Denmark remarkably booked their place in the last 16 of Euro 2020 with a stirring 4-1 win over Russia in Copenhagen on Monday.
After losing 1-0 to Finland – a game overshadowed by the cardiac arrest suffered by Christian Eriksen – and 2-1 to Belgium, Denmark’s hopes of making the knockout stages were slim before the clash at the Parken Stadium.
Kasper Hjulmand’s side delivered a sensational display, though, to claim a first win of the tournament – and seal second spot in Group B courtesy of Finland’s defeat to Belgium – Mikkel Damsgaard and Yussuf Poulsen putting them 2-0 up before the hour mark.
Artem Dzyuba pulled one back for Russia from the penalty spot, but Denmark secured a thrilling victory late on thanks to goals from Andreas Christensen and Joakim Maehle, sparking jubilant scenes in the Danish capital and setting up a showdown with Wales in Amsterdam on Saturday.
Despite a fast-paced start, the first shot on goal did not come until the 18th minute, Kasper Schmeichel keeping out Aleksandr Golovin’s strike with his feet.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who missed a penalty against Finland, went close with Denmark’s first shot shortly before the half-hour mark, the Tottenham midfielder’s superb 30-yard drive flashing just past Matvey Safonov’s right-hand post.
The Parken Stadium erupted seven minutes before the interval when Damsgaard whipped his third international goal into the top-right corner from 25 yards.
Things got even better for Hjulmand’s side in the 59th minute when Roman Zobnin inexplicably rolled the ball into the path of Poulsen, who clipped his 10th international goal past the despairing dive of Safonov.
Russia reduced the deficit in the 70th minute, though, Dzyuba stroking home his spot-kick after Jannik Vestergaard was adjudged to have brought down Alexander Sobolev in the area.
Denmark restored their two-goal advantage nine minutes later when Christensen lashed home from 25 yards after Safonov had made quickfire saves from Simon Kjaer and Martin Braithwaite.
And a wonderful win was wrapped up in style in the 82nd minute when Maehle cut inside from the left after an incisive counter-attacking move and fired past a beleaguered Safonov.
What does it mean? Danes deliver when it matters
After consecutive defeats in their opening two games, and without the services of their best player Eriksen, few gave Denmark much hope of making the knockout stages. Roared on by what seemed like most of Europe, however, they produced the standout display of the tournament so far to power past Russia, who had just two shots on target.
Indeed, this was the first time Denmark scored four goals in a major tournament match since the 1998 World Cup when they beat Nigeria 4-1.
Damsgaard makes his mark
Damsgaard set the stage for a famous night in Denmark’s history with a superb opener, the Sampdoria midfielder taking his goal involvement to six (three goals, three assists) in his last five appearances for his country. That strike also saw him become Denmark’s youngest goalscorer at a major tournament, aged 20 years and 353 days
Zobnin sums up Russia’s woes
Things might have turned out differently had Zobnin not given Poulsen the opportunity to score Denmark’s second with a dismal attempted backpass to his goalkeeper. That was Russia’s third error leading to a goal at this tournament, with no other side making more.
Key Opta facts
– Denmark are the first team in European Championship history to reach the knockout stages of the competition having lost their first two group stage games.
– Russia conceded 4+ goals in a major tournament game (World Cup and Euros) for only the second time, after losing 4-1 to Spain in the Euro 2008 group stages (excluding games as USSR).
– Hojbjerg has assisted three of Denmark’s goals so far at Euro 2020, with no Danish player managing more in a single edition of the competition (also three for Michael Laudrup in 1984 and Flemming Povlsen in 1992).
– Dzyuba netted his 30th international goal, moving level with Aleksandr Kerzhakov as the all-time joint top-scorer for Russia (since the dissolution of the USSR).
Denmark’s attention now turns to a clash with Gareth Bale and company on Saturday for a place in the last eight, while Russia are next in action against Croatia in World Cup qualifying in September.
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