Stockholm: Striker Teemo Pukki raised the fever of Finnish fans a notch by declaring has himself fit to lead the line against Denmark in their opening Euro 2020 Group B clash at the Parken Stadium today.
Pukki, who scored 10 of Finland’s 16 goals as they came runner-up to Italy in their group to qualify for the finals of a major tournament for the first time, told reporters he has fully recovered from an ankle injury he sustained in May.
“I’ve been training normally for the past week and a half, as all the other player have, and I played 30 minutes in the last preparation game, I haven’t had any issues with the ankle and I’m ready to play as much as the coach will allow me to,” the Norwich City player said.
Finland’s blue-and-white clad fans had already begun arriving in Copenhagen on Friday, enjoying the sunshine around the stadium as their team made their final preparations.
“There is a clear football fever in Finland at the moment, it’s great to see that there’s been a lot of videos, support messages, songs sent to us,” Pukki added.
Both Pukki and team captain Tim Sparv know the Danes well, having spent four and six years respectively playing in the Danish top flight, and they have plenty of respect for their opponents.
“In my mind, the Danish team don’t have any big weaknesses, we’ve been talking about their offensive game, they have some big names that can be very dangerous if we give them the time and space to do what they want,” Sparv said.
Coach Markku Kanerva said he had no worries about Pukki or Sparv, who had been troubled by a knee injury in the lead-up to the tournament.
“There are no new injuries, and we will go through our final training to see if all our players are 100 percent in shape. It all looks good, the players that had some small issues are doing well,” he said.
Repeat of 1992
Meanwhile, Kasper Hjulmand said that his Denmark team will “dream big” and have one eye on a repeat of their unexpected triumph in 1992.
A talented Danish side begin their campaign nearly three decades after winning their one major honour in a tournament for which they only took part because of the break-up of Yugoslavia.
Hjulmand, 49, was not fazed when asked whether he thought his team could go all the way.
“We are comfortable and we believe in ourselves,” Hjulmand told reporters.
“We do dare to dream big but we also know that there are bigger countries out there with better opportunities to win it all. So our first aim is to progress from the group and then everything can happen.
“It’s football and in one game everything can happen. But first and foremost it’s the first game against Finland and we’ll do our best to try and get a good start. From there, as I said, everything can happen.”
Denmark will be spurred on by 16,000 of their own fans and key to their success will be Christian Eriksen, who comes into the Euro after a turbulent season at Inter Milan when he won last season’s Serie A title but also spent long periods out of departed coach Antonio Conte’s team.
“I think it wouldn’t matter where I’ve come from in the last 18 months. Every tournament is special, no matter where I’ve come from,” said the 29-year-old.
“I’m not looking backwards, I’m looking forwards to this tournament and to play the Euros.
“How things are seen from the outside and I feel about them may be completely different. If it (the Euro) had been seven months ago I would have still been very confident going into the tournament.”