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Football Reporting

EURO 2020

Denmark manager’s history of misfortune from player hit by lightning to Christian Eriksen

Kasper Hjulmand has revealed Denmark’s incredible journey to the Euro semi finals – and they are determined it will not end on Wednesday.

Denmark were hit by a near death experience in their first Group match when Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch after suffering a heart attack.

But that is not the full story behind the drama which has galvanised the Denmark squad and left them on a mission to win the whole tournament despite only just squeezing into the knock-out stages.

Hjulmand’s assistant, former Celtic star Morten Wieghorst, had a rare condition – Guillain–Barré syndrome – which affects the nervous system and had to fight his way back to health to live a normal life.

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They were coaching together when a former player, Jonathan Richter, was hit by lightning and left in a coma before Hjulmand’s uncle died of a heart attack while on the pitch.

Kasper Hjulmand has seen plenty of horror happen to his players and coaching staff across his career

The tragedies, incredible life experiences and drama has made the Denmark squad life a band of brothers which resembles their remarkable story of 1992 when that generation ended up winning the Euros only after stepping off the beach when the former Yugoslavia were disqualified.

Denmark boss Hjulmand said: “First of all I have a fantastic staff, and the players also actually. I speak to the players freely about feelings and how I feel and I have a fantastic assistant coach in Morten Wieghorst.

“I don’t know if people know his history but he played at Celtic, had a disease where he was numb in the whole body and had to fight his way back to life.

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“We were coaching together when one of our players [Jonathan Richter at FC Nordsjaelland] was struck by lightning, nearly died and after two months of being in a coma he ended up living and he is still here.

“So we have experienced so much together. I have had a psychologist who has been helping me as well. I actually also lost my uncle on a football pitch with a heart attack so of course my emotions have been outside myself.

“I’ve been trying to handle that myself but the thing that helps me is my staff, the people around me, and my players.

“We are one group and I’m just trying to be myself – don’t hide anything, try to find strength in ourselves and the group we are and I think that’s the right way for me to lead – to just be myself and bring what I have and not think too much about strategy. I’m trying to be who I am.”

Christian Eriksen collapsed against Finland earlier in the tournament

Hjulmand’s side only sneaked through after losing their opening game against Finland with the players left shell-shocked by what happened to Eriksen.

They only sneaked through after losing to Belgium but then won their final Group match with Russia and then thrashed Wales, beat Czech Republic but Hjulmand warned England have no weaknesses.

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Hjulmand said: “I strongly believe so but you can never promise anything. Of course we have identified some things, some positions, the way they organise their defence in different phases of the game.

“We have some areas, we have some strategic work in our offensive so let’s see if it works. It’s not like they have any weaknesses but all teams have patterns, a way of working and for me there’s always space to pass the ball and attack. It’s just where it is and seeing if you can find it. But weaknesses no – England has no weaknesses.”

Kasper Hjulmand has lead Denmark to the Euro 2020 semi-finals

Hjulmand paid a warm tribute to Gareth Southgate, the Football Association and the new-look England side – but insisted they will have to be very good to beat Denmark.

He added: “I think England are a great team and I think the FA, with their new strategy, six or seven years ago changed the football in England. Gareth has done a fantastic job on this journey.

“Their talent development, the number of young players coming through, a talented group of players that has a team spirit and a hope for the future and the way they have been linked to the English population and created a new possible hope.

“I think it’s a great way of working. It’s strategic work. It’s a great team. They have conceded zero goals and we know the offensive work of this team.

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“So of course it’s a big team but I think we’re able to match it and able to surprise. Of course they’re favourites but I’m just saying they have to be very good to beat us.”

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