Denmark 2011- Day One Preview: Hosts attempt to overcome experienced Swiss
As the Under 21 Championships come closer and closer into view, all eight squads are assembling themselves for a serious challenge towards glory. The four sides in Group A step up first and try to prove their championship credentials on the opening night of the tournament.
Most of the pressure will be on Denmark. As host nation, they open their campaign against Switzerland in Aalborg. Denmark manager Keld Bordinggaard has the expectations of a country on his shoulders and will be looking to at least progress through the group stages and reach the semi-finals. Star striker Nickie Billie Neilsen has hailed the amazing support the home side will receive in the tournament as one of the key contributors to any success they may have. Around 10,000 fans have been turning up to the Denmark friendly games and the Energi Nord Stadion in Aalborg holds around 10,500 fans filled up with Danish fans urging their side on.
Switzerland have lined their squad with experience by naming six players with full international caps in their side. Swiss coach Pierluigi Tami’s main aim is to get through to the semi-finals and get their ticket to the Olympic Games in London 2012. The Swiss have not lost in international competition to Denmark since 1985 and if they stifle Denmark’s main threats of Neilsen and star playmaker Christian Eriksen, there should be no danger in the Swiss picking up three valuable points. Also, Switzerland hold one of the major threats in the tournament with midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri. The Basel player starred in the senior Switzerland side’s 2-2 draw with England and could be the main threat against a Denmark defence that does not only miss the highly-rated Wolfsburg defender Simon Kjaer, but have recently shipped goals in friendlies, including a 4-0 drubbing by England.
The other game, played at 6pm local time in Aaarhus, involves Belarus and Iceland. Belarus manager Georgi Kondratyev has called on players he has trusted in the past, including four senior internationals, as he looks to progress the Belarussians past the group stage after two championship exits in the groups back in 2004 and 2009. Striker Andrey Voronkov will be the main threat for Kondratyev’s side with the Dynamo Kiev striker predicted to be the main goal threat for Belarus at the tournament, but his presence will not be enough to contribute solely to Belarus’ chances.
Iceland have impressed heavily throughout the qualification rounds, scoring the highest goal total out of all qualifying countries, and Eyjolfur Sverrisson’s side dumped out last year’s winners Germany in the play-off. Iceland have gone with experience also, calling up nine players with senior international experience. However, Sverrisson, who believed that he could have picked two 23 man squads, has left home Kristinn Steindorsson, who is the top scorer in the Icelandic league. Despite the omission of Steindorsson, Iceland hold another striker who is bang in form. Johann Gudmundsson scored six goals in nine qualifying matches and the AZ Alkmaar striker will be expected to fire Iceland into the semi-finals.
Day One is set to be filled with passion, excitement and non-stop action to showcase the top youth footballers in Europe and provide a great stepping stone for a fantastic tournament. All four teams have a realistic chance of winning Group A and it will all depend on how they begin their campaign.