Denmark secured a big win over Russia while having Belgium deliver a victory over Finland, capping a tumultuous 10 days that began with Christian Eriksen’s collapse.
An emotional Denmark side went from last to second in its group, qualifying for the knockout stage at European Championship with its thrilling 4-1 win over Russia and Belgium’s simultaneous 2-0 win over Finland vaulting the Danes through.
Denmark has endured a dramatic 10-day period that started with the harrowing collapse of midfielder Christian Eriksen in the 1-0 loss to Finland on June 12. Eriksen, who suffered a cardiac arrest and needed to be resuscitated on the field, visited the team after he was discharged from the hospital on Friday.
Denmark came into the group finale without a point after losing to group winner Belgium last week, but went through on goal difference after going level on points with Finland and Russia, who also finished the group with three points.
Three second-half goals, highlighted by Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen’s long-range rocket, in front of an impassioned home crowd in Copenhagen—on the same field where Eriksen collapsed—provided the difference against Russia. After the fourth and final goal, Joakim Mæhle signaled toward the camera with a No. 10 gesture in honor of Eriksen.
Simultaneously in St. Petersburg, Russia, an upstart Finland side playing in its first major tournament held tight against Belgium for 74 minutes until goalkeeper Lukáš Hrádecký’s unlucky own goal broke the deadlock, with Romelu Lukaku doubling Belgium’s lead just seven minutes later. The former, which gave Denmark the opening it needed to go into second position, came with Thomas Vermaelen’s header careening off the bar before hitting the goalkeeper.
It also followed a sequence across both games in which Lukaku had a goal disallowed by VAR, and Denmark conceded a penalty, which set off a swing of emotions that had Denmark feeling great about its chances of going through to suddenly being uneasy until things unfolded in its favor over a dramatic last quarter of an hour.
With Denmark’s match finish slightly before the other one, Danish players and personnel gathered on the field to check the score of the Belgium-Finland game on a cellphone before erupting into celebration, their place in the last 16 officially confirmed.
If Finland could have held on for the point, it would have gone through as the group runner-up, but it still maintains slim hopes of advancing as one of the top four third-place sides, though its -2 goal differential is prohibitive. Denmark, meanwhile, will face Group A runner-up Wales in the round of 16 in Amsterdam—where Eriksen used to feature for Ajax—while Belgium will go on to face a yet-to-be-determined third-place side in its first knockout match.
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