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5 things you need to know about Wales vs Denmark & Italy vs Austria

Gareth Bale: Wales' all-time top goal scorer

 

Euro Daily: June 26, 2021

The opening round of European Championship Last-16 fixtures will feature a pair of games, as the likes of Italy and Denmark eye up quarter-final berths.

Below, check out five things you need to know about Saturday’s action.

1) Wales’ new experience

This evening’s opener will see Wales and Denmark go head to head, in a highly anticipated meeting at the Johan Cruyff ArenA. And the clash could well prove a new experience for a host of the former’s stars, on the international stage at least.

The Dragons, at their last major tournament appearance in 2016, were of course widely backed by neutrals. This came amid a fairytale run all the way to the semi-finals of the Euros, during which the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey shone bright.

This time around, however, Wales face an altogether different prospect. Robert Page’s men, whilst far from unpopular across the continent, are of course set to face off with Denmark. And it is the Danes who, on this occasion, have emerged as the darlings of the international scene.

Kasper Hjulmand and co. have been forced to deal with almost unimaginable adversity to this point in Euro 2020, on the back of the cardiac arrest suffered by star man Christian Eriksen during the nation’s opening day defeat to Finland. Denmark’s stars, though, were widely hailed for their remarkable poise and class in dealing with the situation, with Simon Kjaer’s heroic actions particularly noteworthy.

Add to this the fact that the Danes recovered from a pair of successive defeats to eventually book their spot in the knockout rounds courtesy of a bounce-back 4-1 drubbing of Russia, and it feels safe to say that not too many outside of Wales will be cheering for the Dragons later today.

2) Denmark’s attacking edge

Sticking with Saturday’s opening fixture, a series of remarkable statistics have come to the fore, centering on the group stage efforts of both Wales and Denmark.

In yet another reason to get behind the latter’s push for a last-8 berth, it has been revealed that the Danes produced a hefty 172 attacks across the country’s three group stage outings – 3rd behind only giants Spain and Germany. The Welsh, on the other hand, mustered up just 83 attacks, less than half of their upcoming opponents, and 4th lowest of any side at the Euros thus far.

Not only that, but Denmark also racked up a hefty 61 group stage attempts on goal, the most of any country. Wales, again, managed less than half as many, with just 28.

3) Italy’s eye-watering road to glory

Turning attention to the 2nd game of the day, Italy will of course go in search of a 4th-straight victory, in their own Last-16 showdown with Austria. The Azzurri, in the eyes of most, proved the team of the group stage, managing a perfect record, to go along with seven goals scored and not a single one conceded.

If Roberto Mancini’s men do, as expected, go on to get the better of Austria, though, they will be faced with a potentially torturous run to the tournament’s finale.

Having been placed on the left side of the bracket, the Italians face a meeting with one of current European champions Portugal or world no.1 Belgium in the quarter-finals. From here, the Azzurri, most likely, would have to get the better of world champions France.

The luck of the draw on this occasion lies very much with the nations on the right side, which includes the aforementioned Wales and Denmark, along with Ukraine, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

4) Real Madrid’s future midfield face off?

The Wembley showdown between Italy and Austria will also feature a fascinating battle between two potential future teammates.

David Alaba has of course already agreed to take his talents to Spanish heavyweights Real Madrid this summer, following the expiration of his contract with Bayern Munich. The 29-year-old shone in his country’s crucial final day group stage win over Ukraine, bagging the assist for the game’s only goal, his 2nd of the tournament thus far.

And up against Alaba later today will be another of the Euros’ star performers to date – Manuel Locatelli. ‘Loca’, in the absence of the sidelined Marco Verratti, stepped up to the plate in a major way across Italy’s opening two fixtures, even chipping in with a surprise brace versus Switzerland.

Such displays, meanwhile, saw the midfield talent quickly linked with a whole host of European football’s biggest clubs – including none other than Real Madrid. The returning Carlo Ancelotti is said to be a huge fan of the talents of his fellow countryman, with a Blancos proposal to Sassuolo, as a result, rumoured to be in the pipeline.

With David Alaba known to be keen to test his talents in the middle of the park, could Saturday’s opener therefore feature a showdown between two future midfield stars in the Spanish capital?

5 things you need to know about Wales vs Denmark & Italy vs Austria

MUNICH, GERMANY – MARCH 08: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) David Alaba of Bayern Muenchen looks on during the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Muenchen and FC Augsburg at Allianz Arena on March 8, 2020 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

5) Keep an eye out for – Mikkel Damsgaard

Our final must know ahead of the Euros’ knockout round getting underway surrounds one of Denmark’s brightest young stars.

The player in question? Mikkel Damsgaard.

Sampdoria talent Damsgaard has of course seen his name cast into the spotlight over the last couple of weeks, after thoroughly impressing versus both Belgium and Russia. The latter fixture saw the gifted attacker showcase a number of his standout talents in netting the game’s opener, a wonderful bending effort from outside the area:

His strike versus the Russians also saw Damsgaard etch his name into the history books, as the Danes’ youngest ever scorer at a major tournament. Not only that, but it took his tally for direct goal involvements for the nation to six in just five appearances.

With Christian Eriksen of course set to sit out the remainder of the tournament, Denmark’s explosive young wide-man has been tasked with the role of chief creator, and has thus far stepped up in a major way.

Expect such starring exploits to continue in Amsterdam this evening.

 

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