Paris (AFP) – Denmark eased into the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 on Saturday with a 4-0 win over Wales, while Italy could break an 82-year national record when they take on Austria at Wembley.
The neutrals’ favourites after overcoming the trauma of Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest in their opening game, Denmark beat Wales in Amsterdam thanks to Kasper Dolberg’s brace and late goals from Joakim Maehle and Martin Braithwaite.
“It’s completely crazy. I actually don’t know how I feel. This is total madness. It’s surreal. It was here it all started for me, and to play here again in this setting was insane,” former Ajax striker Dolberg told Danish broadcaster DR.
The Danes will go on to face the Netherlands or Czech Republic having won a knockout tie at the European Championship for the first time since they stunned the continent to win the tournament in 1992.
It is exactly 29 years since Denmark defeated Germany in the final in Gothenburg having famously only qualified because war-torn Yugoslavia disintegrated.
Surprise semi-finalists at the last edition, Wales found the majority of the Johan Cruyff Arena filled by Danish supporters, with fans barred from entering the Netherlands from the United Kingdom due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Robert Page’s side made a promising start as Gareth Bale drilled just wide from distance, but Dolberg curled Denmark ahead with a sumptuous strike on 27 minutes.
The Nice forward, brought into the team as a replacement for Yussuf Poulsen, then pounced on a poor clearance by Neco Williams to fire home a second just after half-time.
Maehle, who scored in the crucial 4-1 win over Russia which took the Danes to the knockouts, added a third goal for Denmark two minutes from time with a thumping finish before Harry Wilson was sent off for a lazy challenge on the Atalanta player.
Braithwaite rubbed further salt into Welsh wounds with a fourth goal in stoppage time, awarded after initially being ruled out for offside, as Denmark became the first team in European Championship history to score four in successive matches.
“We tried to play in the second half but made a mistake to concede which killed the momentum on our side,” said Bale.
“To finish how we did is disappointing… the boys are frustrated and angry, but I’d rather we go out like that kicking and screaming than laying off and doing nothing.”
– Impressive Italy back in action –
Italy breezed through the group stage and have won their last 11 matches without conceding a goal. They will be heavy favourites later on Saturday against an Austria side through to the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time.
Roberto Mancini, who took over after Italy’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, has rebuilt the Azzurri into contenders, overseeing a 30-match unbeaten run to equal the mark set under two-time World Cup-winning coach Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930s.
“Playing at Wembley really should be a pleasure because… well, sometimes players never get a chance to play there in their lives,” said former Manchester City boss Mancini.
“It’s such a spectacular stadium and I want us to go out there and play well because, well the stadium kind of deserves that.”
Austria advanced as runners-up from Group C, recovering from a 2-0 loss to Netherlands by beating Ukraine 1-0 in their final game.
“We know we’re the underdogs and it’s difficult to judge our realistic chances but even with 10 percent you can achieve a lot,” said Austria coach Franco Foda.
“This team has already achieved something spectacular but now we’re focused on taking the next step to make it to Munich.”