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Under-21 Euros Preview: Denmark

The Czech Republic is hosting its second large sporting event this year, as they will be the site for the Under-21 European Championship that starts on June 17. The Czech Republic hosted the IIHF Hockey World Championship in May. Although it’s a under-21 tournament, as long as the players are born in or after 1992 they are eligible, making the maximum age 23. That’s because the qualifications for the tournament started in 2013. Denmark went undefeated through the qualification stages, and they will surely look to make a splash at the tournament.

The Danes had a couple of really impressive results in the qualifiers, including a 8-0 thrashing over Estonia and a 7-1 demolition of Bulgaria. With a record of eight wins and two draws, Denmark topped Group 2 of the under-21 Euros qualifications with 26 points, four ahead of Russia. The Danes scored 37 goals in 10 games and only allowed nine.

In the qualification playoffs they squeezed by Iceland 1-1 on the away-goal rule. After a 0-0 result in the first leg in Denmark, Nicolaj Thomsen scored the goal in the return leg in Iceland that ended up taking Denmark to the Czech Republic.

There are several interesting players in the Danish squad, but they will have to do without Jores Okore as the Aston Villa defender will miss out on the Czech adventure with an injury. Okore is one of Danish football biggest talents and his experience from the Premier League will be missed. Okore’s injury puts more pressure on his center-back partner and team captain Jannik Vestergaard.

The Werder Bremen defender joined the team in January from Hoffenheim, and played in 22 Bundesliga games this season. Vestergaard is the most experienced player in the squad with 24 appearances for the U-21 national team. Frederik Sorensen (Juventus) could be Okore’s replacement next to Vestergaard. Sorensen spent this season on loan at Hellas Verona in Serie A where he made 11 appearances.

Right-back Andreas Christensen is a part of Chelsea’s reserves and made his senior team debut this season, but he’s rumored to be leaving Chelsea in the summer. The two biggest stars in the lineup will be Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Viktor Fischer. Hojbjerg is a highly-rated prospect with Bayern Munich and spent part of the season on loan at Augsburg in the Bundesliga.

The 19-year-old midfielder is an extreme talent, and will be the creative force in midfield for the Danes. Up front, Fischer will be the intended target for Hojbjerg’s passes. Fischer missed over a year with an injury, but he came back at the tailend of the season and scored three goals in four games for his Ajax in the Dutch Eredivisie. If Fischer can stay healthy, there’s no doubt that he can be a lethal scorer. The 21-year-old striker has 22 goals in 69 games during his time at Ajax.

Other attacking options includes Nicolai Brock-Madsen (Randers FC) and Yussuf Yurary Poulsen (RB Leipzig). Brock-Madsen has seven goals in 14 youth caps. Poulsen scored 11 goals in 29 games for Leipzig in the German second division this season. So national team manager Jess Thorup has several players to choose from, but Fischer should be the number one choice at the striker position as long as he’s healthy.

Denmark takes on the Czech Republic in the opening game and then they will go up against tournament favorites Germany in the second game before playing Serbia in the last group game. The Danes should have a good chance at taking one of the two top spots in the group and advance to the semifinals, but the games against the Czechs and Serbians will be crucial. With the strength of the German side, even a draw in that game would be a success.

Here the full list of the players that will represent Denmark.

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