LONDON: Denmark powered into the last 16 of Euro 2020 with a brilliant 4-1 thrashing of Russia at a raucous Parken Stadium on Monday, helping to send five other teams through in the process.
The Danes knew they had to beat Russia by two goals and hope leaders Belgium saw off Finland in St Petersburg to snatch second place in Group ‘B’ despite opening with two defeats.
The first of those losses, to Finland, was overshadowed by Christian Eriksen’s on-pitch collapse, caused by a cardiac arrest.
But it was a joyous night in Copenhagen on Monday as goals from Mikkel Damsgaard, Yussuf Poulsen, Andreas Christensen and Joakim Maehle saw the hosts through in style, as Belgium scored two late goals to beat the Finns 2-0.
Kasper Hjulmand’s men will meet Wales in the last 16 in Amsterdam on Saturday.
“The most important [thing] is that we are now united as Denmark,” Maehle told Danish broadcaster DR after the win in front of a 25,000-strong crowd. “We need to enjoy this moment. I’m super proud of the boys.”
Inter Milan player Eriksen has left hospital after a successful operation to have a heart defibrillator fitted.
Damsgaard put Denmark ahead in the first half and Poulsen pounced on a defensive error to make it 2-0. Artem Dzyuba made it 2-1 from the penalty spot but Christensen and Maehle scored late goals to give Denmark victory.
The results in Group B also saw Switzerland, who finished third in Group ‘A’, the Czech Republic, England, Sweden and France — all yet to play their final group games — move into the knockout phase because they have four points and will finish no worse than third in their groups.
Results in the final Group ‘B’ and ‘C’ games on Monday have left Finland and Ukraine in third place in the respective standings with three points. That means any team with four points is guaranteed to be at least among the four best third-place teams.
Finland and Ukraine have not yet been eliminated. Results in Group ‘D’ on Tuesday and Group ‘E’ on Wednesday could leave those third-place finishers with only two points.
The Czechs and England go head-to-head at Wembley on Tuesday, with first place in Group ‘D’ up for grabs, while Sweden take on Poland and world champions France face holders Portugal, still in danger of a shock exit, on Wednesday.
The 1992 European champions Denmark still needed Belgium to beat Finland and for a long time it looked like that might not happen.
But Finland fell behind in the 74th minute when a header from Thomas Vermaelen hit the post, the ball rebounded onto the hand of Finland goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky and went over the line.
Romelu Lukaku scored the other goal in the 81st for his third at Euro 2020.
Belgium eased through as group winners and will play a third-placed team in Seville on Sunday.
Spain face the possibility of an embarrassing elimination in front of their fans in Seville when they face Slovakia on Wednesday.
Only victory for Spain will be enough to ensure a spot in the round of 16. A draw may be enough, but only if Poland don’t defeat Sweden in the other Group ‘E’ match.
After two disappointing draws against Sweden and Poland, Spain currently sit third on two points, one behind Slovakia and two behind Sweden.
Slovakia, playing only their second Euros as an independent nation, need a draw to guarantee their spot in the next round.
Sweden will reach the knockout stages as unlikely group winners if they beat Poland in St Petersburg, but it will be no easy task as their opponents need a victory to have any hope of keeping their last-16 dream alive.
While France advanced without kicking a ball, Portugal can move on as well even with a loss in Budapest on Wednesday.
A one-goal loss for Portugal should be enough as long as Hungary don’t win in Germany in the other game in Group ‘F’.
Portugal can still win the group by beating France, but it depends on what happens in Munich in the match between Germany and Hungary.
Germany and Portugal have three points and the same goal difference, while Hungary are last with one point and must win to advance.
Meanwhile, the British government said on Tuesday that crowd capacity at Wembley will be increased to more than 60,000 fans for the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020.
The new levels mean the stadium will be at 75% capacity for the final three games, which conclude with the final on July 11.
All ticket holders will need to have either a negative Covid-19 test or proof of full vaccination — two doses received 14 days before the fixture.
The announcement came after Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called on Monday for the final to be moved from England due to rising Covid-19 cases in the country.
(Tabulated under played, won, drawn, lost, goals scored, goals conceded, points):
Belgium 3 3 0 0 7 1 9
Denmark 3 1 0 2 5 4 3
Finland 3 1 0 2 1 3 3
Russia 3 1 0 2 2 7 3
Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2021