“It’s hard to believe this is reality”: Denmark and Dolberg in dreamland | Denmark
As the songs of Denmark’s jubilant supporters faded into the night, two Kaspers were still giving flash interviews at the pitch side about Wales’ 4-0 crash at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
They were Hjulmand, the class trainer, and Schmeichel, the warrior-keeper. Yet victory in Amsterdam was also the story of a third Kasper – Dolberg whose two-in-a-lifetime performance capped a masterful team performance that showed just how great the pace, cohesion, strategy and momentum strengthen the spirit fueled by the desire to win Euro 2020 for convalescent Christian Eriksen.
Because, make no mistake: Denmark is a real team. After resisting 20 minutes of attacking push from Robert Page, they left them only a strange glimpse of Schmeichel’s goal as they took the game to Wales and scored four brilliant goals.
It all happened without injured Yussuf Poulsen, who had scored two goals in the group stage as Denmark won after losing their first two matches. Yet at Dolberg, Mikkel Damsgaard and Martin Braithwaite, Hjulmand fielded a fluid and swift unit. Braithwaite’s penchant for the broad coat and strengthening of former defenders has caused endless problems in Wales.
Dolberg was the standout player, however. At 23, whose career began with a single season at Silkeborg IF, then three at Ajax, before moving to Nice in the summer of 2019, he had a modest record under the international colors before Saturday night. Entering the round of 16, Dolberg has scored seven goals in 27 appearances and had yet to start the tournament, being limited to a substitute appearance.
Yet against Wales he was a powerhouse, mixing buccaneer pushes with silky layoffs, and a cute heel close to the post that nearly fooled Wales goalkeeper Danny Ward.
More materially, Dolberg displayed a killer touch. His opener was purely hit, following a parabola that flipped outside of Ward’s left post. Arriving in the 27th minute, he was also nicely timed to stop the first wave of Welsh pressure. His second, minutes after the start of the second half, shattered the hearts and minds of Wales, killing the game.
“We have a star striker at Kasper,” said Hjulmand de Dolberg, a player who is returning to form at exactly the right time. It was also interesting how more than happy Simon Kjær was to mix him with Welshman Kieffer Moore, a center-forward built like a rugby union second row but who found the Denmark captain offering the kind of performance. who said to the rest of his back line: no we will be broken.
The Danes could come out in the next round. But if they do, whoever beats them will have to achieve victory. After Eriksen’s cardiac arrest, Hjulmand’s men showed unimaginable courage to get to where they are now. It is heartwarming and invigorating to be a witness.
As Hjulmand said: “It’s hard to believe this is reality. I am really grateful for all the Danes who have come here [to Amsterdam]. I am grateful for the support we continue to receive. It’s crazy. I admire the boys, I admire that we can keep fighting. When Christian collapsed, that’s where everything changed, at least for me. We suddenly found ourselves in a totally different situation. We needed love and support and that’s what gave us wings. I admire boys, they are warriors.
The victory over Wales came 29 years after Denmark’s ‘beach boys’ left their vacation to replace Yugoslavia at Euro 92, where they would become continental champions.
This triumph remains a true fairy tale. There is certainly no chance that the 2021 vintage of Hjulmand will repeat the feat. Is there?