Denmark spectacle offers plenty to savour

A fifth of Denmark's population watched their Under-21s beat Belarus on TV this week and they are not alone in savouring a tournament proving enjoyable for players and fans alike.

"Danish football is alive" ran the headline in the daily newspaper B.T. as it reflected on Denmark's revived prospects in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship and how the current crop of young talents offer hope for the future.

Whatever tomorrow brings, today is certainly providing its own exciting narrative for the host team. Keld Bordinggaard's youngsters featured in a two-part documentary – De Udvalgte (The Chosen Ones) – before the tournament introducing them to the Danish public and the evidence of their second group match on Tuesday is that they have been embraced as over one million viewers (1,097,000) watched them beat Belarus on TV2 – a figure that amounts to almost one-fifth of the Danish population.

According to the team's most experienced player, Christian Eriksen, such enthusiasm means "it feels like playing for the A team at home". That spells good news for the hosts' morale but the Danes are not alone in enjoying themselves. Ken Tyler is one of 11 England supporters from Reading who hired a minibus, draped a St George flag across the front bonnet and undertook the long, 12-hour journey from Calais through France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany to get to Denmark.

He may still be waiting to see England win a game here on the Jutland peninsula but he has enjoyed every minute of the "hygge" – a Danish word that holds a significant role in the national consciousness, conveying sociability, cosiness and good times shared. "It's been brilliant – it's a good atmosphere and it's nice that the supporters are mixed so we can all be together," he told outside Herning Stadion after Wednesday's stalemate with Ukraine. "I put a lot down to the Danish people."

If that busload of Englishmen thought their journey was arduous, it was nothing compared with that of Ukrainian father and son Vasyl and Mark Shevchuk, who were also in Herning. They had flown from Chicago to Paris, then driven up from the French capital to be here. "We've been made to feel very welcome," Shevchuk Sr told the Herning Folkeblad newspaper. "We've already got to know over 50 people."

In the team camps too there is a fair amount of 'hygge' happening. The Danish players are whiling away the spare hours playing a board game called Bezzerwizzer, which combines trivia and tactics. In the Iceland camp, captain Bjarni Thór Vidarsson and Alfred Finnbogason are fining their colleagues for any little misdemeanours – ranging from arriving late for breakfast to wearing the wrong clothes – with the fund going to a charity helping children with cancer.

Friday night is quiz night for the England squad, finally, though a busload from Reading will be hoping they can come up with the right answers on the pitch as well. With all eight sides still in contention for the semi-finals for the first time entering the weekend's last group matches, they are not alone in that.