Kevin De Bruyne Turns the Tide as Belgium Topple Tenacious Denmark

The best moment of the game between Belgium and Denmark was when, after 10 minutes, the whole stadium stopped to pay a touching tribute to Christian Eriksen, whose career seems in jeopardy after the last tests he underwent following his shocking collapse in his side’s Euro 2020 opening game.

But there was much more than that on Sunday afternoon at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen. Denmark’s passion and determination against Belgium’s unparalleled talent. It was the Belgians to ultimately come on top despite Yussuf Poulsen had given the Danish Dynamite a lightning fast lead after two minutes of play.

But when you can afford the luxury of sending in from the bench players like Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Axel Witsel – not to mention those eleven who were already on the pitch – it means your team has the weaponry to potentially turn the tables in any game. Which is exactly what happened today, with KDB coming back to the pitch for the first time since the injury suffered during the Champions League Final and powering Belgium’s comeback with one goal and one assist.

After the Azzurri, Belgium were thus the second team to book their ticket to the knockout stage and they were as impressive – if not more – as Roberto Mancini’s band. The difference is that, while Italy have not had much trouble so far, the Belgians had to sweat a lot to overcome the opposition’s resistance today. They won like great teams do, meaning getting the best result even when they were not in their best day.

Denmark collected their second loss in a row but not all is lost as, if they beat Russia on Sunday, they might still have some good chances to qualify.

The Danes put all their heart – no pun intended – into today’s game and started it literally assaulting their opponents from the get go. Their goal after two minutes was emblematic: Pierre-Emile Hojbierg intercepted a pass from Jason Denayer for Youri Tielemans and promptly served Poulsen, whose shot left no chance to Thibaut  Courtois.

Denmark should have had their second before half time but despite boasting an offensive lineup featuring Martin Braithwaite and Sampdoria’s Mikkel Damsgaard on top of Poulsen, they couldn’t convert any more chances. Roberto Martinez’s side managed to weather the storm but could count themselves lucky if the scorecard read only 0-1 at the break.    

The Belgian coach had to reorganize his troops and took his decision: It was Kevin De Bruyne’s time. The Manchester City star replaced Napoli’s Dries Mertens – who had suffered a lot Simon Kjaer’s marking during the first half.

De Bruyne changed the game with two magic tricks of his. First, on 54 minutes, he served Thorgan Hazard an easy chance to equalize for the Diables Rouges. Then, he took care personally of completing the comeback with a clinical left-foot effort that caught Kasper Schmeichel unprepared to cover his near post.

But Denmark had no intention to give up and, despite progressively running out of breath and being suffocated by Belgium’s ball possession, still found the strength to make themselves dangerous again. On 85 minutes, Braithwaite turned an Andreas Skov Olsen cross into a header that hit the post. The TV cameras caught goalkeeper Courtois literally breathing a sigh of relief as he prepared to put the ball back into play.

It ended with Denmark launching a final full scale attack featuring all his men – including the goalkeeper Schmeichel – and with Skov Olsen having to clear a long-range effort from Thomas Meunier, who tried to emulate Patrick Schick as he saw Denmark’s goal untended. Belgium took all three points on offer but perhaps this courageous Danish side deserved a bit more.



June 17, 2021 – European Championship 2020 Group B

SCORERS: 2′ Poulsen (D), 54′ T. Hazard (B), 70′ De Bruyne (B)

DENMARK (4-3-3): Schmeichel; Christensen, Kjaer, Vestergaard (84′ Skov Olsen), Maehle; Wass (62′ Stryger Larsen), Hojbjerg, Delaney (72′ Jensen); Poulsen (62′ Norgaard), Damsgaard (72′ Cornelius), Braithwaite (Andersen, Dolberg, Jorgensen, Lossl, Ronnow, Skov, Wind) Coach: Hjulmand
BELGIUM (3-4-3): Courtois; Alderweireld, Denayer, Vertonghen; Meunier, Dendoncker (59′ Witsel), Tielemans, T. Hazard (94′ Vermaelen); Mertens (46′ De Bruyne), Carrasco (59′ E. Hazard), Lukaku (Mignolet, Batshuayi, Benteke, Boyata, Doku, Praet, Sels, Trossard) Coach: Martinez

REFEREE: Kuipers (Netherlands)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Wass, Damsgaard, Jensen (D), T. Hazard (B); Extra Time: 1st Half 2′, 2nd Half 5′