Wales Must Focus Against Emotional Denmark In Bid To Repeat Euro 2016 Heroics

Rob Page has led his side into the last 16 as they look to match their performance from five years ago
07:05, 26 Jun 2021

If Wales are going to take a step closer to matching their remarkable Euro 2016 achievements of reaching the last four, they are going to have to ride an emotional rollercoaster against a Danish outfit that, quite frankly, all other European nations are rooting for.

Quite rightly too, might we add.

The way in which the Denmark squad have pulled together ever since Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch in their opener against Finland has been nothing short of inspirational.

Whatever happens now, Simon Kjær and the rest of the Danish squad are already winners to the watching world. To recover from that terrifying moment and not only be able to continue playing in the tournament, but to qualify for the last 16, is truly incredible.

Rob Page and his brave outfit, like the entire football community, will wish the very best for Eriksen in his recovery, but the Wales manager must now switch his attention to preparing his players for a very winnable last 16 clash. In fact, Page himself deserves huge credit for the job he has done in difficult circumstances, in the continued absence of permanent boss Ryan Giggs.

While Gareth Bale and co will be thankful for avoiding the so-called powerhouses of European football, they remain the underdogs to progress in Amsterdam.

De rød-hvide head into the knockouts full of confidence following that 4-1 thumping of Russia to book their spot in the last 16, and they have managed three wins in the last four meetings with Wales, doing the double over them in the 2018 UEFA Nations League.

Having said that, the 4/1 available with Betfred for the Welsh to progress after 90 minutes grabs our attention, as does the 7/4 to qualify. Denmark, on the other hand, are an odds-on 17/20 to get the job done in normal time, and a near unbackable 2/5 to qualify.

Kasper Hjulmand will have the fans inside the Johan Cruijff ArenA to rely on, with the Dutch government this week confirming that any Welsh fans looking to attend the game in person are banned from entering the country.

With Denmark being a member of the European Union, the same does not apply to their supporters, so expect Ajax’s home to be dominated by the Danes on Saturday evening.

Still, this is Wales, and they don’t mind doing things the hard way.

In their opening game of the tournament, a Breel Embolo strike saw Switzerland take a second half lead, with Page surely fearing a defeat with Italy still to play. With 15 minutes left on the clock, and the Dragons’ hopes beginning to fade, up popped Kieffer Moore to rescue an unlikely point.

MooreWalesjpg1

Next up was Turkey, who some had suggested were dark horses to win the tournament, and Wales were expected to struggle. They did no such thing, with Aaron Ramsey making up for a catalogue of glaring first half misses by latching on to a perfectly executed Bale clip to see them go in at half-time in Baku a goal to the good.

The storm that they were expected to weather in the second period failed to materialise, with Turkey failing to muster up much more than a light shower. Five minutes into added time, Connor Roberts guided home another piece of Bale brilliance to put a nation with a population of just over 3.2 million – over 6 million less than London – in the driving seat for qualification.

In Bale and Ramsey, Wales boast a duo that are the envy of most other nations on the globe, let alone Europe.

However, focusing on just that pairing alone is unfair to an outfit that continue to make a mockery of their minnows’ status.

For the second major tournament running, the Welsh have reached the knockouts, and if they come anywhere near the last four that they managed five years back, it’s time to start talking about this group of players as serious contenders.

Sure, they don’t have the star names throughout their squad, and they won’t have as many of their passionate fans roaring them on as they would like in the Netherlands. But one thing they do have in abundance is a togetherness that other nations can only dream of.

Wales upsetting the odds once again at a major tournament? As one of their most famous pop stars Tom Jones would say…

It’s not unusual.

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