Wednesday, August 4, 2021
sport

Wales were eliminated in the second round of Euro 2020 as they were thrashed by Denmark, whose inspiring journey at the tournament continues to the quarter-finals.

Backed by a fervent and almost exclusively Danish crowd, Kasper Hjulmand’s side led as Kasper Dolberg curled in a fine 27th-minute strike from the edge of the penalty area.

Dolberg struck again in the 48th minute as he seized on a defensive error from Wales substitute Neco Williams to smash in from close range.

That goal deflated Wales, who never looked like clawing their way back into the game as Joakim Maehle added a late third for the jubilant Danes.

Substitute Harry Wilson was then shown a straight red card for a late foul on Maehle before Martin Braithwaite struck a fourth goal in added time as Wales’ campaign ended miserably.

Robert Page’s men had performed well to get out of a difficult Group A which also featured Italy, Switzerland and Turkey, but this impressive Danish side proved a challenge too far.

Denmark had already provided the uplifting story of these finals, showing admirable resolve to reach this stage having been galvanised by midfielder Christian Eriksen’s recovery from a cardiac arrest.

The next stop on their fairytale voyage will be Baku for a last-eight tie with the Netherlands or the Czech Republic next Saturday.

As for Wales, they will return home exhausted but, in time, proud of their efforts in reaching the knockout stages again in only their third appearance at a major tournament.
Wales’ long road comes to an end

Wales’ journey to this point had been long and arduous. Where Denmark had the luxury of playing all three of their group games at home in Copenhagen, Page’s side had travelled to the tournament’s eastern outpost in Baku for two matches before facing Italy in Rome.

This was effectively a third away game from four for Wales and, initially, they seemed to relish the challenge as they made a purposeful start to the game.

Captain Gareth Bale looked dangerous on the right, cutting inside on to his left foot and sending a 20-yard shot wobbling just wide before finding space again to creating openings for his fellow attackers.

That proved to be a false dawn as Dolberg’s excellent goal changed the game.

From that point Wales found themselves retreating further into their own half in the face of pressure, as well as having to contend with an injury to right-back Connor Roberts and a yellow card for striker Kieffer Moore which curbed his threat as a physical pivot to the attack.

Moore felt aggrieved at not winning a free-kick in the build-up to Denmark’s second goal as he was manhandled by Simon Kjaer, who he was adjudged to have fouled for his booking earlier.
But the goal was still largely Wales’ own doing as Williams’ attempted clearance fell to Dolberg, who had the simple task of finishing inside the box.

That was a body blow to Wales, who seemed devoid of energy and ideas as they tried in vain to mount a comeback.

A two-goal defeat would have been disappointing enough, but a wretched final five minutes saw them fall apart, conceding two late strikes and Wilson’s red card bringing their campaign to a thoroughly depressing conclusion.

Denmark’s home from home

Denmark not only had the advantage of having thousands of fans with them in Amsterdam, but also the backing of locals and neutrals at the Johan Cruyff Arena, Eriksen’s former home when he played for Ajax.

Pre-match estimates of 5,000 Danes were way off – almost every single one of the 16,000 people inside the stadium was wearing their colours and giving this game the strong sense of a home fixture for Hjulmand’s side.

Denmark were initially a little slow to make that advantage count but, once Dolberg put them in front, they took total control.

Dolberg, another former Ajax player, was a handful for Wales’ centre-backs, while he was well supported in wide areas by fellow forwards Mikkel Damsgaard and Braithwaite.

It was Barcelona striker Braithwaite who made the key pass for the second goal, surging past Joe Rodon and firing in the low cross which Williams diverted into Dolberg’s path.

Denmark were now utterly dominant, giving their fans further reason to cheer when Maehle, unmarked at the back post, fired into the top corner.

The Danish supporters had to wait to celebrate Braithwaite’s injury-time goal. Initially disallowed for offside, a VAR decision meant they could continue their party and progress in the tournament.

The stats
Wales have lost consecutive major tournament matches for the first time in their history
Wales are the first team to receive two red cards in a single edition of the European Championship since Russia and Switzerland in 2004.
Denmark are the first team to score 4+ goals in consecutive matches in European Championship history.
Mikkel Damsgaard has been involved in seven goals in his six appearances in all competitions for the Danes
Denmark have registered consecutive wins within a single major tournament for the first time since the 1986 World Cup.
Kasper Dolberg became the second Denmark player to score two goals in a knockout game at a major tournament after Henrik Larsen v Netherlands at Euro 1992.

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