Euro 2017: Nils Nielsen talks about his problem-solving players

Following on from their shoot-out win over Austria we spoke to Danish coach Nils Nielsen about the match and how his players will prepare for their first ever European final.

Going the distance

Unable to find a way around Austria over the initial ninety minutes, nor the additional half hour, Nielsen wasn’t worried that his team couldn’t find the telling break-through to beat Manuela Zinsberger in the Austrian goal,

I felt like we could have scored, we created the chances we needed but it was just not the day to score so we had to win in another way.

With the pair still scoreless after two hours the semi-final was settled from 12-yards, the red and whites victorious after burying three of their four spot-kicks, the practice of taking aim from the spot not one practiced by the Danes,

We practiced the mind game. It’s the mind game we don’t need to practice shooting penalties because everyone can shoot a penalty but it’s the mind game that’s the problem.

Familiar opposition

A jarring 4-2 loss in Wiener Neustadt was Denmark’s last preparation game before travelling to the Netherlands, the Scandinavian side looking their very worst as they defence was ripped into from the off. Learning from their mistakes, the Danes have looked far sharper in defence this summer, but after the bruising loss, we asked if Nielsen had flirted with the idea of switching to a five at the back system,

That was never a consideration, if anything it would have been a three at the back because my style and the team’s style of play is not really defending. We defend because we have to, not because we want to so when we get a chance to get the ball and attack we do that. But we also know that we’re not going to win anything if we don’t defend and we’re working really hard on it – the Austria match (phew) really was a wake-up call because our defending in that match was horrible and today it was much better. As I’ve said before, Simone Boye is a fantastic captain of the back-line and I’m so proud of her.

Even as the match wore on, the Greenlander never lost faith in his team, the forced replacement of Line Sigvardsen only helped to give the Danes more strength in midfield,

I was not too concerned because I felt like we were getting more ahead in the match but I was a bit concerned early but when we brought on Sofie Junge we had more control in midfield.

With Sigvardsen confirmed to be out of the tournament with an ACL injury – Denmark’s third starter lost to an ACL problem and their fifth starter overall – the wheels looked to be coming off for Denmark and fast, their team more youthful than perhaps Nielsen would have liked. But even still, the coach nor the players have lost faith,

You know, I told the press before that my team are problem solvers that we will solve any problems we will face but we’ve had a little too many I think. It has been a little tough to try and find new solutions all the time but the players are managing it really well, so, I’m so proud of them and we will be ready for Sunday.

(Credit: Getty/Brendan Moran/UEFA)
(Credit: Getty/Brendan Moran/UEFA)

Quick turn-around

In typical post-match fashion for De Rød-Hvide the team celebrated the win with boisterous singing in the dressing room [and cartons of Chocomel] but the party was to be short-lived, the coach keen for the team to get some much needed rest ahead of the weekend,

“They are celebrating in the dressing room but we have to get them to eat something and sit for an hour or two then we’re going to ask them to go to bed because we don’t have long before the next game. I’m sure they all want to perform in that game.”

The extra thirty minutes played and scant two rest days before the final meant that Nielsen had already planned a slightly lighter regime for the next day, one that will stand them well if the pitch in Enschede ends up like the one in Rotterdam,

No, it will still be the same but we will be more tired so we will have everyone in the pool tomorrow [Friday] instead of on the pitch.”

With five unsuccessful European semi-finals in the can, it was high time for Denmark to progress to the last two,

Yesterday [Wednesday] we said, everyone should give the person next to them a present and that present would be “today I play for you, I don’t play for me, I play for you so you will have a good game.” That was our preparation for the game that everyone was playing for the rest of the team and not themselves and I think we could see that on the pitch, they were working like crazy and that was what we needed.”