EM semi-final against England: The Danish trick with the chain

EM semi-final against England: The Danish trick with the chain

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EM semi-final against England: The Danish trick with the chain

A.The stability of the Danish defense is also related to Christian Eriksen. This is not meant in a figurative sense. But very specifically. Eriksen’s cardiac arrest in the game against Finland not only triggered a chain of events emotionally. But also purely factually in the field. Coach Kasper Hjulmand had to replace and change. And he should find a replacement for Simon Kjær in the 63rd minute. The Danish captain was no longer able to continue playing. Jannik Vestergård came on for him. Hjulmand’s actual plan for this European Championship was a back four, consisting of Daniel Wass on the right, Joakim Mæhle on the left and the two central defenders Kjær and Andreas Christensen.

When the second group game against the strong Belgians began, Hjulmand had reacted and strengthened the defensive by playing with three central defenders: Vestergård, Kjær, Christensen. With Belgian possession of the ball, the outer midfielders should let themselves fall and so turn a chain of three into a five-man chain. That worked out quite well, even though the game was lost – but more importantly: the Danish defensive formation was finally found for the decisive group game against Russia.

The defensive specialists, who have strong headers and are now well coordinated, should give Denmark the necessary stability this Wednesday (9 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for the European Football Championship, on ZDF and on MagentaTV) in the European Championship semi-final against England at Wembley Stadium. “We are not satisfied, we want to go further,” says Kjær. The 32-year-old Jutlander fulfills his role as a leader impressively. The defending colleagues are guided by him and his positional play. “I love to stand back there and head the balls off,” says Kjær – which he managed often enough in the 2-1 win against the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals on Sunday.

All three played in the Bundesliga

Kjær, Christensen, Vestergård: Denmark conceded only four goals in the four games with this formation, and Christensen’s game intelligence is another key to success, because Hjulmand pushes him further into midfield if necessary to keep the opponent at bay – Christensen also achieved something special at this European Championship: he scored his first international goal against Russia. From a German point of view, the defenders are no strangers. All three played in the Bundesliga. Kjær’s Wolfsburg years (2010/11 and 2012/13) coincided with a time when VfL wanted to become a permanent top team after the surprising championship title in 2009 – and failed. Difficult for Kjær, who played a lot but was also often criticized and moved on to various stations in Europe in 2013 before ending up at AC Milan.

Vestergård has left a bigger mark on the Bundesliga. Hoffenheim, Gladbach, Werder Bremen – now, at the age of 28, the model athlete from FC Southampton has also made it to the national team. In the eyes of national coaches Morten Olsen, Åge Hareide and Kasper Hjulmand, there have always been two better central defenders. It was only the trick with the triple chain that promoted him to Denmark’s first team – and made him a candidate for Tottenham Hotspur, as reported by English newspapers. Vestergård, whose mother comes from Krefeld, is difficult to recognize during these weeks without his long hair. “Jannik is a great defender who did not have an easy time in the national team,” says Andreas Christensen, “he has grown in this tournament and we are in great harmony.”

That leaves Christensen himself, 25 years old and the best football player among the three. Trained at Brøndby IF in Copenhagen, he tried his hand at Chelsea at an early age, matured as a loan player in Gladbach between 2015 and 2017 and is now one of Chelsea’s regulars. A calm representative who does a solid job – but also has the skills to move forward and to help Thomas Delaney and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg win the ball and set up the game.