In extreme adversity, Denmark somehow find a way to advance from Euro 2020 group

Denmark turned in one of the most memorable second-half displays in the history of the European Championships to somehow finish second in Group B
In extreme adversity, Denmark somehow find a way to advance from Euro 2020 group

Denmark players and coaching staff celebrate at the end of the Euro 2020 match against Russia at the Parken stadium in Copenhagen. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)

Denmark 4 Russia 1

The near-tragedy to Christian Eriksen weighing on them, individually and collectively in Copenhagen, Denmark turned in one of the most memorable second-half displays in the history of the European Championships to somehow finish second in Group B.

It took them through to a last 16 meeting with Wales in Amsterdam on Saturday and, suddenly, a team without a point from their opening two games has momentum, an entire nation willing them on fanatically - and limitless good well from the sports world at large.

It is not often Wales are considered the “villains” on the international football stage but they will be considered as such by anyone outside the principality this weekend if they knock Denmark out of this competition.

Mikkel Damsgaard, the rising star of Danish football, opened the scoring, curling in a quite magnificent 20-yard right-foot finish, from a perceptive 39th-minute pass from Tottenham’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

It was a goal that breathed hope into his country’s hopes of clawing their way out of the group, despite defeats in their opening two games, although a crucial second goal was a gift from Russian midfielder Roman Zobnin.

He played an inexplicable back pass beyond his keeper Matvei Safanov, leaving Yussuf Poulsen with the simple task of rolling the ball into an open net.

Perhaps predictably given the tournament they have endured, the drama was not over there. Just as Belgium had an opening goal ruled out in the other match, Danish defender Jannik Vestergaard fouled Aleksandr Sobolev and Russia were awarded a penalty.

That was calmly dispatched by giant Russian striker Artem Dzyuba to bring them to within a goal although the defining moment came in the 80th minute, moments after Belgium had finally gone ahead.

Safanov made superb saves to deny Martin Braithwaite and Simon Kjaer in quick succession but, as the ball broke out of the area, Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen sent a sensational 25-yard shot flying into the goal.

The Russians were spent and just two minutes later the energetic Joakim Maehle led the charge half the length of the field on the counter-attack before calmly stroking in a fourth goal.

The mathematical permutations, of the game and the group, were fluid and constantly changing but this was a night nobody in the passionate 25,000 home crowd in Copenhagen’s Telia Parken will ever forget, the atmosphere made all the more intense by the campaign their heroes had endured.

The shocking incident involving Eriksen, who suffered a cardiac episode in their opening group game, may have had a happy outcome with the former Tottenham man apparently recovering well from the nightmare.

But the residual legacy of that near-tragedy has taken its toll on the squad and, judging by the pre-match comments of the players, the nation as a whole.

A Danish victory, which still may not have guaranteed a place in the last-16, would therefore have been popular with most neutrals, as well as the home support, and when Damsgaard rewarded his team for their urgency with his opening goal, it produced what has undoubtedly been the loudest response of the tournament to date.

But the hosts could count themselves lucky not to be trailing by that stage as Russia, conscious that a point would almost certainly be enough to advance, looked dangerous on the counter-attack with Aleksandr Golovin missing the best chance when he could only shoot straight at Kasper Schmeichel.

By the 25th minute, French referee Clement Turpin was even warning the Russians about time-wasting but, gradually, Denmark were gaining a hold on the contest and Hjobjerg’s terrific 30-yard strike on the half-hour only just missed the goal.

Hjobjerg picked up a head injury, following an accidental collision with Fyodor Kudryashov early in the second half, needing a heavy bandage before he could continue, although that did not dull the Spurs man’s eye for the pass.

His 53rd-minute cross found Daniel Wass in a shooting position in the Russian area but he opted to try and move the ball on to Martin Braithwaite who was quickly closed down by the defence.

Meanwhile, an own goal from Finland goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky and a smart Romelu Lukaku finish sent Belgium into the last 16 of Euro 2020 with a perfect record from Group B after a 2-0 win in St Petersburg.

The Finns had fought an increasingly desperate rearguard action in the hunt for the point they hoped would prove enough to seal qualification but were ultimately left to almost certainly exit the tournament.

Thomas Vermaelen’s 73rd-minute header from a corner struck a post before dropping over the line after striking the hand of the unfortunate Hradecky, who had earlier kept his side in the game.

And Belgium consigned the Finns to their fate in the 81st minute after a clinical turn and shot in the box by Lukaku, making up for an earlier effort that had been ruled out by VAR.

RUSSIA (3–4-2-1): Safonov 6; Dzhikiya 6, Diveev 7, Kudryashov 6 (Karavaev 67, 7); Fernandes 7, Ozdoev 5 (Zhemaletdinov 62, 6), Zobnin 5, Kuzyaev 6 (Mukhin 67, 6); Miranchuk 6 (Sobolev 61, 7), Golovin 7; Dzyuba 8.

DENMARK (3-4-2-1): Schmeichel 7; Christensen 7, Kjaer 7, Vestergaard 7; Wass 7 (Larsen 60, 7), Hojbjerg 8, Delaney 7 (Jensen 85), Maehle 9; Braithwaite 7 (Cornelius 85), Damsgaard 7 (Norgaard 72, 6); Poulsen 7 (Dolberg 60, 6).

Referee: C Turpin (France) 7

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