Boilesen warming to his task with Denmark

Nicolai Boilesen is the first to admit Denmark did not make the best of starts, but the AFC Ajax left-back feels the tournament hosts are hitting their stride at just the right time.

Nicolai Boilesen has enjoyed a whirlwind few months for club and country
Nicolai Boilesen has enjoyed a whirlwind few months for club and country ©fodboldbilleder

Being the host nation brings its own, special kind of pressure. Often overbearing, the flip side is that it can generate a momentum other teams find hard to match; with a first win under their belts Denmark hope to tap that newly found impetus, according to left-back Nicolai Boilesen.

Boilesen was one of the standout performers in Tuesday's 2-1 victory over Belarus, and admits it had the air of a must-win game for Denmark following their loss to Switzerland. "We really needed it," he told "We felt it was really important to get the three points. We've been under a bit of pressure since the first game against Switzerland."

The UEFA European Under-21 Championship is less than a week old, but Boilesen has already noticed a significant improvement in Denmark's performance. "We thought we played really well and we're happy to have won the game," added the 19-year-old. "Maybe we should have won by more, but 2-1 is OK."

Denmark's Group A opener against Switzerland necessitated a shift in gear. "We were a bit slow at the beginning," he said of Saturday's meeting. "We had some golden opportunities to get the equaliser but we didn't do that and that's why we were under pressure."

Perhaps a stuttering start was to be expected, after two years of friendlies as opposed to the other nations' rigorous qualifying campaigns. For Boilesen, a latecomer to the set-up after starting the season with the U19s, there has been even less time to adapt.

"It's difficult because some of us have only played in this team for two weeks," added Boilesen, who – like his AFC Ajax club-mate Christian Eriksen – had not represented Keld Bordinggaard's side before this tournament. "We only played one game together as a group and we didn't play in the qualification rounds so we hadn't played any important matches."

Despite this handicap, Boilesen and his new team-mates have gelled well. "They are very welcoming," he continued. "I already knew about five of them before I joined up, but it was the same when I came to Ajax. When I got there I didn't know a lot of people, but we play the same kind of football, 4-3-3, and that helps a lot."

Apart from Eriksen, one player he does know well is the match-winner against Belarus, Nicolai Jørgensen. "Me and Nicolai have known each other for about ten years and in Denmark we live 500 metres from each other," he said of the Bayer 04 Leverkusen forward, who Boilesen linked up with to great effect down Denmark's left flank. "We've also played on other national teams so we know one another very well and that's one of the reasons it worked so well."

After winning the Dutch championship on the last day of the season with Ajax, Boilesen admits to having a "fast last couple of months", but his focus is now solely on progressing to the semi-finals. A final group meeting against point-less Iceland looms. "I really think we have the momentum to win, but we cannot underestimate them because they're very good as well, and if we don't win then it's over."