Denmark Dreams Of Magical Win Vs. Russia To Save Its Euro Campaign
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COPENHAGEN - Denmark are without a point in a Euro 2020 campaign dominated by Christian Eriksen's cardiac arrest, but they hope fans will rouse them for Monday's last-chance game against Russia.
"It's like our Euros are starting right now," coach Kasper Hjulmand said on Sunday ahead of the game at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen where fans have stayed passionately behind the team during narrow defeats to Finland and Belgium.
"We're prepared to run out at Parken tomorrow and have a magical night," the 49-year-old manager told a news conference. "It's a little surreal that we have no points, but we're focused on the game against Russia and we know that with a win we can get out of the group phase. We respect Russia, it's going to be a tough game and we need the support we had last time (against Belgium)."
Danish fans were left stunned and emotional after midfielder Eriksen's collapse in the opener, with the players looking shell-shocked when play resumed and Finland scored to win 1-0.
An outpouring of support from the stadium propelled the Danes to an early lead and stirring performance against top-ranked Belgium in the next game, but despite scoring an early goal they also lost that game 2-1.
"Even though it wasn't a full stadium, you wouldn't know standing on the pitch that there weren't 100,000 people there. I've never experienced anything like that personally," said goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
With a normal capacity of just over 38,000, the stadium held 16,000 for the opener and 25,000 against Belgium, and on Monday another 25,000 will be present for Denmark's last roll of the dice.
Belgium top Group B on six points with the Danes bottom on zero and needing to beat Russia to have any chance of advancing to the knockout stage. Finland, who like Russia have three points, take on Belgium in St. Petersburg at the same time to decide the outcome of the group.
Hailed as a hero for his quick action and leadership after Eriksen collapsed, Denmark captain Simon Kjær said the team deserved success.
"We go into the game with the mentality that we have to get there (to the knockout stage), and after everything we've been through I think we deserve it," the central defender said. "You can be sure that everything will be left out on the pitch tomorrow — with the support and the quality that this team has, I'm confident about the match."
(Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)