The second spot in the final of Euros 2020 will be decided on Wednesday when England meets Denmark at Wembley Stadium in London. England has been one of the top betting favorites since before the tournament started and is two just two wins away from winning a major tournament for the first time since winning the 1966 World Cup, which also happened on home soil.
Meanwhile, Denmark has become the sentimental favorite in the tournament, garnering huge international support after making a deep run on the heels of star player Christian Eriksen suffering cardiac arrest in the team’s first game. The Danes are now just two wins away from replicating their equally unlikely 1992 European championship.
For Wednesday’s game, the English are heavy favorites with a -150 moneyline while Denmark’s moneyline is listed at +460.
The Three Lions may have started the tournament as favorites, but it took a while for them to look like favorites. England was aggressively mediocre throughout the Group Stage, finally taking things to a higher level during the second half of their Round of 16 win over Germany. That success carried over into the second half of England’s quarterfinal matchup with Ukraine, as the English won 4-0 to give them plenty of confidence and momentum heading into the semifinals.
The potent offense we expected to see all tournament has finally started to show up over the last two matches. Star striker Harry Kane has rounded into form, scoring three goals in his last two matches while Raheem Sterling remains a threat after saving England with the team’s only two goals during the Group Stage. Both Kane and Sterling are potential match-winners while the roster has plenty of other potential difference-makers, including playmaker Jack Grealish, who was a catalyst in the second half of the win over Germany. Meanwhile, England is a threat on set pieces, scoring twice in that fashion against Ukraine.
Of course, England’s defense has arguably been the team’s biggest strength during the tournament. In five matches, the Three Lions have kept five clean sheets. Even with a few different defensive lineups used by Gareth Southgate, the midfield tandem of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips have done a great job of protecting England’s backline. Also, goalie Jordan Pickford has come up with a few big saves when pressed into duty, keeping England’s perfect defensive record intact.
In the span of five matches, Denmark has experienced a nightmare that has somehow turned into a fantasy. The sight of Eriksen collapsing in the opening match against Finland will haunt soccer fans for a long time to come. But the Danes have banded together after losing their star player and have become the working definition of a team that’s stronger than the sum of its parts. Despite losing the first two games of the tournament, Denmark has won three straight by a combined score of 10-2, which is why the biggest underdogs heading into the semifinals still need to be taken seriously.
Without Eriksen to play the role of playmaker and goalscorer, Denmark has received contributions from a variety of sources, having now scored 11 goals in five matches. Mikkel Damsgaard has done his best to fill Eriksen’s shoes as a playmaking midfielder while Kasper Dolberg has come to the forefront with three goals in his last two matches. The Danes also have a pair of veteran strikers in Yussuf Poulsen and Martin Braithwaite, who are both potential match-winners. Finally, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has been a huge asset, giving his usual strong effort as a defensive midfielder while also dishing out three assists in five matches.
On the other side of the field, the Denmark defense has been solid and steady all tournament despite yielding five goals in five matches. While the Danes aren’t built to park and bus and defend for long stretches, they have three reliable center-backs in Simon Kjaer, Jannik Vestergaard, and Andreas Christensen who help them to stay organized and avoid the kind of mishaps defensively that other teams have suffered during the Euros. Plus, goalie Kasper Schmeichel has shaken off a soft goal he gave up against Finland in the opening match and has been one of the more impressive keepers in the tournament.
Don’t kid yourself, this game is a lot more difficult to predict than the betting odds would suggest. England is easily the more talented side, but Denmark plays together as a team better than any other team in this tournament. The Danes appear to have found some magic in the wake of a tragedy and almost look like a team of destiny. There will also be plenty of familiarity between the two sides with Denmark having several English-based players, as well as a few who have played English teams in Champions League.
However, one can’t help but wonder how much magic Denmark has left and if they have enough left in the tank to beat an England team that has more attacking talent while also being equally savvy tactically. This might be the end of the line for one of the best sports stories of the year.
Pick: England 2-1