Denmark inspired by recovering Eriksen but De Bruyne quality shines through

By Sports Desk June 17, 2021

Belgium planned to kick the ball out of play after 10 minutes against Denmark to pay their own mark of respect to Christian Eriksen. The world's top-ranked football nation were perhaps not anticipating, however, that they would be chasing the game – and indeed Danish shadows – at that early stage in the match.

In the end the referee, Bjorn Kuipers, seemingly had to remind the Belgium players to bring the contest to a temporary halt, sparking emotional scenes as supporters and players - Eriksen's current and former club-mates Romelu Lukaku, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld among them – applauded in unison.

It was that type of occasion and that type of start for Denmark as they produced a fitting tribute to stricken team-mate Eriksen, who was likely to have been watching on from his hospital bed barely 400 yards away, where he continues to recover from a cardiac arrest.

Football was put into perspective the moment Eriksen went to ground in the Danes' opening Group B defeat to Finland – he was "gone", in the words of team doctor Morten Boesen – but thankfully updates in the five days since the incident have been largely positive.

Whether we will see the Inter playmaker on a field again remains to be seen; that he is able to smile and laugh once more with his colleagues is a huge victory in its own right. A bigger victory, indeed, than Denmark were on course for against Belgium until the Kevin De Bruyne show ensued.

 

Long before the Manchester City playmaker's half-time arrival, just 99 seconds into the game at a raucous Parken Stadium, Yussuf Poulsen finished expertly into the bottom-left corner for the second-quickest goal in European Championship history.

Poulsen profited from a Jason Denayer error, the Lyon defender looking rusty in the early stages after returning to the side in place of Dedryck Boyata at the back following a rare day off in the 3-0 win over Russia.

Roberto Martinez's Belgian charges lived up to their tag as the world's number one side in their previous match against Russia, and the professionalism of this performance – as bad as they were in the first half – will arguably heighten expectations that they can go all the way when at full strength.

Belgium mustered just one attempt in the first half – a flicked effort from Dries Mertens on his 100th cap.

The last time they managed only one effort in the opening 45 minutes was in a 2-0 loss to Spain in September 2016, Martinez's first at the helm, which preceded a run of just three defeats in their next 56 matches.

Denmark could not quite add their name to that rare list of nations to have conquered the Red Devils over the last five years, with the visitors' quality eventually shining through. Make that De Bruyne's quality.

Still recovering from a facial injury sustained in Manchester City's Champions League loss to Chelsea last month, the playmaker was introduced for the start of the second half and made an instant impact.

Against the run of play, Lukaku turned his marker and pulled the ball back for De Bruyne to tee up the unmarked Thorgan Hazard. The finish from six yards was simple, the build-up to it anything but.

That assist made De Bruyne the only European player to set up a goal in each of the last four major international tournaments and he added his own name to the scoresheet 16 minutes later.

Another flowing team move culminated in De Bruyne driving a low shot past Kasper Schmeichel. A broken nose and a broken eye socket for De Bruyne; broken dreams for Denmark as their tournament hopes are now perhaps as good as over.

This game was never solely about the result, though – one that ensures safe passage through to the knockout stages for Belgium with a game, against Finland, to spare.

The defining moment was not Denayer's error, De Bruyne's match-changing introduction or Martin Braithwaite skimming the crossbar at the end, but rather the moment when all within the stadium united to pay respect to the popular Eriksen.

"All of Denmark is with you, Christian," a banner in one of the stands read. And boy did Denmark's players show that as they gave Belgium's hugely talented squad a run for their money.

Related items

  • Pochettino unsure on severity of Neymar injury Pochettino unsure on severity of Neymar injury

    Mauricio Pochettino hopes that Neymar has not sustained a serious injury, though conceded the images he has seen of the incident do not look good.

    Neymar had to be taken off on a stretcher late on after suffering an ankle injury in Paris Saint-Germain's win over Saint-Etienne on Sunday, shortly after Angel Di Maria had made it 2-1 to the Ligue 1 leaders.

    Marquinhos then headed in his second goal of the game to round off a difficult 3-1 victory, though focus was on Neymar's injury in Pochettino's post-match media duties.

    Neymar was pictured leaving the ground on crutches and while hopeful the forward will make a swift recovery, Pochettino explained PSG must wait for a full diagnosis on Monday.

    "There is nothing more to say for the moment, it is the pain he felt in the leg with his ankle that turned. We will have the exams tomorrow and we will see," Pochettino told a news conference.

    Pochettino had previously told Amazon Prime: "We will have to see this tomorrow but from the images, I hope that it's not a big deal and that he will be back with the squad quickly. But the action is not good."

    Neymar subsequently posted an update to his official Instagram account.

    "Let's recover, unfortunately these setbacks are part of an athlete's life," he wrote. "Now that's what you have, lift your head and let's go. I'll come back better and stronger."

    Should Neymar face a lengthy absence, PSG can at least rest assured they can still field a star-studded front three, with Di Maria proving his worth against Saint-Etienne as he scored in successive league appearances for the first time since November 2019.

    PSG also, of course, have Lionel Messi, who provided all three assists in the victory – the third time in his career he has set up three goals in a single league match. 

    At the back, Sergio Ramos made his long-awaited bow, becoming PSG's oldest debutant since David Beckham in 2013.

    Denis Bouanga put Saint-Etienne ahead, meaning PSG came back to win after conceding the opening goal for the fifth time in Ligue 1 this season, already equalling their best tally for comeback victories in a full season, set four times before (2014-15, 2011-12, 2003-04, 1985-86).

  • Manchester City 2-1 West Ham: Gundogan and Fernandinho on target as Pep's men go back second Manchester City 2-1 West Ham: Gundogan and Fernandinho on target as Pep's men go back second

    Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho were on target as Manchester City moved back into second in the Premier League with a comfortable 2-1 home win over West Ham.

    The defending champions made light of the difficult wintry conditions at the Etihad Stadium, where the visitors have now won just once in 16 top-flight visits.

    Gundogan was on target in a first half where Riyad Mahrez had a strike ruled out, while the Hammers – who have now suffered back-to-back league defeats – were put to rest when Fernandinho netted late on with Manuel Lanzini's goal proving a mere consolation.

    Pep Guardiola's 10th top-flight win in 11 attempts against West Ham means City move level on points with leaders Chelsea, albeit that may prove brief as the Blues host Manchester United later on Sunday.

    Aymeric Laporte headed onto the right-hand post in the opening stages before Mahrez was adjudged to be offside from Raheem Sterling's pass after he had powered past Lukasz Fabianski.

    City broke the deadlock when Gundogan bundled Mahrez's low cross home, with Ben Johnson then required to clear Gabriel Jesus' effort off the line and Mahrez cannoning against the woodwork in a flurry of first-half chances.

    The hosts almost doubled their lead after the interval through Jesus, who saw another chipped attempt cleared off the line by Aaron Cresswell, while Sterling blasted wildly over after the hour mark.

    Jesus then teed up Fernandinho to slot into the bottom-left corner to make sure of the result with Bernardo Silva seeing another ruled out prior to Lanzini curling perfectly past Ederson to at least half the arrears for West Ham.

  • Milan 1-3 Sassuolo: Rossoneri rocked as Scamacca and Berardi punish Pioli's men Milan 1-3 Sassuolo: Rossoneri rocked as Scamacca and Berardi punish Pioli's men

    Domenico Berardi inflicted the final blow as Milan slipped up 3-1 against Sassuolo at San Siro, suffering back-to-back Serie A defeats for the first time since April.

    Alessio Romagnoli's powerful header had been Milan's reward for a strong start, but Gianluca Scamacca's excellent long-range strike and an own goal from the unlucky Simon Kjaer helped mid-table Sassuolo reach the interval with a lead.

    Berardi finished off Milan with a fine goal in the 66th minute, the Italy forward showing his class to outwit Romagnoli before beating Mike Maignan.

    A red card for captain Romagnoli for hauling down Gregoire Defrel with effectively a rugby tackle compounded a bad day for Milan, who began the day level on points with leaders Napoli.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.