Euro 2020: Brave Denmark players deserve last-16 place after Eriksen scare, says Hjulmand

A 4-1 win over Russia coupled with Belgium's victory over Finland sees Danes set up last-16 clash against Wales

Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand said his players deserved to progress from the group phase at Euro 2020 for maintaining focus after the trauma of seeing teammate Christian Eriksen collapse in the opening game after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Denmark thumped Russia 4-1 in Copenhagen in their final Group B game on Monday, their first points of the championship. They also benefited from Belgium's 2-0 win over Finland to finish second and set up a last-16 clash with Wales in Amsterdam on Saturday.

Key midfielder Eriksen, 29, collapsed on the pitch in the team's opening 1-0 loss to the Finns before recovering in hospital. Hjulmand said that the incident, which left players visibly distressed as they formed a protective sheild around Eriksen as he received medical attention on the pitch, had brought them closer together and provided added motivation.

"What a night. We hoped it would be a magic night," he told reporters. "I can’t imagine how they managed to come back from what they went through, so a big credit to the boys.

"It is hard to describe what this team has been through the past few weeks, but we are thinking about Christian all the way. The team spirit and how everyone contributed is amazing.

"We played three games on a very high level and our players deserve this."

Needing victory to have any chance of making progress after losing to Finland and Belgium, it was Eriksen's replacement Mikkel Damsgaard who lit the touchpaper against Russia with a 38th-minute wonder goal.

When a dreadful mistake by Russia's Roman Zobnin allowed Yussuf Poulsen to double the lead on the hour, it looked as though fate was smiling kindly on Denmark.

It was not that simple as even a win would not have been sufficient had Finland avoided defeat by Belgium, a match being played in St Petersburg.

The script took a dark turn when Russia's giant striker Artem Dzyuba converted a penalty at almost the exact moment a Belgium opening goal was being disallowed by VAR.

But everything turned out alright in the end as Andreas Christensen's screamer and Joakim Maehle's late effort completed the demolition of Russia and Belgium held out for victory over the Finns.

Hjulmand said he had to stop his players from celebrating prematurely at the final whistle until they knew for sure that Belgium had won, which is why they formed a circle to check the score on a mobile phone in the middle of the pitch.

"The circle was because I thought it would be crazy to run around and celebrate. What if Finland scored two quick goals? So we just needed that result to be confirmed and as soon as it was, we could let go," he said.

Looking ahead, Hjulmand said he expects a difficult match against a Wales side that finished as runners-up in Group A behind Italy and who reached the Euro semi-finals five years ago.

"Wales are a very tough opponent. They went far last time and have great players. It will be an equal game, they are flexible and can change their positions and strategies, so it is hard to know what to expect. It will be a very interesting game."

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