Soccer-After Eriksen shock, Denmark eye last 16 before must-win match vs Russia


Soccer Football - Denmark Press Conference - Elsinore, Denmark - June 18, 2021 Denmark players during training Claus Bech/Ritzau Scanpix via REUTERS

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Denmark are determined to squeeze into the knockout stage of Euro 2020 with a win against Russia in their final Group B match on Monday, after recovering with poise from the shock of Christian Eriksen's cardiac arrest.

Despite losing 2-1 to a Belgian side aided by the return of Kevin de Bruyne, a flood of supportive messages for Eriksen and the catharsis of Yussuf Poulsen's early goal against the world's top side seemed to put the trauma of Denmark's opening match behind them.

Manager Kasper Hjulmand pledged that Denmark, who will benefit from home advantage against Russia in Copenhagen, would beat Stanislav Cherchesov's side for Eriksen after he underwent an operation to implant a heart-starter device.

The Danish midfielder was discharged from hospital on Friday, six days after collapsing during his side's match against Finland. [L2N2O01NB]

Despite so far playing on home turf in St Petersburg, Russia have failed to rekindle the magic of their quarter-final run at the 2018 World Cup in matches that have highlighted a porous defence and a lukewarm attack.

Russia have not reached the knockout stage of a European championship since 2008. Their 1-0 victory against surprise qualifiers Finland on Wednesday was their first win since their opening match at the 2012 tournament.

Denmark, last in Group B with two losses, hope to capitalise early on defensive lapses by Russia, with Mikkel Damsgaard filling in for Eriksen and forward Martin Braithwaite showing touches of quality against Belgium.

"We're going to get through the group stage," Braithwaite said after the loss to Belgium. "With this team there are no limits."

To grab the second qualifying spot, Denmark need to beat Russia by two or more goals and rely on Belgium, who have already advanced, to beat Finland on Monday.

DEFENSIVE DRAWBACKS

A Russian win against Denmark, meanwhile, would guarantee them a spot in the knockout stage.

Cherchesov opted to play untested 22-year-old goalkeeper Matvei Safonov against Finland after Anton Shunin's shaky play against Belgium. He also benched defender Andrei Semyonov following an error-strewn performance in their opener.

Russia's lack of depth and the talent gap with Europe's top sides leave Cherchesov with few attacking options beyond captain Artyom Dzyuba.

Dzyuba, a towering striker who is one goal away from tying Alexander Kerzhakov's national team record of 30, has been scoreless in the tournament so far.

Against Denmark, Cherchesov could start Alexei Miranchuk, one of the few Russians who plays in a top European league. The Atalanta midfielder, who came on in the 63rd minute against Belgium, scored Russia's goal against Finland.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber in St Petersburg and Philip O'Connor in Copenhagen; editing by John Stonestreet)

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