Inspired Denmark blow Russia away to keep Euro 2020 dream alive

Copenhagen erupts as Danes book their place in last-16 where they will face Wales

Denmark’s players and staff members celebrate after the third goal in their Euro 2020 win over Russia. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images

Denmark’s players and staff members celebrate after the third goal in their Euro 2020 win over Russia. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images

 

Russia 1 Denmark 4

Few teams have ever deserved to make progress as much as Denmark did on a thrilling night in Copenhagen. Players who, just nine days ago, were traumatised to see Christian Eriksen suffer cardiac arrest in the middle of their first match produced a momentous performance on the same pitch, emerging as emphatic victors over Russia to set up a last 16 showdown with Wales.

Mikkel Damsgaard and Yusuf Poulsen ignited celebrations before Artem Dzyuba put them on pause, only for Andreas Christensen and Joakkim Mæhle to score spectacular goals and confirm that Denmark as runners-up in Group B.

Before the match Danish supporters laid an enormous red shirt on the grass of the park beside the national stadium in Copenhagen. It bore a single word: Helte, meaning “heroes”. That was a reminder that no matter what happened against Russia, Denmark’s players had already made their country proud in this tournament by reacting with such sense and solidarity when Eriksen collapsed in the first match. Still, the players are also inveterate competitors so, with mighty exhortation from the home crowd, they were determined to seize the chance that they still had to advance in the tournament despite losing their opening two games.

Andreas Christensen scores the third. Photo: Stuart Franklin/AFP via Getty Images
Andreas Christensen scores the third. Photo: Stuart Franklin/AFP via Getty Images

Kasper Hjulmand chose the same personnel whose swashbuckling start to their last match had the unintended consequence of spurring Belgium into a devastating reaction. Russia, venturing into hostile territory after playing their first two matches in Saint Petersburg, were at least able to field their strongest possible side, Fyodor Kudryashov and Mário Fernandes having recovered from injuries.

Against Belgium the Danes had started like a whirlwind but this time they took a while to brew up a storm even if they forced Russia backwards at the outset. The visitors defended well, tackling diligently, blocking crosses and tracking runners from midfield. Denmark made regular gains down the flanks but could not infiltrate a well guarded box.

Russia’s plan was to stay solid enough to deflate their hosts’ initial fervour, and they threatened to puncture it emphatically in the 17th minute when Alexsandr Golovin pounced on a loose ball in midfield and skedaddled past two Danes on his way into the area. He had the whole goal to aim at but drilled a low shot at Kasper Schmeichel, who made a more comfortable save that he should have been allowed.

Denmark enjoyed an even bigger let-off four minutes later when Russian launched another break from midfield only for Roman Zobnin to botch a straightforward pass when attackers outnumbered defenders.

Those raids jolted the Danes. But a crude foul by Kudryashov on Daniel Wass focused their minds anew, as well as earning the veteran a booking. Kudryashov redeemed himself moments later by making a perfectly timed tackle in the box to curtail a run by Damsgaard. But no one was likely to stop a thunderous long-range shot by Pierre-Emile Højbjerg on the half hour. Russia exhaled when it flew inches wide. But soon they were beaten in breathtaking style by Damsgaard.

Danish fans celebrate during the game. Photo: Wolfgang Rattay - Pool/Getty Images
Danish fans celebrate during the game. Photo: Wolfgang Rattay - Pool/Getty Images

The 20-year-old nipped into space to collect a pass in front of the Russian defence and then, from just outside the D, he curled the ball between two centrebacks and into the corner of the net, beyond a goalkeeper too bewildered to dive.

With Russia suddenly reeling, Damsgaard tried to land another blow, slipping a pass through to Yusuf Poulsen, whose shot on the run drifted wide.

Russia, needing at least to draw, started the second half with more attacking intent. With Golovin’s elusive runs and Artem Dzyuba’s tendency to play like a man in a mosh pit, they carried plenty of menace. But Daler Kuzyaev accidentally shot his own team in the foot in the 59th minute when his blind backpass wrongfooted his goalkeeper, Matvei Safonov, and turned into an ideal through-ball to Poulsen. The forward stroked the ball into the empty net to trigger wild celebrations all around the stadium.

The atmosphere grew even more giddy a few minutes later when news came through that Belgium had taken the lead against Finland. But the twists were far from finished. The Belgian goal was ruled out by Var and then, back in Copenhagen, Russia were awarded a penalty when Jannik Vestergaard was judged to have dragged Aleksandr Sobolev to the ground. Dzyuba calmly converted from the spot.

After that, the most thrilling mayhem. The crowd roared news of a Belgian goal that stood. Then Denmark battered at the Russian door, safonov turning them away with several execlellent saves before Christensen thrashed in an unstoppable shot from over 20 yards. Then Mæhle made it 4-1 with a smart finishing after dancing through the Russian defence. – Guardian

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