STOCKHOLM: Denmark hope having thousands of passionate fans back in the stands in Copenhagen on Saturday will help them to victory over a Finnish side making a first appearance at a major tournament finals.
On Thursday, Denmark's government approved having up to 25,000 fans at Saturday's Group B clash, but the football association said it would not be able to change capacity ahead of the Finland game, when around 16,000 are expected to attend.
Regardless of numbers, coach Kasper Hjulmand expects the fans - known in Danish as "roligans" in a play on the word hooligan but meaning calm and fun - to help his side maximise the advantage of playing their three group games at home.
"That boost and the margins that all these matches will be about, I believe the Danish fans in Parken (stadium) can tip the balance in our favour. They are the ones who help us when we really need it, the ones who cheer when we put in a tackle and score a goal," Hjulmand told reporters.
Defender Mathias "Zanka" Joergensen, who grew up a stone's throw from the stadium, echoed the sentiments of his boss.
"There's something special in Parken that can really give the home team a boost, and I'm sure we'll experience that during our home games," he said.
Despite the lack of a big-name striker, the free-scoring Danes have netted 17 goals so far in 2021 and conceded only once, in a recent friendly against Germany.
Finland's chances will be dependent on whether or not goal-poacher Teemo Pukki, who scored 10 goals as the Finns came second in their group to qualify, will be fully recovered from an ankle injury.
Coach Markku Kanerva says his side is relishing the challenge. "Denmark are a really tough team and they get to play on home soil, but we have proved we can challenge even bigger countries than Denmark," he told UEFA.com.
With group rivals Belgium and Russia meeting later on Saturday in St. Petersburg, the Finns know that a good start will be essential.
"Enthusiasm is increasing and we can't wait to be at Copenhagen's Parken Stadium to make history right away," Kanerva added.
(Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)