Schmeichel: Denmark are semi favourites
Peter Schmeichel has labelled Denmark as favourites to win tonight's UEFA Euro 2020 semi-final against England at Wembley and believes his country's progress in the tournament has sparked a new wave of football fever at home.
The legendary Manchester United goalkeeper told MUTV that he has confidence in his country's current team - for whom his son, Kasper, plays - and that he'd chosen them as one of his 'dark horses' for the Euros.
Denmark have endured a difficult last three weeks. It was in their first match in Copenhagen that Christian Eriksen collapsed, forcing the game to be postponed until later in the day. Eriksen is fortunately recovering well, but the impact of the event on the Danish squad has been widely discussed. Thus far, they have taken it as further motivation to push on in a tournament in which they have scored some wonderful goals and played good football.
"I had big hopes for this Danish team," Schmeichel said.
"It was a very difficult beginning for them in the Euros, but they've overcome a lot of that difficulty and have managed to produce some really, really exciting results. I think it's well deserved that they're in the semi-final.
"People [in Denmark] are very excited, of course they are. Football has not really been top of the agenda for many, many years. Other things have taken over, other sports, other activities, social media, gaming. A lot of things have made football a secondary thing really but now, everyone's talking about it, everyone's excited, everyone's watching it. We had people who have never watched football in their lives driving from Denmark to Amsterdam to watch the team!"
Peter was, of course, part of the famous Denmark side that unexpectedly won the 1992 European Championships. Nearly three decades on from the stunning achievement, his son has the opportunity to do the same.
"The night Denmark played Wales in the last 16 was precisely 29 years after our win," Peter pointed out.
"If I'm honest, I think that we are a very good footballing nation. We are currently ninth in the FIFA rankings. I think we've lost [only] five games in 50. We qualify for all the big tournaments, we do well, we got to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
"We might be a small country but in football terms we're up there. We think we can compete with anybody, we think we can have the same chance as anybody, but of course we don't have the same number of quality players as other nations have. So for us, it's about creating an atmosphere and making sure everything is right on the day. Then it's set up for us to make results.
"I'm absolutely sure [Kasper is looking forward to it]. They obviously had a little bit of a difficult time in Azerbaijan, in Baku, playing in very hot conditions. They had to stay overnight, travel back, they had one day in camp and then had to travel to England. So I've had limited time to speak to him but I'm sure he's looking forward to it.
"It is everybody's dream, every player in the world, I can guarantee you that, to play at Wembley. So to play a semi-final, for a place in the European Championship final, at Wembley? It doesn't get much better."
As for a score prediction, the Great Dane thinks it really is a 50-50 call but said, "If I'm honest, I think Denmark are favourites.
"I think it's going to be tight. There are great similarities between the managers. [They are] very similar in their approach, man management, how they want to play the game, [they're] very flexible, they keep very solid at the back and in midfield and then they have creativity in the wider areas and people who are getting on the end of chances up front. I really do believe this is very evenly balanced, in spite of what people may read in England. It's very much about what happens on the day."
United trio Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw - and also Jadon Sancho, for whom the Reds have agreed a deal in principle with Borussia Dortmund - could all be in action at what will be a raucous Wembley on Wednesday evening.