DORTMUND: Germany remain on course to reach the high bar they set themselves as big match hosts. They won the World Cup on home soil in 1974 and reached the semi-finals at the Euro in 1988 and the World Cup in 2016. Now they are alive in the quarter-finals of UEFA Euro 2024 after beating Denmark 2-0 in Dortmund.

Kai Havertz (penalty) and Jamal Musiala scored the goals in the second half after destiny and VAR played two cruel tricks in quick succession on Denmark’s Joachim Andersen. First, with the tie goalless, he had a goal disallowed and then, minutes later, was penalised for a handball for the penalty from which Germany achieved their breakthrough.

Germany deserved their victory against a Danish side whose weakness has been their finishing. They scored only two in the group stage and Ramus Hojlund missed three crucial chances against Germany.

The tournament hosts began with an urgency which illustrated their determination to turn the back on a depressing recent past with group exits at the last two World Cups and a quarter-final halt at the last European event.

Kasper Schmeichel in the Danish goal was soon brought into action. He was saved by referee Michael Oliver, calling a foul on a Denmark defender, when Nico Schlotterbeck headed home after only four minutes.

Germany, undeterred, continued to roar forward. Schmeichel tipped a Schlotterbeck header past a post then to beat away a volley from Kai Havertz. Next he was content to watch a low drive from Leroy Sane skim wide.

Denmark, having survived the opening salvoes, had just begun to push forward under the guidance of playmaker Christian Eriksen when, after half an hour, a thunderstorm forced referee Oliver to take both teams off the pitch.

They maintained their momentum when play resumed after half an hour and wasted two chances to go ahead. First Hojlund shot into the side net after Schlotterbeck lost the ball in his own penalty area then keeper Manuel Neuer was off his line at high speed to save bravely at the striker’s feet.

The first six minutes of the second half must go down as the most cruel in Andersen’s career. First the Crystal Palace defender had a goal marginally disallowed by VAR for offside against Thomas Delaney then, two minutes later, he was penalised in his own penalty area for handling a David Raum cross.

Havertz converted the penalty to become the first German to score more than one match-time penalty in a major tournament since the great Fritz Walter in the 1954 World Cup. Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand called the VAR calls “ridiculous”.

Worse was to follow for Denmark. First Hojlund shot straight at Neuer from close range then, in the 68th minute a long upfield ball from Schlotterbeck dropped over their defence and Jamal Musiala arrowed clear to score his third goal of the finals and secure a quarter-final against Spain or Georgia.