COPENHAGEN (AFP) – Kevin De Bruyne inspired Belgium to a 2-1 victory over Denmark in Copenhagen early yesterday, securing them a place in the Euro 2020 knockout stage as fans and players showed their support for Christian Eriksen.
Yussuf Poulsen gave the hosts a second-minute lead, but De Bruyne came off the bench at half-time to make his first appearance of the tournament after injury and teed up Thorgan Hazard to equalise before scoring the winner with a fine strike.
The match was paused after 10 minutes – a reference to Eriksen’s number 10 – for a minute’s applause for the Denmark midfielder, who suffered a cardiac arrest in his team’s game against Finland last weekend.
The 29-year-old Inter Milan player is recovering in hospital and will have a defibrillator implanted.
A section of fans in the 25,000 crowd held up a banner reading “All of Denmark is with you, Christian” as the match was halted.
“The only thing I’m disappointed by is the result, I didn’t expect much from this game, but I can’t describe the pride I feel about this squad,” said Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand.
“Four days after almost losing one of their best friends, they get up and they play such a game, it’s just amazing.”
If the Danes were traumatised by Eriksen’s collapse or worried about facing the world’s top-ranked team, they did not show it.
Just after a minute, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg picked up a misplaced pass by Jason Denayer and found Poulsen who took the ball inside the box and fired across Thibaut Courtois into the bottom corner.
At one minute and 39 seconds, it was the second fastest goal in European Championship history, trailing only Dmitri Kirichenko’s goal after 67 seconds as Russia beat eventual champions Greece in 2004.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said his team was overwhelmed by the atmosphere.
“The crowd gave a goal to the home team and that’s something we cannot afford to do,” said the Spanish coach.
“But then the way that we didn’t accept that in the second half, it is personality, it is character.”
Belgium started with De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel on the bench, but Martinez sent them all into action after the break and their presence made all the difference.