KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Denmark became the first team to reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 after beating Wales deservedly and decisively by 4-0 in Amsterdam in the round of 16.
Wales made the stronger start and an angled drive from captain Gareth Bale skimmed just wide of the diving goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel’s right-hand post in only the ninth minutes. But that was the beginning of the end for the 2016 semi-finalists.
Denmark, forced into several changes by injury, withstood the Welsh onslaught and, slowly but steadily, began to control midfield. They forced a string of threatening corners on both wings and took the lead in the 27th minute.
A left-wing move between Joakim Maehle and Mikkel Damsgaard was carried on by Kasper Dolberg. The 23-year-old Nice striker, deputing for injured Yusuf Poulsen, cut inside, took advantage of hesitation in the Wales defence and arrowed a 25-metre drive low and wide beyond keeper Danny Ward’s left hand.
Wales suffered a further setback in the 36th minute when rightback Connor Roberts, one of their stalwarts in the tournament, injured a thigh muscle in chasing the ball up the right wing. He was treated off the pitch before being substituted by Neco Williams.
At half-time Denmark held a deserved single-goal lead and might have thought they had earned more. Wales’ dream of matching their progress to the semi-finals five years ago was already .
The dream was virtually ended a mere three minutes after the interval when Martin Braithwaite escaped down the right and Williams prodded his cross to the feet of Dolberg who made no mistake from close range.
After that it merely a question of time before Denmark could celebrate progressing to a quarter-final against Dutch or Czechs in Baku.
Wales finally collapsed in the closing minutes when they had Harry Wilson red carded inbetween further Danish goals from Thomas Maehle and Braithwaite.
Kasper Hjulmand, Denmark coach: “It’s hard to believe that this is reality. I admire the boys and the fact we can keep fighting. No matter who plays, they play very well. The guys are true warriors.”
Kasper Dolberg, Denmark forward: “It’s completely crazy. I actually don’t know how I feel. This is total madness. It’s surreal. It was here [at the Johan Cruijff ArenA] where it all started for me, and to play here again in this setting was insane.”
Joakim Mæhle, Denmark defender: “Look at the support we had in Amsterdam. It’s completely nuts. The self-confidence and the courage we bring is something we must take even further. We’re not worried who we’re going to meet. We are focusing on ourselves and our qualities.”
Gareth Bale, Wales captain: “It’s not how we wanted the game to go. From our point of view we started very well, and then the game changed. We tried to play in the second half but made a mistake to concede, which killed the momentum on our side.”
Joe Allen, Wales midfielder: “Our game plan was to really impose ourselves, give them problems and put them on the back foot. In fairness, early on, we did do that. They made some changes and swung the momentum in their favour, and obviously the goal changes everything.”
Denmark: Schmeichel – Christensen, Kjær (Andersen 77), Vestergaard – Stryger (Boilesen 77), Højbjerg, Delaney (Jensen 60), Mæhle – Damsgaard (Nørgaard 60), Dolberg (Cornelius 69), Braithwaite.
Referee: Siebert (Ger).