S.a first path at the end of a new moving chapter in this Danish Euro Championship story led Kasper Hjulmand to a man who had just suffered a painful defeat. A few moments earlier, the Danish national coach cheered for another moment of happiness, a goal that seemed superfluous like a second dessert at the end of a sumptuous feast. Striker Martin Braithwaite scored a fourth goal for Denmark deep in stoppage time.
Now the winner’s coach ran onto the lawn to comfort Gareth Bale, who was eliminated from the tournament with Wales. The Danes know their way around the interplay between emotional extremes and they also understand a lot about compassion in these special summer weeks. After difficult days, you yourself are currently carried by a feeling of continental sympathy, by a force that has now led you to one of the eight best teams in the competition. “I admire the boys for their good game, I admire that they are good, no matter who is playing,” Hjulmand said a little later proudly.
The story of Christian Eriksen, who almost died of heart failure on the pitch in the first game, remains the central motive of this European Championship participant, and smart as the Danes are, they don’t even try to forget this shock or in any way to overcome. On the contrary, the special forces released by the traumatic experience should and are allowed to develop. “When Christian collapsed, I felt that everything was changing,” said Hjulmand on Saturday evening. “We needed the love and the support. That gave us wings, the boys are warriors. ”Warriors who are no longer only supported by their compatriots.
A red and white party kettle
The Amsterdam Johan Cruyff Arena was a red and white party kettle in the 4-0 victory on Saturday, although it was easy to see that many Dutch had also come. Supporters from Wales were not allowed to enter the Netherlands due to the delta variant of the coronavirus, which is widespread in Great Britain.
But that was probably not the reason for the poor performance of the Welsh, who simply weren’t good enough for a quarter-finals at this level. “To get that far is a great achievement, we have a young team that will learn a lot from this tournament,” said coach Rob Page. The Danes were simply stronger, football-wise, but above all as a community that is on an unforgettable adventure journey through extreme emotional areas.
It fits this story well that Kasper Dolberg scored the first two goals of the evening (27th, 48th). The 23-year-old OGC Nice attacker played for Ajax Amsterdam from 2016 to 2019, as did Eriksen a few years earlier. Now Dolberg had a great moment in his former home. “It felt like a home game, fantastic,” he said, raving about his colleagues. “It’s just easy to get into this team, they are cool guys. It is an honor to be part of this team ”.
Dolberg, who had not played in the first two games, played for Yussuf Poulsen from Leipzig, who had an injured thigh, and fit in wonderfully with the Danish collective, which did not play so brilliantly that a 4-0 win was more or less automatic would result. Joakim Maehle (88.) and Braithwaite (90. + 6) decided the duel late.
Even title chances?
There were also tough periods with bad passes and situations in which goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel hit long balls into the Welsh half because the build-up of the game stalled. But Denmark is currently experiencing this “magical” state for which footballers like to use the term “momentum”. With a 4-1 win against Russia at the end of the group stage and this next 4-goal experience later, they let many feelings arise that are not entirely unknown in this football nation.
In 1992 Denmark became European champions under unique circumstances; at that time the players were already on vacation because their country had not even qualified for the finals. However, Yugoslavia was excluded due to the beginning of the war, the Danes moved up and won the title as if in a frenzy. Now they are constantly asked whether something like this could be possible again, also because this ongoing tournament is taking place under such special circumstances. “We believe in each other, we believe in the squad and our quality. But we have to tackle one task after the other, “replied Hjulmand when asked about the title chances.
The Danes now want more and will meet the winner of the duel between Holland and the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals next Saturday in Baku. Even there, given the latest developments, they are by no means without a chance. Because inside, a very strong cohesion has developed, and outside on the football continent, this team now finally has the wonderful role of the outsider that everyone loves.