Denmark is determined to squeeze into the knockout stage of Euro 2020 with a win against Russia in its 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 it.
Manager Kasper Hjulmand pledged that Denmark, which 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.
Despite so far playing on home turf in St Petersburg, Russia has failed to rekindle the magic of its quarterfinal run at the 2018 World Cup in matches that have highlighted a porous defence and a lukewarm attack.
Russia has not reached the knockout stage of a European championship since 2008. The side's 1-0 victory against surprise qualifier Finland on Wednesday was its first win since its opening match at the 2012 tournament.
Denmark, last in Group B with two losses, hopes 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," he added.
To grab the second qualifying spot, Denmark needs to beat Russia by two or more goals and rely on Belgium, which has already advanced, to beat Finland on Monday.
- Defensive drawbacks -
A Russian win against Denmark, meanwhile, would guarantee the side 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 its 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 not scored 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.
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