By Philip O'Connor
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The battle between the attacking wing backs of England and Denmark is where their Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley on Wednesday will be decided, former Denmark coach Age Hareide has told Reuters.
The 67-year-old Norwegian led Denmark through their successful Euro 2020 qualification campaign before his contract ran out in mid-2020, when he made way for current boss Kasper Hjulmand.
"Both teams are playing more or less the same way, with three centre-halves and wing backs," Hareide explained in a telephone interview from his home in Norway, where he coaches top-flight side Rosenborg.
"I think the battle for the wing backs will be very important, between Kyle Walker and Luke Shaw for England, and I know Joakim Maehle will definitely play for Denmark with Daniel Wass or Jens Stryger Larsen.
"I think the battle will be won by the offensive power of the wing backs," he added.
Maehle, a right-footed left wing back who plays for Italian side Atalanta in Serie A, has been a revelation for Denmark in attack, scoring two goals and delivering a superb assist with the outside of his right boot to Kasper Dolberg.
"Both teams have a defensive block with three centre-halves and two sitting midfielders. The Danish midfielders, (Pierre-Emile) Hojbjerg and (Thomas) Delaney are very strong," Hareide said.
"They have skills and power and fitness and strength to cover back for Denmark, so I think the wing backs will be crucial for Denmark in the offensive play."
Hareide, who represented Manchester City and Norwich City during his playing career, has been impressed by Gareth Southgate's England so far.
"They haven't shown any real weaknesses, they work hard, they have Premier League top players. They perform well as a team, as a unit, and they are stronger, more controlled than they have been before," he said.
The postponement of the Euros due to the COVID-19 pandemic may have cost Hareide the chance to be in the dugout for the tournament, but Hareide, who has said he will retire from football at the end of the Norwegian club season, is not bothered.
"In this pandemic people have lost their jobs, their lives - you have to think that way. I'm lucky in that I coached Denmark over the years, and I wish the boys well because I have a very good relationship with them," he said.
(Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Toby Davis)