AMSTERDAM ⸺ Dominant Denmark thrashed Wales 4-0 to sweep into the European Championship quarter-finals on Saturday and continue a wave of positive emotion generated by sympathy for Christian Eriksen.
The midfielder, who is recovering from a cardiac arrest during Denmark’s opening game, was remembered at the start of the last 16 game in Amsterdam, again inspiring teammates.
Forward Kasper Dolberg struck in each half while Joakim Maehle and Martin Braithwaite got in on the act late on, enabling Danes to dream of repeating their 1992 Euros win while banishing Welsh hopes of matching their 2016 semi-final run.
Dolberg, making his first start of the tournament, gave his side the lead with a fine individual goal in the 27th minute, curling into the top corner from outside the area.
He doubled Denmark’s advantage in Amsterdam early in the second half, ruthlessly pouncing on a loose ball after Wales failed to clear a cross following a galloping run down the right wing from Dolberg’s strike partner Braithwaite.
“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,” said Dolberg, who began his career at Ajax in the same stadium.
Braithwaite missed a glaring opportunity to add to Denmark’s lead but Maehle sealed the win in the 88th minute.
Wales’ frustrations spilled over when Harry Wilson was sent off for a wild tackle on Maehle in added time.
Braithwaite finally got the goal he had craved by netting at the death, though he had to wait for a lengthy VAR review.
Denmark head to Baku next Saturday to face either the Netherlands or Czech Republic in the last eight.
“It’s something bigger going on for Denmark than just what’s happening on the pitch. It’s obvious they’re doing this for Christian Eriksen,” said former Wales player Ashley Williams.
Denmark were playing away from Copenhagen for the first time but still counted on loud support as thousands of their fans descended on the Johan Cruyff Arena and outnumbered the Welsh.
Kasper Hjulmand’s side were without injured striker Yussuf Poulsen, who had scored in the 2-1 defeat to Belgium and 4-1 thumping of Russia which propelled them into the last 16.
Yet in a sign of the team’s unity, the player joined his team on the pitch to sing the national anthem before kickoff, standing side-by-side with the substitutes and coaching staff.
Wales had a flurry of early attacks and talisman Gareth Bale nearly gave them an early lead when he went for goal from range.
“It’s not how we wanted the game to go, from our point of view we started very well and then the game changed,” Bale said.
“We tried to play in the second half but made a mistake to concede which killed the momentum on our side.”
More than compensating for Poulsen’s absence, Dolberg had more luck than Bale with a distance strike that flew past helpless Wales keeper Danny Ward for the Danes’ opener.
Denmark hardly looked back from then on, dominating possession and chances as Wales failed to recreate the fighting spirit of their famous run in France five years ago.
“We needed to play at the best level we could today, we weren’t able to do it. We were up against an accomplished side. Tactically Denmark understood what they needed to do,” said former Wales coach Mark Hughes.
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne; Reuters