They did it for Christian Eriksen. They did it for their country. They did it for each other. Denmark are through to the knockout phase of Euro 2020 and who isn’t happy about that?
Well, Russia for a start. Maybe Finland too. But everybody else? Who would begrudge the Danes qualification after what they’ve been through.
On another emotionally-charged night at Parken Stadium their fans went on a rollercoaster as they qualified in second place in Group B with only three points to set up a last 16 game against Wales in Amsterdam on Saturday.
Joakim Maehle (third from left) scores Denmark’s fourth to confirm last-16 qualification
Kasper Hjulmand’s men now face Wales on Saturday 26 June in Amsterdam after a great night
Goals from Mikkel Damsgaard – the young man brought in to replace Eriksen after he suffered a heart attack in the first game – Yussuf Poulsen, Andreas Christensen and Joakim Maehle swept aside Russia on a memorable night in Copenhagen.
Captain Simon Kjaer summed up the mood inside and outside the Danish camp in the build-up to this game.
‘After everything we’ve been through, I think we deserve it,’ said the AC Milan defender.
Still, points aren’t handed out for sympathy and Denmark simply had to win to have any chance of reaching the knockout stage after losing their opening two group games.
A crowd of 25,000 inside Parken knew it and there were emotional renditions of You’ll Never Walk Alone and the Danish national anthem before kick-off, as there had been against Belgium on Thursday.
The stage was set for another emotional night in Copenhagen but no-one was expecting Russia to roll over.
Mikkel Damsgaard’s stunner gave Danes everywhere the hope that qualification could happen
Stanislav Cherchesov’s side only needed a point to go through themselves, and they played like it in the first half.
They sat in, kept their shape and frustrated Denmark. They infuriated the fans by wasting time wherever possible.
Kjaer needed treatment after taking an elbow to the chest from target man Artem Dzyuba, and Fedor Kudryashov was booked for clattering into Daniel Wass.
Kasper Schmeichel celebrates Damsgaard’s strike on an emotional night in the Danish capital
Yet for all Denmark’s early endeavour, it was the Russians – playing in red as the home team despite being away for the first time in two major championships – who created the first real chance of the game in the 18th minute.
Aleksandr Golovin cut a swathe through the Danish midfield on a run from deep, beating Kjaer and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to get a clear sight of goal from 15 yards.
His shot was straight at Kasper Schmeichel who saved with his legs and was relieved to see the ball ricochet between his ankles.
Yussuf Poulsen can’t contain his delight after his goal as a drink is lobbed onto the pitch
It was by no means the only time that Russia threatened on the break, and Golovin also blazed high and wide from Dzyuba’s knockdown.
Up to that point, Denmark’s only real attempt had come from Hojbjerg’s piledriver that whistled narrowly wide of Matvei Safonov’s right-hand post, the Tottenham man sensing the need to threaten the Russian goal after a lively start that lacked an end product.
But that all changed seven minutes before half-time when Damsgaard set the stadium alight with a quite wonderful goal.
Artem Dzyuba hurries back to the centre circle after halving the deficit from the penalty spot
Hojbjerg played the ball into the 20-year-old Sampdoria player 25 yards from goal. Damsgaard only had one thing on his mind.
He took one touch to control the ball and another to take it away from Georgi Dzhikiya.
It created enough space for a shot and Damsgaard executed it perfectly, sending the ball curling and dipping into the top corner.
Anders Christensen’s thunderbolt from outside the box lifted the roof off the national stadium
Parken erupted and so did manager Kasper Hjulmand as he charged down the touchline punching the air.
It was the perfect lift for Denmark and their fans going into the break. It also called for a different approach from Russia, although the flow of the game remained much the same.
And it brought another goal out of the blue for Denmark in the 59th minute, one gifted to them by a quite shocking error from Roman Zobnin.
Safonov threw the ball out to Daler Kuzyaev who played it inside to Zobnin. The Spartak Moscow midfielder didn’t even look as he swung a pass back to his keeper and played it straight to Poulsen who went wide of Safonov and scored on the empty net for his second goal of the tournament.
It was Poulsen’s last contribution, the goal signalling a series of substitutions as the situation changed again.
It depended on events in St Petersburg as well, of course, and just as we were getting news of Romelu Lukaku’s disallowed goal for Belgium Russia struck back from a rare attack.
Vyacheslav Karavaev got into the box and squared the ball to Aleksandr Sobolev who was held by Jannik Vestergaard and went down under the Southampton defender’s challenge.
French referee Clement Turpin and Dzyuba silenced Parken as he stepped up and sent his penalty down the middle.
The mood swung again as news came through of a legitimate Belgium and it got even better as the Dane scored a cracking third in the 79th minute.
Safonov made a fantastic double save from Martin Braithwaite and Kjaer but the ball ran loose for the Chelsea defender Christensen who crashed home a shot from the edge of the box.
It got even better moments later when Hojbjerg led a breakaway and Maehle cut inside to score the fourth.