Denmark’s spectacular and emotional Euro 2020 campaign continued in Baku, as they defeated the Czech Republic to go to the semi-finals.
Since the tragedy of their opening game, in which player Christian Eriksen suffered a heart arrest, the Danes have gone from strength to strength in the competition.
After thrashing Wales in the last 16, they handled a strong and physical Czech side in a contested last-eight match played in scorching heat in Azerbaijan.
They took the lead in the fifth minute when Thomas Delaney eluded his defender to head home a corner.
They made it 2-0 right before halftime, with Kasper Dolberg adding to his two goals against Wales by volleying in a beautiful cross from Joakim Maehle.
Their momentum was halted early in the second half when Patrik Schick calmly volleyed in his fifth goal of the tournament, tying him for the Golden Boot with Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
Denmark, on the other hand, was able to regroup and dig in to secure the win and a place in the semi-final at Wembley on Wednesday.
England, who hammered Ukraine earlier in the evening, will be their opponent.
It’s been nearly three decades since Denmark stunned Europe by winning Euro ’92, capitalizing on a late call-up to the championships to produce their country’s greatest sporting triumph.
Eriksen fainted on the pitch after only 41 minutes of play, requiring CPR as his visibly distraught teammates encircled him and stunned spectators across the world watched.
Those players are now just 90 minutes away from the final following another fantastic team performance that demonstrates not only their ability and tactical understanding, but also their rekindled relationship built in adversity.
In the first half, they were superb, compact and composed at the back and ruthless and quick on the counter-attack. They deserved their two-goal advantage and could have had more, with Delaney fluffing an effort wide with his knee on the finest of their other chances.
After a much-improved Czech team knocked them out of their comfort zone after the interval, Denmark found the tenacity and leadership they needed in goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and defensive three Andreas Christensen, Simon Kjaer, and Jannick Versergaard.
It is Denmark’s first victory over the Czechs at a Euros championships, and it avenges a quarter-final defeat in 2004, when Milan Baros’ two goals guided his side to a 3-0 triumph.
Baros scored five goals in that tournament, a tally now matched by Schick, who leaves having boosted his own career with his performances for his country this summer.
The Danes, on the other hand, continue their incredible adventure to London.
Credit also goes to the 1,000 or so Danish fans who traveled the 2,000 miles to Baku despite knowing that, should their country qualify, they will be unable to attend either the semi-final or final due to Covid quarantine laws.
‘Christian should have been here,’ says the narrator.
After the game, Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand stated that Eriksen will be on his mind as his team strives to extend their Euro 2020 run.
He stated, “I definitely feel it.”
“The entire football world knew that second, and the days after, that the essential things in life and in football, the fundamental ideals of football, came through exactly at that time.
“In football, there are so many other agendas, but we all remembered why we started playing, what ideals football is based on, and we had a reminder of that.
“I still think of Christian on a daily basis. He was supposed to be here.
“We are relieved that he has survived. We’ll carry him all the way to this match and to Wembley Stadium. I’m constantly thinking about him.
“Perhaps the principles of football come through – and perhaps we are a symbol of it,” says one of the players. That is the happiest I have ever been.
“The team demonstrated it without being told, ‘This is how you should behave.’
“It was incredible to watch how this squad reacted, how much compassion and love they showed each other, as well as the Danish people.
“We’re just thrilled and proud to be able to remind ourselves why we love football and what it can accomplish in the world.”