Belgium booked their place in the Round of 16 of Euro 2020 after coming from behind to beat Denmark 2-1.
Denmark, still dealing with the emotional trauma of Christian Eriksen’s collapse and resuscitation in their first group match, stunned their visitors by taking an early lead. Yussuf Poulsen fired them in front within two minutes. They continued to create problems, but their spirited efforts were undone after the break.
Belgium equalised after 54 minutes, when Romelu Lukaku charged forward and passed to Kevin De Bruyne. The Manchester City midfielder set up the onrushing Thorgan Hazard, who was left with a tap-in.
And in the 70th minute, Thorgan’s brother Eden Hazard returned the favour, rolling the ball into De Bruyne’s path. In his first match back since his injury in the Champions League final, De Bruyne directed the ball home with his left foot.
His celebrations were respectful and toned down. But inside, Belgium will have been delighted as their attack was really beginning to click.
Denmark put some pressure on for an equaliser in the closing stages. However, they remain without a point going into their final group game.
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Kasper Hjulmand’s men could hardly have got off to a better start. They took the lead with less than two minutes gone.
Jason Denayer’s careless pass out of defence was picked off by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. When he fed Poulsen, the striker smashed a low shot across keeper Thibaut Courtois and inside the far post.
Courtois found himself in the thick of action early on, diving at the feet of wing-back Joakim Maehle and then fielding Daniel Wass’ header back across goal inside the opening six minutes with Belgium in uncharacteristic disarray.
Play stopped briefly as the clocked ticked around to 10 – the shirt number worn by Eriksen – as the players of both sides and officials joined the spectators in a moving moment’s applause for the Inter Milan midfielder.
Belgium simply could not force their way into the game. They repeatedly squandered possession to leave Danish keeper Kasper Schmeichel untested.
Courtois was relieved to see Eriksen’s replacement Mikkel Damsgaard curl a 35th-minute effort just past the upright.
De Bruyne inspires Belgium turnaround
Roberto Martinez sent on De Bruyne as a half-time substitute in a desperate search for inspiration. The move paid dividends within 10 minutes.
Lukaku ran away from the Danish defence before squaring for De Bruyne, who expertly dummied his way into space before rolling the ball into the path of the fast-arriving Thorgan Hazard to thump into the net.
But it was his sumptuous 70th-minute strike, which flew past the helpless Schmeichel and into the bottom corner, which ultimately won the day and maintained the Red Devils’ perfect start.
Martin Braithwaite might have rescued a point three minutes from time. But his header from substitute Andreas Skov Olsen’s cross clipped the crossbar and ran away to safety.