“The almost impossible has happened.”
On 67 minutes at the Parken Stadium, fans of Denmark let up a roar.
The ball was metres from the Russian box, but Russia had possession. The Danes were 2-0 up, but that was not why the fans in Copenhagen were in a tizzy.
Over at the Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg, over 700 miles away, Belgium had scored.
Denmark had lost to Finland and Belgium in Group B of Euro 2020, but they still had an outside chance of reaching the knock-out stages. First, they had to take care of the Russians.
Heading into the last 25 minutes of their clash, they were well on course. Yussuf Poulsen’s second half strike added to this absolute corker from Mikkel Damsgaard.
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) June 21, 2021
The 20-year-old was only starting for Denmark after coming in for Christian Eriksen, who suffered a cardiac arrest during their opening game against Finland.
Eriksen is now back home with his family, after being discharged from hospital late last week, and the drama at Parken Stadium would surely have needed a health advisory warning.
The cheers went out when the Danes got wind that Romelu Lukaku had scored for Belgium against Finland. Suddenly, Denmark were up to second in the ‘As it Stands’ table.
In the space of 60 seconds, it all changed. Lukaku had his goal ruled out for a marginal offside. Back in Parken Stadium, Russia pulled one back from the penalty spot. All was not lost, though.
With only 16 minutes remaining, in St Petersburg, Thomas Vermaelen hit the frame of the goal with a header. Finland goalkeeper reached out to flick the ball out, but only managed to swot it into his own net. This time, the goal stood.
With Parken Stadium hopping again, the Danes scored twice more to consign the Russians to bottom spot in the group. Belgium sealed their win when Lukaku finished after being teed up by Kevin de Bruyne.
From the time of that disallowed Lukaku goal to his goal that stood, it was a frantic and unforgettable 14 minutes.
“The almost impossible has happened,” declared Kenny Cunningham on RTE’s match coverage.
The two results meant Belgium top Group B while Denmark, with only one win and three points from their three games, reached the knockout stages.
After such a jarring, scary start to their European Championship, few would begrudge Denmark their place in the last 16.