ratio of any team (2.2).
“I wouldn't say we are intimidated [by England],” he notes. “We respect England, because they obviously have an excellent team and the management has brought it to be a more collective team. 
“England has been really strong in the defence, and will make it difficult for our side to be the attacking side. It's such a strong defence, so I think it's going to be a tactical match, which is going to mean a bit of a different approach from the Danish team. This one will be more tactical, rather than the previous one versus the Czech Republic, which was very open.”
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As for the United players within the Three Lions set-up, the Danish Red has been particularly impressed by Harry Maguire’s return from the injury that ended his United season.
“I'm a defender myself, so I've mainly looked at the defensive performances,” he explains. “I think since Maguire has arrived in Manchester, he's been really impressive and I also can see how he controls the defence. It doesn't come as a surprise to me that he's been the main person in the defence for England since his injury. 
“Shaw was left out in the first game, but I think he's just been rock solid. I really appreciate that he is playing that left-back position because he really deserves it. It's good for the synergy [at United] that he and Maguire are playing alongside each other too.”
As for Denmark, there are a couple of players that have surprised, beyond the Premier League names that British Reds will be aware of.
“In this tournament I would highlight a couple of Denmark players. Kasper Schmeichel is well known in the UK, and AC [Andreas Christensen] from Chelsea. I would say the biggest surprise has come from [Mikkel] Damsgaard, who is playing attacking midfield, or Joakim Maehle, who has been playing the left wing. I think they've been the biggest surprises from the Danish perspective.”

Let's check in with Shaw before the semi-final


Luke reacts to praise from Roberto Carlos and explains his mindset for the Denmark match in this latest interview.

A notion is growing that there is a fairytale aspect to Denmark’s progression at the competition, in light of the terrible trauma their country went through when Christian Eriksen collapsed in their first game of the tournament. But Hagelund says that the Danes have nothing to lose, and that their country has already been brought together by the team’s achievements.
“There are some thoughts of the 1992 team [that won the European Championship], but I would say that just getting here is a massive achievement,” he explains. 
“It [the Eriksen incident] has definitely helped to collect the nation around [the team]. You have people celebrating like crazy when Denmark has been playing, in the streets around the biggest cities at least. 
“With or without Christian Eriksen, it's just been a great team performance all over the squad and from the management. Obviously we would like to see Christian again, but that's going to be his own decision, depending on what his physical health says after the tournament.”

Roberto Carlos tips Shaw for the top


The Brazil legend picks out two attributes that he shares with the England left-back.

And, finally, a prediction, from this Red that knows both teams and their players so well?
“I think it's going to be a really tight game and I think it's very dependent on who's going to score first, because if England goes ahead, I think it's going to be very challenging to break down their defence. But if Denmark scores on the chances that I expect them to have, it could be a really tight game. I'm going for 1-1!
“And who would win on penalties? You know what I have to say! I'm hoping for Denmark, obviously, but England has a really strong side. So fingers crossed for Denmark, but I think it's going to be all about eliminating the mistakes. I think England is probably the strongest team after Belgium. So if we don't do our job properly, we're not going to reach any further than 90 minutes.”