Denmark’s coach Kasper Hjulmand said the team’s stunning progression to the last 16 of Euro 2020 was just reward for his players, who have stuck to their task following team mate Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest against Finland.
Denmark thumped Russia 4-1 in Copenhagen in its final Group B game on Monday, and profited from a 2-0 win by Belgium over the Finns to finish second and set up a last-16 clash with Wales in Amsterdam on Saturday.
Key midfielder Eriksen collapsed on the pitch in the team’s opening 1-0 loss to Finland before recovering in hospital, but Hjulmand said that rather than deflating his side, the incident had brought them closer together and provided added motivation.
“What a night. We hoped it would be a magic night,” he told reporters. “I can’t imagine how they managed to come back from what they went through, so a big credit to the boys.
“It is hard to describe what this team has been through the past few weeks, but we are thinking about Christian all the way. The team spirit and how everyone contributed is amazing.
“We played three games on a very high level and our players deserve this.”
Hjulmand said he had to stop his players from celebrating prematurely at the final whistle until they knew for sure that Belgium had won, which is why they formed a circle to check the score on a mobile phone in the middle of the pitch.
“The circle was because I thought it would be crazy to run around and celebrate. What if Finland scored two quick goals? So we just needed that result to be confirmed and as soon as it was, we could let go,” he said.
He believed it would be an even game with Wales at the weekend and added that Denmark will not underestimate opponents who reached the Euro semi-finals five years ago.
“Wales are a very tough opponent. They went far last time and have great players. It will be an equal game, they are flexible and can change their positions and strategies, so it is hard to know what to expect. It will be a very interesting game.”