Not even Hans Christian Andersen could write a fairytale like this. Denmark have recovered from one of the most scarring and emotional events seen on a football pitch to make it to the Euro 2020 semi-finals. Goals from Thomas Delaney and Kaspar Dolberg were enough to beat the Czech Republic in Baku to take them to the final four, despite a fight back that saw Patrick Schik score his fifth goal of the tournament.
But this is Denmark’s night. When Christian Eriksen collapsed against Finland, the whole continent stopped. In the minutes he was laid out on the pitch, receiving medical attention, his teammates united to protect his privacy and console his wife. It was a footnote in the grand scheme of things, but they lost that opener to Finland before losing to Belgium in game two.
No country had made the knockout stages of the European Championship after losing their first two matches. But no country has the heart that Denmark do. The win over Russia in Copenhagen saw some of the best celebrations we have seen this summer, as the packed stands rejoiced in an unlikely success.
Wales were easily brushed aside and although the performance against the Czech Republic wasn’t quite as convincing, the Danes are now in the final four of a tournament for the first time since… 1992. The heroes of that team showed the same unity as this Denmark side. Kaspar Schmeichel is attempting to emulate the achievements of his great father, who was a crucial member of that side, but it could be argued that the class of 2021 have made the country even more proud.
Denmark only needed to win two games in normal time in 1992, as they triumphed in an eight-team tournament. This time around, they have made it to the final four of a 24-team competition with a squad packed full of talent and class, led by an expert boss. Their two goals against the Czechs took them to 11 in total for the tournament, more than they have ever scored at a major event. This squad has something seriously special, and depth to match their quality.
It was Jens Stryger Larsen who whipped in the corner as Delaney rose highest to power Denmark into an early lead, before Joakim Maehle, one of the stars of this team, curled a delightful ball into the box with the outside of his right foot and Dolberg converted.
That’s three for the tournament for Dolberg, who scored twice against Wales in the 4-0 win and has really come to the fore for this Denmark side. He still has some way to go to catch leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo on five, but the Portuguese superstar was joined by Schik on five goals and the Czech Republic bravely battled back in the second half.
Denmark’s rearguard stood strong however and they will now travel to Wembley to take on Ukraine or England in the last four of Euro 2020. We thought the story of the wildcard team of 1992 would never ever be matched, but Denmark are now just two wins away from becoming European champions once again.