Dominant Denmark oust sheepish Wales
Denmark kicked off the round of 16 with an emphatic four goal victory over a dejected Welsh side at the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam, 29 years to the day after winning the Championships in 1992. A brace from Kasper Dolberg placed the Danes in a comfortable position, with Joakim Maehle and Martin Braithwaite adding insult to injury for Rob Page’s men.
It has been a very emotionally driven tournament so far for the Scandinavian nation, following the collapse of star player Christian Eriksen, during their opening match against Finland in Copenhagen.
Since the tragic incident, Eriksen has made a steady recovery, and so has the Danish tournament hopes following defeats in their opening two games against the Finns and Belgium.
They managed to secure qualification to the knockout stages with a highly entertaining 4-1 win over Russia, going through as group runners-up behind Belgium.
Wales also went through as runners-up, with their most recent result being a narrow loss in Rome over a formidable Italy side, who were unbeaten in 29 games at the time.
The Welsh had seemed to put this defeat behind them, starting the opening 10 minutes on the front foot, with Gareth Bale going close to opening the scoring.
However, following this missed opportunity the Danes began to get more of the ball, threatening the Welsh back line, which did not look convincing from the off.
Kasper Hjulmand’s side capitalised on this heavy spell of pressure in the 27th minute, with Dolberg placing an excellent finish from the edge of the area past the reach of Danny Ward.
Before this game, Dolberg had only played 31 minutes in the Championships, featuring in the previous game in St.Petersburg. However, an injury to Yussuf Poulsen meant that the Nice forward was called upon and he certainly repaid his manager with this early strike.
The Danish Dynamite’s continued their pressure, with Dolberg nearly getting another shortly after, and truth be told Wales were lucky to go into the break only one down.
The half time interval gave caretaker manager Page the opportunity to regroup with his players and start the second half on the front foot.
But this was not to be with the Danes doubling their lead only three minutes into the second half, with Dolberg getting his second after capitalising on a poor clearance from Liverpool youngster Neco Williams.
There was suspicion of a foul on Kieffer Moore in the build-up to the goal, but that is still no excuse for the lacklustre defending that gifted the Denmark striker with a simple finish.
As the game went on there was only one side that looked like scoring and that was the Danish, who had the majority of the crowd supporting them, with coronavirus restrictions prohibiting many Welsh fans from travelling.
Wales looked like a defeated side and not like the resilient team that gained a crucial victory over Turkey in their second group game, which enabled them to qualify to this stage.
Two Denmark attempts hitting the post, as well as other golden opportunities missed did give the small Welsh following a small glimpse of hope.
But this all came crashing down in the 88th minute, when Maehle put the game beyond the 2016 semi-finalists, getting a deserved goal after putting in an excellent shift for his country.
Things went from bad to worse for Wales, when substitute Harry Wilson received a red card for a frustrated challenge on Maehle, despite the contact being minimal.
Then in injury time, the Welsh nightmare was complete, with Barcelona forward Braithwaite firing in a fourth, to end a torrid afternoon for the home nation.
This result did not flatter Denmark, they were very good value for their money and the deficit could have been larger had they been more clinical.
Despite the disappointing exit for the Welsh squad, this tournament can still be seen as a success, after getting out of a seemingly tricky group. Page has done an excellent job to regroup the players, following manager Ryan Giggs’ charge with allegedly assaulting and coercively controlling his ex-partner.
The next stop for the Danes is a quarter-final in Baku, where they will face either the Netherlands or Czech Republic, in which they will feel either is a winnable game following scoring four in successive games.