While they might have been far from their convincing best for large spells on Thursday evening, Belgium did manage to make it back-to-back Group B wins with a hard-fought 2-1 victory in Copenhagen.
With all of the headlines prior to kick-off rightfully focused around the wellbeing of Christian Eriksen after he went into cardiac arrest in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat against Finland, The Danes failed to get their fairytale on home soil.
Despite Yussuf Poulsen opening the scoring with just 1:39 on the clock, a plucky Danish side saw all of their hard work undone after The Red Devils produced two sublime moments in the second-half.
With Thorgan Hazard tapping home the equalizer 10 minutes after the restart and Kevin De Bruyne breaking Danish hearts after making his return from the bench, we have taken a look at the major talking points after an emotionally charged night in Copenhagen.
De Bruyne saves the day
Putting in what was a torrid first-half display on Thursday evening and failing to lay a glove on The Danes in the opening 45 minutes, Belgium really needed saving out in Copenhagen.
With attacking talisman Romelu Lukaku often left detached and unable to make a similar impact after he bagged a brace against Russia in their Group B opener last weekend, Roberto Martinez had no choice but to throw on a returning Kevin De Bruyne at half-time.
Making his first appearance since that horror facial injury he suffered against Chelsea in last month’s Champions League final defeat, the Manchester City ace made an immediate impact and really helped his nation avoid a major banana skin.
Replacing Dries Mertens who was making his 100th international outing, the 29-year-old was at the heart of Belgium’s resurge in the second-half and showed his class with both of Belgium’s goals.
Putting the ball on a plate for Thorgan Hazard after sublime build-up play between himself and Lukaku, De Bruyne then broke Danish hearts with 20 minutes to go as he smashed his left-footed strike past the helpless Kasper Schmeichel.
Questions over Belgium’s defence
Although De Bruyne might have managed to come off the bench and spearhead Belgium’s second-half turnaround on foreign soil, Martinez would have left Copenhagen with a real headache over his side’s rather glaring issues at the back.
With Leicester full-back Timothy Castagne suffering six fractures to his face in last weekend’s 3-0 win against Russia and seeing his European Championships brought to an early finish, Belgium’s worrying lack of pace was really on display.
Watching Jason Denayer sloppily give the ball away after just two minutes and hand Denmark an early advantage, Martinez’s aging defence simply could not live with the pace and high press from Thursday’s hosts.
With The Danes constantly exploit their clear lack of pace and playing on Jan Vertonghen’s shoulder, the one-time Wigan boss saw his side leak a staggering 22 shots on their goal in midweek, something that will undoubtedly need sorting as they progress into the knockout stage.
Denmark do themselves proud
While Denmark might have failed to get the fairytale ending that they had hoped for after what has been a traumatic week in their camp, The Danes did themselves proud and will rightfully feel they should have at least left with something to show.
With Poulsen scoring what was the second-quickest goal at a European Championships, The Reds simply played the World Number ones off the pitch in the first-half and were backed by a noisy home support in Copenhagen.
Unlucky not to have entered the half-time break with a more healthy advantage after Courtois denied both Daniel Wass and Joakim Maehle from close range, Kasper Hjulmand’s side just struggled to keep up that same momentum in the second 45.
Although De Bruyne’s arrival might have proved a real problem in the middle of the park, Denmark still held their own and their late flurry certainly underlined the type of group mentality they have in their camp after last weekend’s distressing scenes.
With Braithwaite coming inches from equaling the scoreline and snatching what would have been a deserved point when his header clipped Courtios’ bar with minutes remaining, Hjulmand’s men now face a must-win showdown against Russia next week.
Denmark: Schmeichel (7), Christensen (6.5), Kjaer (7.5), Vestergaard (7), Maehle (7), Wass (7), Hojbjerg (7), Delaney (6.5), Poulsen (7.5), Damsgaard ( ), Braithwaite (8)
Subs: Cornelius (7), M. Jensen (6.5), Norgaard (6), Skov Olsen (6.5), Stryger Larsen (7)
Belgium: Courtois (7), Alderweireld (6.5), Denayer (3.5), Vertonghen (3.5), T. Hazard (7), Dendoncker (5.5), Tielemans (7), Meunier (5), Mertens (4), Lukaku (6), Carrasco (5)
Subs: Witsel (7), E. Hazard (8), De Bruyne (9), Vermaelen (N/A)
Goals: Denmark: Poulsen 2′ – Belgium: T. Hazard 55′, De Bruyne 70′
Yellow Cards: Denmark: Wass, Damsgaard, Jensen – Belgium: T. Hazard
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Björn Kuipers
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