Paris – 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 Saint 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.
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.
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 Finnish goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky put through his own net in unfortunate circumstances with 16 minutes to play, and Romelu Lukaku scored his third goal of the tournament in the 81st minute.
Belgium eased through as group winners and will play a third-placed team in Seville on Sunday.
Austria clinch historic win
Austria edged to a 1-0 win over Ukraine earlier on Monday to beat their opponents to a spot in the last 16.
Christoph Baumgartner’s 21st-minute goal proved enough for Austria to secure second place in Group C behind the Netherlands, who saw off North Macedonia 3-0 in a dead rubber in Amsterdam.
Austria will face Group A winners Italy at Wembley on Saturday for a quarter-final berth.
“We wanted to write history,” Austria coach Franco Foda told uefa.com.
“You could see the boys took that on board and showed from the first minute that we wanted to win the game. I’m very proud of my team.”
Andriy Shevchenko’s Ukraine, who suffered group-stage exits in 2012 and 2016, now face an anxious wait to see if their three points are enough to get them through as one of the four best third-placed teams.
Austria — who had never won a European Championship match until they beat North Macedonia in their opener — scored the all-important goal when Baumgartner beat 18-year-old defender Illia Zabarnyi to David Alaba’s corner and poked beyond Georgiy Bushchan.
The other game in the group saw Dutch captain Georginio Wijnaldum net twice as the Netherlands made it three wins out of three.
Barcelona-bound Memphis Depay opened the scoring for Frank de Boer’s men in Amsterdam, who were pushed by their visitors, with the Macedonians seeing two goals disallowed and hitting the post.
The Netherlands will next take on a third-placed team in Budapest on Sunday. — AFP