Soccer-Schmeichel set to shine as Denmark dare to dream again

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·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: UEFA Nations League - League A - Group 2 - Denmark v England
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By Philip O'Connor

(Reuters) - Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel is stepping out of the shadow of his illustrious father Peter and coming into his own at just the right time as his country seek to recreate their fairytale Euro 92 victory almost three decades later.

Though nowhere near as decorated as his father, who kept goal for the '92 side that was famously called into the tournament as a replacement for the former Yugoslavia and went on to win it, the younger Schmeichel is just as important.

"He's very important, on and off the pitch. I think he has developed fantastically in the last year... with the size of our country we have to try to punch above our weight, and a world-class keeper is essential, and Kasper is that," Denmark boss Kasper Hjulmand told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Having Schmeichel to shut up shop behind them means the rest of the team have the freedom to take risks further up the field.

The 34-year-old's career started slowly as he was loaned out from Manchester City to modest clubs such as Darlington, Bury and Cardiff City but since his move to Leicester City in 2011, he has not looked back.

The shot-stopper was instrumental in Leicester's promotion to the Premier League in 2014 and in 2016 he was even more important as they won the Premier League as 5,000-1 outsiders in a feat almost as unbelievable as Denmark's 1992 victory.

Schmeichel came to Leicester's rescue again in this season's FA Cup Final against Chelsea, pulling off two stunning saves as the Foxes edged out the Blues to claim the trophy.

Born in Copenhagen in 1986, Kasper spent much of his youth growing up in England where his father played for Manchester United, Aston Villa and Manchester City, but attempts by the FA to see if he was eligible to play for England were rebuffed.

He possesses both his father's uncanny reflex shot-stopping ability and a booming voice to shout instructions to his defence, while being a far superior distributor of the ball.

When the Euros come around Danes invariably start to dream, and their hopes will be in Schmeichel's safe hands - it is up to the rest of the team to get the goals they will need to advance.

(Reporting by Philip O'Connor in Stockholm; Editing by Ken Ferris)