Details have emerged of a heartwarming gesture made by the Denmark team ahead of their crunch World Cup clash with Australia on Thursday night.
The build-up to the match in Samara has been far from orthodox after it was revealed Danish defender Jonas Knudsen flew home after the side’s opening win against Peru to see his new-born daughter.
Knudsen’s wife gave birth to their baby several weeks earlier than expected, with the 25-year-old desperate to be at his wife’s side for the momentous occasion.
Feeling for their teammate, the Danish team decided to pay for a private jet so Knudsen could fly back to be with his wife and Bub, before re-joining the squad at the start of the week.
“We wanted to look at the human side,” said goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
“There are lots of fathers in the squad. You have to remember we are human beings as well as footballers.”
“As a father myself I cannot imagine how hard it was for Jonas getting that message and not being there.
“We wanted to do anything for him to see his daughter.”
The touching show of support suggests a unity within the Danish side, who take on the Socceroos in Kazan after seeing off Peru 1-0.
Schmeichel said Denmark would not be fazed by the number of Australian fans supporting their team in a “tough” World Cup clash in Samara as they target a place in the knockout phase.
Australia are under pressure after a 2-1 opening defeat to France, despite impressive support from fans dressed in green and gold.
The Socceroos expect more of the same after thousands of fans made the five-hour taxi ride to Samara from Kazan — instead of flying west to Moscow then back east again — but Schmeichel is not concerned.
He expects a battling display from Bert van Marwijk’s men, but said the Danes are ready to take a step towards the last 16.
“Australia had a really good game against France. They were unlucky not to get something from the game,” said Leicester’s Schmeichel, the son of Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel.
“They’ve got some good players, they’re very organised, very compact when they defend, good creative players with speed on the wings. We’re expecting a really tough game.”
After an impressive defensive display against France, Van Marwijk is hoping the Socceroos create more chances but admits the Danes pose a significant threat.
“The Danish, they are a strong team,” van Marwijk told reporters.
“They are number 12 in the world rankings – that says enough.
“They have a strong team, physical strong, very tall players – that is a weapon.
“We played against France, they have I think more quality in the players and more creativity. But I think the Danish are maybe more a team.”
With Australia’s fullback Josh Risdon overcoming a corked hip suffered in the loss to France, van Marwijk has a full squad to select from.
“I will not talk about changes or no changes,” he said.
Pressed on whether Tim Cahill was a chance to feature after not playing against France, van Marwijk replied: “There is always a chance for all the players.”