Denmark inspired by recovering Eriksen but De Bruyne quality shines through

By Sports Desk June 17, 2021

Belgium planned to kick the ball out of play after 10 minutes against Denmark to pay their own mark of respect to Christian Eriksen. The world's top-ranked football nation were perhaps not anticipating, however, that they would be chasing the game – and indeed Danish shadows – at that early stage in the match.

In the end the referee, Bjorn Kuipers, seemingly had to remind the Belgium players to bring the contest to a temporary halt, sparking emotional scenes as supporters and players - Eriksen's current and former club-mates Romelu Lukaku, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld among them – applauded in unison.

It was that type of occasion and that type of start for Denmark as they produced a fitting tribute to stricken team-mate Eriksen, who was likely to have been watching on from his hospital bed barely 400 yards away, where he continues to recover from a cardiac arrest.

Football was put into perspective the moment Eriksen went to ground in the Danes' opening Group B defeat to Finland – he was "gone", in the words of team doctor Morten Boesen – but thankfully updates in the five days since the incident have been largely positive.

Whether we will see the Inter playmaker on a field again remains to be seen; that he is able to smile and laugh once more with his colleagues is a huge victory in its own right. A bigger victory, indeed, than Denmark were on course for against Belgium until the Kevin De Bruyne show ensued.

 

Long before the Manchester City playmaker's half-time arrival, just 99 seconds into the game at a raucous Parken Stadium, Yussuf Poulsen finished expertly into the bottom-left corner for the second-quickest goal in European Championship history.

Poulsen profited from a Jason Denayer error, the Lyon defender looking rusty in the early stages after returning to the side in place of Dedryck Boyata at the back following a rare day off in the 3-0 win over Russia.

Roberto Martinez's Belgian charges lived up to their tag as the world's number one side in their previous match against Russia, and the professionalism of this performance – as bad as they were in the first half – will arguably heighten expectations that they can go all the way when at full strength.

Belgium mustered just one attempt in the first half – a flicked effort from Dries Mertens on his 100th cap.

The last time they managed only one effort in the opening 45 minutes was in a 2-0 loss to Spain in September 2016, Martinez's first at the helm, which preceded a run of just three defeats in their next 56 matches.

Denmark could not quite add their name to that rare list of nations to have conquered the Red Devils over the last five years, with the visitors' quality eventually shining through. Make that De Bruyne's quality.

Still recovering from a facial injury sustained in Manchester City's Champions League loss to Chelsea last month, the playmaker was introduced for the start of the second half and made an instant impact.

Against the run of play, Lukaku turned his marker and pulled the ball back for De Bruyne to tee up the unmarked Thorgan Hazard. The finish from six yards was simple, the build-up to it anything but.

That assist made De Bruyne the only European player to set up a goal in each of the last four major international tournaments and he added his own name to the scoresheet 16 minutes later.

Another flowing team move culminated in De Bruyne driving a low shot past Kasper Schmeichel. A broken nose and a broken eye socket for De Bruyne; broken dreams for Denmark as their tournament hopes are now perhaps as good as over.

This game was never solely about the result, though – one that ensures safe passage through to the knockout stages for Belgium with a game, against Finland, to spare.

The defining moment was not Denayer's error, De Bruyne's match-changing introduction or Martin Braithwaite skimming the crossbar at the end, but rather the moment when all within the stadium united to pay respect to the popular Eriksen.

"All of Denmark is with you, Christian," a banner in one of the stands read. And boy did Denmark's players show that as they gave Belgium's hugely talented squad a run for their money.

Related items

  • Liverpool the 'perfect game' for Man Utd to turn things around, warns Van Dijk Liverpool the 'perfect game' for Man Utd to turn things around, warns Van Dijk

    Facing Liverpool at Old Trafford is the "perfect game" for Manchester United to kick-start their season, Virgil van Dijk has warned.

    United followed up a 2-1 home loss against Brighton and Hove Albion in their opening Premier League game of the campaign with a heavy 4-0 defeat at Brentford last weekend.

    The Red Devils find themselves bottom for the first time since August 1992, which is the only previous occasion they lost their opening two games in the competition.

    Erik ten Hag is the first United manager to lose his opening two games in charge since John Chapman in 1921 and the Dutchman's task does not get any easier.

    United face fierce rivals Liverpool on Monday, when Van Dijk expects the home side to be extra motivated to get off the mark in front of their own fans.

    "It's massive, but it's not about making a statement. We want to win and do everything that's possible to win there," Van Dijk said. 

    "This year they've had a difficult start and we've not had the best start that we wanted either, so it will be interesting. 

    "Obviously they're not in the best situation confidence-wise probably, but it's the perfect game to turn it around for them."

    Liverpool finished one point behind champions Manchester City last season, but they have started the 2022-23 campaign with draws against Fulham and Crystal Palace.

    That makes Monday's encounter the first time that United and Liverpool have been winless in the Premier League heading into this fixture.

    Jurgen Klopp's side have won their past two league games at Old Trafford, including a 5-0 thumping last season, and are looking to make it three in a row for the first time.

    "Over the years it’s proven tough for us to win there, though last year was a great result, we can't deny it," Van Dijk said.

    "This week we showed a lot of good spirit and fight in training, and we've got to bring that to the game on Monday."

  • Lakers to retire Gasol's number 16 jersey Lakers to retire Gasol's number 16 jersey

    The Los Angeles Lakers will honour Spanish legend Pau Gasol when they retire his number 16 jersey next year.

    A ceremony will take place on March 7, 2023 when the Lakers host the Memphis Grizzlies.

    Gasol played for the Lakers between 2008 and 2014, having arrived from Memphis, appearing in three NBA Finals and winning two championships alongside Kobe Bryant.

    Three of his six All-Star appearances came during his time in Los Angeles, before he left for the Chicago Bulls in 2014.

    After time with the San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks, Gasol returned to Europe for a second spell with Barcelona, where his career had begun, before retiring in October last year at the age of 41.

    Following the announcement, Gasol took to Twitter to thank his former franchise, writing: "Beyond thankful and honoured!!!"

    Gasol had an average of 17.7 points per game during his time with the Lakers, as well 9.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 blocks in 429 appearances.

    He will join a number of legends, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal, Bryant and Magic Johnson, in having his jersey retired by the Lakers.

  • World Cup shocker as Sevilla winger suffers cruel injury blow and faces Qatar 2022 KO World Cup shocker as Sevilla winger suffers cruel injury blow and faces Qatar 2022 KO

    Jesus Manuel Corona saw his World Cup ambitions crushed on Thursday as the Sevilla winger suffered leg and ankle injuries that should keep him sidelined until early next year.

    The Mexico international was expected to play a key figure for his country at Qatar 2022, but that plan can seemingly now be shelved as he faces up to five months on the sidelines.

    Corona, often known by his nickname 'Tecatito', broke his left fibula and ruptured ankle ligaments in training with Sevilla.

    The club said in a statement that the injury occurred without any contact from a team-mate, adding that Corona was rushed to hospital for tests that revealed the devastating extent of his injuries.

    "Tecatito will be operated on this afternoon for the injury by Dr Najarro at the FREMAP hospital," Sevilla stated. "Initially, this type of injury requires a recovery of between four and five months."

    With the World Cup taking place in November and December, it appears inevitable that Corona will play no part.

    Mexico will face Argentina, Saudi Arabia and Poland in Group C at Qatar 2022.

    The Mexican Football Federation sent best wishes via the national team's Twitter account, wishing Corona "a lot of strength" and adding: "We know that you will give everything to come back and you will do it in the best way."

    Corona only joined Sevilla in January, moving to Spain after a successful six-and-a-half-year spell in Portugal with Porto.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.