Familiar foes Denmark and Slovenia meet again in Euro Group C opener

football15 June 2024 11:01| © Reuters
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Rasmus Hojlund © Getty Images

There will be more than a hint of familiarity when Denmark takes on Slovenia in their opening Group C encounter at Euro 2024 in Stuttgart on Sunday, with the Danes having edged out the Slovenians in a thrillingly close qualifying group.

Both sides finished on 22 points and qualified automatically with the Danes topping the group due to a better record against Slovenia but, despite knowing their opponents well, Euro 2020 semifinalists Denmark expect a different challenge in Germany.

"We know exactly what Slovenia are, they have quality as well, so it's going to be an exciting group," Denmark assistant coach Morten Wieghorst told Reuters in a recent interview.

"But if you compare them to the qualifying campaign, the games we play in the Euros will be different, they will have a different nature, so it will be a great challenge."

Slovenia showed the kind of quality Wieghorst referred to when they drew 1-1 at home to Denmark almost a year ago, but a 2-1 win in Copenhagen in November gave the Danes the advantage they needed to top the standings.

However, they continued to be plagued by the problems that beset them at the Qatar World Cup, where Kasper Hjulmand’s free-flowing side suddenly struggled to break down opponents and create chances before crashing out at the group stage.

In contrast, the Slovenians have gone unbeaten since their defeat in Copenhagen and an excellent 2-0 friendly win over a strong Portugal side in a March and it shows they will pose a challenge in Group C.

The importance of a good start cannot be underestimated – in their second game Slovenia take on a Serbia side that romped to a recent 3-0 friendly win over Sweden, while the Danes face Euro 2020 finalists England, who are among the tournament favourites.

Denmark will again look to talisman Christian Eriksen, who suffered a heart attack in their Euro 2020 opener against Finland before making a successful return to the game several months later, to be the creative force against the Slovenians.

"He has something you can't train yourself to do, he has a fantastic ability to see the game and find a rhythm," head coach Hjulmand told broadcaster DR earlier this week.

"I have often said, paradoxically, that he is our heart, he is the pulse of our team," he added.