Denmark stormed through to the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 as Wales’ run ended following a 4-0 defeat in Amsterdam.
Two goals from Kasper Dolberg either side of half-time earned Denmark a deserved lead, before late strikes from Joakim Maehle and Martin Braithwaite made it a comprehensive victory.
Wales failed to test Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel as Robert Page’s side ended the match down to 10 men as Harry Wilson was shown a red card in stoppage time.
Here are five things we learned from the round of 16 clash:
Bale struggles to make an impact
Gareth Bale has dragged Wales through unlikely situations time and time again in recent years but the country’s talisman could not make an impact here as Wales’ Euro 2020 journey came to an end in Amsterdam. The Wales captain was prepared for his country to play the role of underdogs against Denmark but in reality the Dragons could not lay a glove on their opponents in a one-sided match.
A key reason for that was Bale’s quiet performance here. Bale had looked threatening early on, skipping past the challenge of Jannik Vestergaard on the right wing before later hitting a swerving shot wide of goal. It looked like Bale’s speed against Vestergaard would be a promising opening for Wales - but it was one that they did not exploit after that.
Instead, Bale saw little of the ball as his side pressed for a route back into the game in the second half. The Real Madrid forward moved out to the left, before dropping deeper in an attempt to get on the ball - but he could not make an impact wherever he roamed.
Christensen shuts down Ramsey
One of the keys to the game was Denmark manager Kasper Hjulmand’s decision to push Andreas Christensen into midfield to man-mark Wales’ Aaron Ramsey.
Christensen had been one of the standout defenders at the tournament so far but was moved to a completely different role for his side’s match against Wales. With Robert Page’s side fielding target man Kieffer Moore up front as a lone striker, Denmark felt they did not need three centre backs so moved Christensen into midfield - where he could also do a job in shutting down one of Wales’ biggest threats.
Ramsey couldn’t get a touch and his quiet display was credit to Christensen’s fine performance. Even when Ramsey did break free in the second half, it was the Chelsea defender who was there to clear his cross from the right wing. This was an excellent display of versatility and positional intelligence from the 25-year-old.
Lack of composure costs Wales
Even before Neco Williams’ horrific clearance cost Wales their second goal, Robert Page’s side had not looked comfortable in defence throughout this knockout tie. Denmark may have piled the pressure on in a dominant performance, but Wales struggled to show the same composure they had managed to play with defensively against Turkey and Italy.
None of Wales’ back four had good games and Danish balls into the box seemed to cause uncertainty. Joe Rodon looked flustered following his booking for a challenge on Dolberg while Ben Davies struggled to deal with Martin Braithwaite’s runs in behind. Behind them, Danny Ward may have had an excellent group stage but his performance here seemed to spread even more uncertainty. His distribution and catches from crosses were not convincing.
Williams’ clearance straight into Dolberg’s path will be remembered as the costly error which put this last 16 tie beyond Wales - but it was far from the only defensive mistake on a tough night for the team. As Denmark added a third and fourth late on - Wales unravelled, with Harry Wilson sent off and Bale booked for sarcastically applauding the referee. It was another sign of their lack of composure throughout the contest.
Kasper Dolberg steps up
Denmark were handed a blow pre-match when Yussuf Poulson was ruled out with a hamstring injury - but in the end it was his replacement that proved to be difference.
Poulson’s aerial ability, coupled with his athletic runs in behind the defence, had offered Denmark a good outlet on the left side of their attack during the group stages and the Red Bull Leipzig striker had also found form with two goals in three group games for his country.
His absence threatened to leave Denmark looking blunt up front, as his replacement Kasper Dolberg had been struggling in front of goal. The Nice striker scored just six goals in Ligue 1 this season and had only found the net in one of his previous 12 appearances for his country.
You wouldn’t have been able to tell by the manner of his opening goal. After a flowing Denmark move, the 23-year-old hit a crisp, bending shot into the far corner to give his side lift off. His second, shortly after half-time, was presented to him on a plate by the Wales defence but his finish was ruthless.
Denmark can go one step further
In many ways they are already the story of the tournament, and Denmark’s journey is not over yet. After their victory over Wales, they will play the winner of the Netherlands’ tie against the Czech Republic, and Denmark will fancy their fancy their chances of going one step further.
They are more than just a great story, Denmark are an excellent team and seem to have the world behind them following Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest in their Euro 2020 opener. Eriksen is now recovering at home but Denmark are continuing to play with his spirit.
The spine of the team looks to be as good as what their potential quarter-final opponents can offer. Simon Kjaer was excellent once more against and Thomas Delaney and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg are an effective midfield pairing in front of his back-line. Mikkel Damsgaard and the superb Joakim Maehle’s combination on the left provides the creative spark - while attackers such as Dolberg and Martin Braithwaite look full of confidence.
Having already done their country proud, Denmark also have nothing to lose. They will be a formidable opponent in the quarter-finals.
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