As one of the favourites for the Euros title this year, Belgium beating Finland to keep their unbeaten record at the Euro’s group stage is just usual business. Unusual however are the energy and willpower shown by Denmark to completely trounce Russia 4-1 in front of their fans in Copenhagen, and thus grab the second-place knockout stage slot from Group B.
Facing the mighty and still unbeaten Belgium, Finland’s best hope was to hold tight at the back and hoping they could find a breakthrough via counterattack or dead ball. But for that to happen they would first need to endure the flurry of chances created by Belgium — which they did for at least 73 minutes! (even though Romelu Lukaku had a fair penalty shout right before the end of the first half)
But on minute 74, disaster took place. A powerful Thomas Vermaelen header hit the post and then goalkeeper Lukás Hrádecky, who unwittingly sent the ball to his own goal.
While Robin Lod got close to a tying goal that would set Finland as the second-placed team in Group B, Belgium would get the final goal of the match instead. Former Chelsea midfielder Kevin de Bruyne connected to former Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku, and the latter’s low, powerful strike doubled the Red Devils’ lead over the Finnish.
For Russia, a draw would be enough for them to have at least a chance at making to the knockout phase via best third-place classification, in case Finland managed to also find themselves a draw or even a win over Belgium. And play for the draw they did from the get-go, giving all possession to the hosts Denmark.
It all worked out until minute 38 of the match. A thunderous long-range strike from Mikkel Damsgaard had enough curve to completely fool goalkeeper Matvey Safonov, and open the scoring for the Danes.
Goals like these are usually a wake-up call to teams. But the effect for Russia was seemingly the reverse, as they fell further and further to a defensive posture while Denmark continued to knock. So much they tried that the second was only a matter of time, with Yussuf Poulsen pouncing on a massive mistake by Roman Zobnin to score Denmark’s second.
While Denmark were running high on momentum, Russia poured some cold water onto them by winning a rather soft penalty. Russian Premier League top goalscorer Artem Dyzuba took the chance up and successfully converted the spot kick.
But the diminished lead would not be enough to down Denmark’s spirits. The third goal would eventually come for the hosts via Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen with a state-of-the-art long-distance strike.
There was still time for a fourth Danish goal. From a Russian free kick turned counterattack, Joakim Maehle got to the edge of the 18-yard box and wrapped it all up on the best of notes for the second-placed team in the group.