For a moment it looked as though we were about to say goodbye to the outstanding team of the Euro 2020 group stage as early as the round-of-16.

But VAR came to the rescue in denying Marko Arnautovic a famous goal and, from then on, you just had the feeling fate was on Italy's side.

Roberto Mancini's Azzurri were aiming to extend their unbeaten run to 31 matches, setting a new record, and while Austria certainly went for it towards the end as they pulled one back through Sasa Kalajdzic, Italy saw out a historic 2-1 victory.

But where there was unrelenting praise before, there were arguably doubts about Italy and their system for the first time in Euro 2020, with Mancini forced to turn to his bench to get the job done in extra-time.

 

It should be said, for long periods they were dominant in the first half at Wembley, with their 12 shots the second-most Italy have managed in the opening 45 minutes of games at the tournament.

But there was unquestionably something missing, with Austria shrewdly set up by Franco Foda.

The German coach has proven tactically flexible in Euro 2020, switching between a back three and a back four – he chose the latter on this occasion as they zoned in on Italy's threat from the flanks.

David Alaba had been deployed at centre-back against the Netherlands but moved to left-back in the 1-0 win over Ukraine, and that was where he remained here.

Foda went with a double pivot again, giving the centre-backs extra protection but also ensuring Domenico Berardi and Lorenzo Insigne had little joy when cutting in from their respective wings, finding themselves crowded out more often than not by Florian Grillitsch and Xaver Schlager, whose five tackles were more than anyone else.

It became a recurring theme, with the only Italy player who looked even moderately threatening out wide for much of the game being Leonardo Spinazzola.

The left-back was bright in the opening 45 minutes, making some lung-busting runs up the flank and one of those led to arguably their best chance, when Nicolo Barella was denied by Daniel Bachmann. Nevertheless, he too was rather quieter after half-time.

Italy's struggles out wide were further highlighted by the fact they failed to deliver any open-play crosses before the break for the first time in a Euros game since 1980.

This was made even more surprising given 74.2 per cent of their attacks in the group stage came down the flanks. While an attack from the wings doesn't necessarily mean a cross has to be played in, it does suggest Foda was wise to focus his attentions on this area of the pitch.

Italy also weren't helped by the fact Giovanni Di Lorenzo offered very little by way of support to Berardi, who was a source of frustration well into the second period.

 

That was with the exception of one moment very early on in the second half, as Berardi got to the byline and drilled a low ball into the danger zone, much in the same vein as his assist for Manuel Locatelli against Turkey.

This time a team-mate couldn't get it into the goal, but instead of that acting as a source of encouragement, it was a tactic Berardi was barely able to carry out again.

Berardi's performance was summed up by his scissor-kick attempt in the 84th minute that was sliced high and wide. It was a final action befitting his underwhelming performance before being replaced by Federico Chiesa.

It was something of a surprise on matchday one when Berardi was the chosen man ahead of Chiesa out on the right. While the former justified that call in his first few games, the Juventus talent impressively staked his own claim here.

Five minutes into extra-time, Chiesa had hung out wide before springing into the box to receive a lofted pass from Spinazzola. He controlled it with his head, before cleverly knocking it underneath the approaching Konrad Laimer and smashing into the far side of the goal with a vengeance.

Another substitute in Matteo Pessina then got the goal that proved decisive, making the most of good hold-up play by Francesco Acerbi and powering home.

While Pessina's initial introduction for Marco Verratti, who had been key for Italy beforehand, raised eyebrows, Mancini's decision was ultimately vindicated in that moment.

Kalajdzic's late header saw him become the first player to score against Italy since Donny van de Beek for the Netherlands last October, but it could not prevent Italy from marching on to the quarter-finals.

On a day that saw Italy create history, with their unbeaten run as much to do with Mancini as any player such has been the transformative impact he's had, it was only fitting that his in-game changes made the difference.

Italy set a new national record as they extended their unbeaten run to 31 games with a 2-1 triumph over Austria at Euro 2020.

Extra-time goals from substitutes Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina at Wembley Stadium made sure the in-form Azzurri progressed through to the quarter-finals of the tournament, where they will play either Belgium or Portugal in Munich.

Roberto Mancini has not seen his team lose since a 1-0 Nations League reverse against Portugal back in September 2018.

Their current run is now the longest in Italy's long and illustrious history, surpassing the 30-game streak posted under Vittorio Pozzo between 1935 and 1939.

Mancini was appointed to the job after the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup under Gian Piero Ventura. 

Italy have been victorious in 27 of their 36 games under the former Inter and Manchester City boss (D7 L2). His 75.6 per cent win ratio is the highest of any manager to have spent at least 10 games in charge of the national team.

They won all three of their group fixtures for just the fourth time in European Championships and World Cups, defeating Turkey, Switzerland and Wales on home soil in Rome without conceding a goal.

Sasa Kalajdzic's goal for Austria in the 114th minute was the first Italy have let in since October 2020, ending a run of 1,168 minutes without conceding.

 

Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina scored in extra time as Italy beat Austria 2-1 to move into the Euro 2020 quarter-finals. 

The win set a new national record as they extended their unbeaten run to 31 games, surpassing the 30-game streak posted under Vittorio Pozzo between 1935 and 1939.

Marko Arnautovic saw an effort ruled out by VAR in the second half as Austria threatened to cause an upset, but substitutes Chiesa and Pessina booked the Azzurri's last-eight spot with clinical finishes in the first half of extra time, although Sasa Kalajdzic did set up a frantic finish with his 114th-minute effort. 

Roberto Mancini's side will face the winner of Sunday's clash between Portugal and Belgium in Munich on Friday.

Italy started strongly and had seven shots before the half-hour mark, Daniel Bachmann keeping out Nicolo Barella with his feet in what was the Azzurri's best chance in that period. 

At the other end, Arnautovic blazed over from a promising position, while Ciro Immobile crashed a superb effort off Bachmann's right-hand post from 25 yards. 

Bachmann pawed away a low effort from Leonardo Spinazzola shortly before the interval as Italy ultimately failed to make their first-half dominance count.

Austria improved dramatically after the break and thought they had gone ahead midway through the second half, but Arnautovic's deft header was ruled out by VAR for offside. 

Franco Foda's side might have thought they would have the edge in extra time given Italy's lethargy for much of the second period, yet it was the Azzurri who struck the decisive blow. 

Chiesa controlled Spinazzola's cross in the 95th minute, cut inside Konrad Laimer and lashed a fine half-volley past Bachmann. 

The Austria goalkeeper did well to keep out Lorenzo Insigne's free-kick soon after, but there was little he could do to deny Pessina in the 105th minute, the Atalanta midfielder powering past him from six yards after skipping past Martin Hinteregger.

Kalajdzic set up a grandstand finish with a clever near-post header from Louis Schaub's corner – ending Italy's run of 1,168 minutes without conceding – yet Mancini’s men held firm to keep their Euro 2020 dreams alive. 

 Ludlow Bernard has managed to keep the Stars of the East mentally focused ahead of the long-awaited start of the Jamaica Premier League (JPL).

Bernard will be keeping the same squad from last season. The Stars of the East last met and trained as a team in February.  As a result, the coach is concerned that the inactivity of the league and inconsistent training sessions might see a decline in his players' fitness levels.

The management team of the club admits they are cautious and concerned about possible injuries that may be sustained given the brief period allotted to prepare for the start of the league.

What seems to be the general modus operandi for all clubs, during the wake of the pandemic, Bernard's men were given training drills to complete independently.

The four-time champions are, however, currently facing financial hiccups.

"This is our primary line of activity, in the event that you are not being competitive, then your ability to earn, the ability for the players to be compensated on a monthly basis has certainly been hindered," Bernard said.

Even though the players have been badly impacted psychologically and physiologically have been hampered by over a year of inactivity, once news broke that the league would officially begin in June, Bernard is happy to report his players were delighted.

Joao Moutinho urged his Portugal team-mates not to go overboard trying to stop Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne in their Euro 2020 last-16 tie on Sunday.

De Bruyne has lit up Belgium's last two performances having missed their opening game in Group B match against Russia with the facial injury he picked up in the Champions League final.

A brilliant assist and winning goal saw the Manchester City playmaker inspire Roberto Martinez's side to a 2-1 win over Denmark having come off the bench at half-time.

Belgium made it three consecutive wins after a 2-0 victory over Finland with De Bruyne laying on Romelu Lukaku's third goal of the tournament.

De Bruyne has only played 134 minutes at Euro 2020 and has created five chances with an expected assists (xA) value of 1.18.

Since (and including) the 2014 World Cup, De Bruyne has created 71 chances in major tournaments (Euros and World Cup), more than any other European player in that time.

Moutinho will be one of those charged with stifling De Bruyne's influence, but warned about singling out the player for too much attention.

"Kevin is very competent, we have to be careful but not just focus on one player," Portugal midfielder Moutinho told a media conference.

 

"If he has space to play it's even more dangerous. But if all of them have space, they will play their game calmly and that will make our job difficult. 

"That would set the others free and that would be even worse. As a team we will try to minimise their strengths and put ours into practice, not only focus on De Bruyne.

"If the manager thinks I'm the player with the characteristics to face Belgium, I'll do that. Try to impose my experience and the pace of the game that interests us the most. 

"I'm available to give my best, that's what we all want to do, for the team to achieve its goals."

Portugal head coach Fernando Santos has dubbed the match a "final" and acknowledged the defending champions must improve on their displays in the group stage.

"We know that we are going to have a competent opponent. I believe, I hope and I am convinced that we will be more competent," he said.

"To reach the final, this is the first final. What we have to do is not to give space. The team that defends better, knows how to manage the ball better and create opportunities, will win the game."

 

Head coach of Arnett Gardens, Alex Thomas, is looking forward to a productive season when the Jamaica Premier League (JPL) kicks off this weekend.

Arnett resorted to training in small groups when Covid-19 unexpectedly abrupted the sporting arena after Minister of Sports Olivia Grange had barred the Premier league teams from training as a unit.

Thomas revealed the club has since taken a different approach to their squad line-up, shedding some weight, and adding younger players to the team.

The club has released Ricardo Holder and Jamar Martin among a few veteran players that were with the team last season.

Thomas believes that the changes will bring positive results and is pleased with what he has seen so far.  Despite having had a short period to prepare for the season, he is not concerned about it impacting the quality of the team’s performance. 

"We have a nice squad put together and they have come a long way and we are shaping up well for it. We are ready for the 26th," Thomas said.

According to Thomas, the young players are keen to prove their abilities and will be guided by more experienced players in the team.

He and the rest of the management team are happy that there are no injuries within the squad for far and hope it will remain that way.

Thomas has lauded the club's involvement and interaction with the players during the pandemic and the uncertainty that came with it.

Social media engagement and zoom meetings were some of the club's avenues to communicate with the players.

"It worked quite well for us, we couldn't come together most of the time, but we kept the squad upbeat within the group, we have a WhatsApp group that we keep in touch with," said Thomas.

The five-time champions are confident in their chances of winning the league and will be pushing themselves to reign as titleholders once again.

"Our chance of winning this competition out of ten, I would say eight, but we are going to push them as far as possible. Our objective is to reach the top six and from the top six we take it from there. We will do very well for ourselves," Thomas ended.

The league format has been altered from the usual three rounds to just one. Instead, teams will play each other in a round-robin. Therefore, the top six teams will have a chance to book a spot in the finals, and the bottom six will battle each other in another round-robin format; this will determine their respective placings on the league table.

Team Manager of Dunbeholden FC Paul Christie has no time for excuses, despite the pandemic affecting their usual way of getting business done.

Dunbeholden FC has been adapting to the circumstances and creating a pathway to a successful campaign for the upcoming season.  Christie reports that the club's coaching staff are effectively getting the players ready for competition and the title is theirs to take.

"At Dunbeholden FC, right now we are in it to win it. We are trying our best to prepare like any other team, and we give ourselves a chance against any opponent,” Christie said.

The Spanish Town-based club is looking to secure their first-ever league title and wants to do so in style.

Christie admitted to SportsMax.tv that his players had some psychological impact due to the pandemic. However, he said the management team addressed those issues with professional intervention because the team needs to be focused mentally on winning the title.

"We have persons who we had to engage for psychological evaluation, based on the severity of what was happening to them.  However, I know that our opponents will not empathize with that, on the game day they will still have to show and give the best account of themselves and that is what we are assiduously working on at this time,” he added.

In a bid to strengthen their overall depth, Dunbeholden FC has added several quality players to their armoury. Among the new signings are former Portmore United striker Rondee Smith, defender Roberto Johnson, Damion Hyatt from Arnett Gardens, Diego Gordon, Kiethy Simpson, and Mark Miller from Waterhouse FC.

Christie believes Smith will be lethal up front and is expected to be a nightmare for their rivals.  Johnson should be sturdy in defence, organising and commanding their backline. Miller and Simpson will be mobilising the midfield, threading, and splitting defences with creative passes, putting their strikers on the end of open goal-scoring opportunities.

The new signings expect to give Dunbeholden FC a competitive edge with a degree of experience and talent, says Christie.

Dunbeholden FC had also signed the late Tremaine Stewart in September of last year. However, the 33-year-old forward did not feature for the club because of the cancelled season due to the pandemic.

Dunbeholden FC had felt Stewart's presence instantly when he joined, and Christie was confident that with Stewart’s talent and energy, Dunbeholden would be sure winners of the competition.

According to the manager, the team was in a sombre mood but has since redirected their emotions towards winning the league title in honour of Stewart.

"We are trying to flip it around…although we are having a sad and a mournful time, we are trying to use it as motivation and try to just do this one for our fallen brother."

Mount Pleasant manager David Galloway has picked the trio of Prince Christie, Ricardo Gaynor, and Kevin Wilson to stun the Jamaica Premier League (JPL) this season.

In an interview with SportsMax.tv, Galloway lauded the talent that has progressed from the academy and believes the young players are going to be brilliant and surprise many in our local sporting arena.

Galloway insists Mount Pleasant is currently enjoying their football in training, and the passion and quality of play he is seeing should put his team in the top two come the end of the season.

The Saint Ann-based will not be threatened or intimidated by any opponent in the league. However, Galloway also said that his players and technical team are not complacent and are taking every opponent seriously.

"Football is a highly competitive sport, doesn't matter who you play against it's the day that counts, and at the end of the day it is the score that counts. You can go out there with your best team and still not come out on top. We try our best to just stay focused, maintain that discipline and we try to prepare players mentally and physically to get them out there and do the job and finish according to our dream plan."

He admitted that the ending prematurely last season was a disappointment.  The team was fourth and he believes their in-form squad would have been serious title contenders.

Since Mount Pleasant has resumed training, players are showing signs of 'top form' once again and Gallaway says he is thankful and elated for the team's consistency. 

Mount Pleasant's first bridge to cross is against five-time champions Tivoli Gardens FC on Sunday, at 8:30 am at the University of the West Indies Bowl, Mona campus.

Kasper Dolberg described his two-goal haul against Wales as "completely crazy" after helping to fire Denmark into the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 with a 4-0 win.

The Nice forward scored either side of half-time to put the Danes in control of Saturday's last-16 tie at the Johan Cruijff ArenA, where he previously spent three years with Ajax.

In doing so, Dolberg became only the second Denmark player after Henrik Larsen against the Netherlands in 1992 to score two goals in a knockout game at a major tournament.

Further goals from Joakim Maehle and Martin Braithwaite followed, either side of Harry Wilson's red card, as Kasper Hjulmand's side ran riot in Amsterdam.

Dolberg, who is Denmark's youngest scorer in the knockout stages of the Euros, received the man of the match award and struggled to sum up his emotions after the match.

"It's completely crazy. I actually don't know how I feel. This is total madness. It's surreal," he told Danish television station DR.

"It was here it all started for me with Ajax, and to play here again in this setting was insane."

 

Since the start of 2019, only Christian Eriksen (11) has scored more goals for Denmark than the eight Dolberg has managed.

He had more shots (four) and shots on target (three) than anyone on the field, despite having just five touches in the Wales box before being taken off after 70 minutes, and scored his two goals from an expected-goals (xG) return of 1.1.

"It had to end this way with him scoring on his old home ground. I had a good feeling about him, and he was fantastic," Denmark boss Hjulmand told DR.

After thrashing Russia 4-1 to book their place in the last 16, Denmark are the first side ever to score four or more goals in successive European Championship matches.

It is also the first time they have won back-to-back matches at a single major tournament since the 1986 World Cup, and a meeting with either the Netherlands or the Czech Republic awaits in next week's quarter-finals.

"It's hard to believe that this is reality. I admire the boys and the fact that we can keep fighting," Hjulmand added. "No matter who plays, they play very well. The guys are true warriors.

"We showed today we are able to be flexible. Not everything was perfect during the game but we improved and that's something we've done several times."

Peru need only to avoid defeat to make sure of progression to the Copa America quarter-finals when they face Venezuela on Sunday.

Under Ricardo Gareca, Peru have done an excellent job of not losing games in the Copa America, aside when they have faced Brazil.

They lost 4-0 to Brazil in their second Group B encounter but Peru are unbeaten in their last 10 Copa games against all other opponents, a run that stretches back to 2015.

Gareca's men made it all the way to the final in 2019, losing 3-1 to Brazil, but before they can think about a similar run this year Peru must ensure they do not suffer a slip-up against the tournament minnows.

Venezuela are bottom of the group but draws against Colombia and Ecuador have kept them in the hunt for progression.

Those draws came despite Venezuela having only 35 per cent of possession in the Colombia game and 31.2 per cent of the ball versus Ecuador.

But a point will not be enough for Venezuela to reach the knockouts, only a win will do if they are to reach the last eight for the third successive tournament.

To claim victory, Venezuela will need to maintain the clinical form they displayed in the second half against Ecuador, in which they scored from their only two shots on target of the period.

A win for Peru will see them finish second in the group, though that could mean a quarter-final meeting with the only other team to beat them in the Copa under Gareca, Chile, who were 2-1 winners in the 2015 semi-finals.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Peru - Christian Cueva

If Peru are to secure progression in style then the creative burden will likely fall on the shoulders of Cueva, who created two chances in their 2-2 draw with Ecuador last time out. He has six chances created in the tournament, though only one assist.

Venezuela - Edson Castillo

Midfielder Castillo was instrumental in Venezuela's draw with Ecuador. He had three shots, with two on target, scored their first equaliser and then teed up substitute Ronald Hernandez for a 91st-minute leveller.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- The last three meetings between Venezuela and Peru have ended level, two have finished 2-2 and they played out a goalless draw at the Copa America in 2019.

- Venezuela have just lost once in their last five Copa America games against sides not hosting the tournament, their only defeat came against Argentina in the 2019 quarter-finals.

- Venezuela are the team with the lowest average possession in the 2021 Copa America (35.1%). Three of the five games with the lowest possession were for Venezuela: v Ecuador (31.2%), v Colombia (35%) and v Brazil (38.3%).

- Peru have conceded the most goals in the group stage (7), with eliminated Bolivia second (6).

Brazil will be looking to stretch their unbeaten run over Ecuador to 11 games when they wrap up their Copa America Group B campaign on Sunday. 

Tite's men have started the tournament in fine form, beating Colombia, Peru and Venezuela to ensure their place in the last eight was secured long before the group's final game. 

They have scored nine goals in those three games and conceded just once. 

Given their place in the knockout stage is already secured, Tite could well shuffle his pack.

Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino, in particular, will be hoping for a first start of the tournament after coming off the bench to score the equaliser against Colombia last time out, while Real Madrid man Vinicius Junior will be hoping to improve on his paltry five minutes of action so far. 

Ecuador, meanwhile, need a win to guarantee their place in the last eight, although they will progress regardless of the result if Venezuela lose to Peru on Sunday. 

They followed up their opening 1-0 defeat to Colombia with consecutive 2-2 draws against Venezuela and Peru. 

That has left them level with Venezuela on two points, though they have a superior goal difference to Jose Peseiro's side.

They have unsurprisingly struggled against Brazil historically, with their last win against the Selecao coming in the South American World Cup qualifiers in 2006.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil – Neymar

He did not get on the scoresheet against Colombia, but Neymar was heavily involved in the action. 

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar had five shots – a game high – and played two key passes, which was only bettered by Fred from either side. 

He did blot his copybook, however, by losing possession a whopping 40 times – 22 more times than any other player on the pitch, evidence that he was rather wasteful. Something for the 29-year-old to improve on against Ecuador.

Ecuador –​ Ayrton Preciado

Preciado scored his second goal of the campaign in the 2-2 draw with Peru last time out. 

The Santos Laguna winger was a real handful in that clash, taking more touches (90) and playing more key passes (three) than any other player on the pitch.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Tite has won his last 10 games with Brazil in all competitions, his best run since he took over the job. 
- After winning four consecutive games in all competitions, Ecuador are winless in their last five (D2 L3), including two consecutive 2-2 draws against Colombia and Peru in the current Copa America.
- Brazil are the team with the most shots on target per game in the Copa America (6.7). They have also scored the most goals in the competition (nine in three games).
- Ecuador have put in the most crosses per game in the Copa America (29.3), with a 27.3 per cent success rate. They have the third best percentage of successful crosses in the competition after Paraguay and Colombia.

Gareth Bale refused to answer questions over his future after Wales crashed out of Euro 2020 with a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Denmark.

Kasper Dolberg scored twice before late goals from Joakim Maehle and Martin Braithwaite sent Denmark into the quarter-finals with an emphatic win in Amsterdam.

It brought up the first time Wales have lost successive matches at a major tournament – after their defeat to Italy in the group stage – with Robert Page's team also having Harry Wilson sent off late on.

Indeed, Wales were on the receiving end of a result which saw Denmark become the first team to score four or more goals in consecutive matches in European Championship history.

After a bright start in which he went close with a long-range strike, one of three attempts he managed in total, Bale was a peripheral figure following a clever tactical tweak from Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand, whose team will face either the Netherlands or the Czech Republic in Baku next Saturday.

The 31-year-old – who is due to return to Real Madrid after spending 2020-21 on loan at Tottenham – said before the tournament that he had made a decision on his future, though he would not reveal it until Wales' campaign was over.

 

However, asked to expand on that in a pitch-side interview on BBC Sport following Wales' defeat, Bale walked immediately out of shot.

Prior to the refusal to discuss his next move, both domestically and internationally, Wales' record goalscorer said: "Of course, not how we wanted the game to go.

"We started very well the first 25 minutes. Conceded a goal and the game changed a little bit. We came out in the second half trying to play but unfortunately made a mistake to concede the goal which I guess killed the momentum on our side.

"To finish the game how we did was disappointing. The boys are frustrated and angry but I’d rather us go out like that kicking and screaming than laying off and doing nothing.

"Of course we missed an opportunity but one thing we can't fault is the effort, that's the minimum requirement of this group."

Wales were furious when Denmark's second goal was allowed to stand despite what seemed to be a foul on Kieffer Moore in the build-up.

"If you play the ball through the back of someone it's a foul," Bale added.

"I thought like the referee was being influenced by a lot of supporters here but I guess it is what it is, there's no point making excuses now. It's disappointing, that's all I can say."

Head coach Frank de Boer has warned his Netherlands players there must be "no slackening" in their bid for Euro 2020 glory.

The Netherlands face the Czech Republic in the last 16 of Euro 2020 on Sunday as they look to win their opening four games of a European Championship for just the second time.

The sides will face each other at the European Championship for the third time (excl. Czechoslovakia meetings), with both sides winning one game apiece previously. 

They last faced each other in a tournament at Euro 2004 when the Czechs came from two goals down to win 3-2, following an 88th-minute winner from Vladimir Smicer.

De Boer's men have looked in good form and were the top scorers during the group stage with eight goals ahead of the match in Budapest.

"After the win over North Macedonia, we pulled the plug for a while and had a day off," De Boer told a media conference on Saturday.

"But then we immediately picked up the thread again. The other members of the technical staff and the players themselves must ensure that there is no slackening. 

"Players have to hold each other accountable for that as well.

"The Czech Republic know what they want and can disrupt us. They have many people working without a ball, and it is a team that is difficult to fight. 

"We will have a lot of work to do and it will be great achievement to beat the Czech Republic."

De Boer claimed the Netherlands have the ability to win the tournament and acknowledged they have favourable recovery periods, but still need everything to click into gear 

"Of course it depends on the game we show," De Boer added.

"I'm especially happy with the schedule we have now if we keep winning. If we progress one round, we have five rest days and then three rest days I'm happy with that schedule.

"The tournament is only successful if we sail through those challenges. We have the qualities to become European champions, but then everything has to be right."

Denmark know a thing or two about winning against all odds. While their 4-0 victory over Wales on Saturday may not fall into that exact category, it's fair to say their Euro 2020 campaign is very much built on such a platform.

After all, the Danes' greatest moment on the international stage, winning Euro 92, only occurred because of Yugoslavia's disqualification that came about to the breakup of the country.

This year they've had to cope with the stress of Christian Eriksen's health emergency in their group opener against Finland, the Inter midfielder suffering a cardiac arrest.

While Eriksen is on the mend, there's no doubt Denmark's inner resolve and desperation to honour the efforts of their team-mate have played a role in their performances – even if their second group game after the incident saw them suffer a slender defeat to Belgium.

The 4-1 win over Russia that followed saw Denmark become the first team in Euros history to lose their first two games but still qualify for the knockout phase. Qualification against all odds?

While Wales wanted to embrace a similar kind of 'nothing is impossible' attitude, just as they did when reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016, they were always going to be up against it versus Denmark – who essentially had a home crowd behind them in Amsterdam.

"We're playing at Christian's old home and we're so excited to give it our all against Wales," coach Kasper Hjulmand said in the build-up. "There is a huge connection between Amsterdam – and especially Ajax – and Danish football."

Wales defender Connor Roberts had suggested "99 per cent of the world" would be cheering on Denmark, a situation that Danny Ward said helped in creating a "siege mentality" in the Welsh ranks.

And there was certainly evidence of that fired-up attitude throughout, such as Wales' promising start that had them 7-1 up on the shot count (even if several were blocked) after the 18th minute, the fact Chris Mepham and Joe Rodon looked to be picking scraps wherever possible, and then there was the late red card for Harry Wilson.

Yet Wales seemed unable to tap into that adrenaline for long and Denmark began to look every inch a home side, with the fans – whether they were Danish or Dutch – seemingly responding to Hjulmand's request for the Johan Cruijff ArenA to be more red-and-white than orange.

It was only fitting, then, that Kasper Dolberg was the man to take the match by the scruff of the neck.

 

The former Ajax prodigy was considered one of the world's biggest young talents after coming through the academy in Amsterdam. While his career probably hasn't hit the heights some would have expected during his breakout in the Netherlands, there's no doubt he will have made plenty sit up and take note on Saturday.

He opened the scoring in the 27th minute, receiving a pass inside from the left courtesy of Mikkel Damsgaard, taking a touch to his right to open up a little space before rifling a gorgeous effort into the bottom-right corner from 20 yards.

The Nice forward almost certainly wouldn't have started were it not for an injury to Yussuf Poulsen, but here he was, back where he made his name, doing it all over again.

His subsequent celebration, as he stood where he shot with his arms stretched outwards at his sides, reminiscent of Russell Crowe in Gladiator. "Are you not entertained?"

Well, as it happened, he would get another just after the break.

Neco Williams' clearance from Martin Braithwaite's low cross summed up much of Wales' play – panicked and utterly lacking in conviction.

Dolberg was on hand to slam an unstoppable effort into that bottom-right corner again, and from there it never looked like being anything other than a comfortable Denmark win.

In truth, Wales' setup in the group stage provided little inspiration that they would've been able to chase any kind of deficit. They only forced six high turnovers, the joint-fewest of any team, while their expected goals against of 4.8 was only lower than four other teams, all of whom finished bottom of their groups.

To maintain that level and succeed against a Denmark side who were among the most-effective sides in terms of pressing (37 high turnovers, second only to the Netherlands) and also capable of mixing up their play (more 'direct attacks' than anyone else but also only bettered by Spain and Italy in terms of 'build-ups) was going to be a tall order.

While Wales made some desperate forays forward towards the end, late goals from Joakim Maehle and Braithwaite were just rewards for Denmark's excellent game management. 

But as good as Atalanta star Maehle was (again), the day belonged to Dolberg.

Back in Amsterdam, where both he and Eriksen set out on their journeys, Dolberg's brace sent Denmark on their way to a first quarter-final at a major tournament since 2004.

 

Kasper Dolberg starred on his former stomping ground in Amsterdam as Denmark stormed to a 4-0 victory over Wales to progress to the Euro 2020 quarter-finals.

In for the injured Yussuf Poulsen, ex-Ajax striker Dolberg became the first Denmark player to score twice in a Euro knockout game since Henrik Larsen in 1992 with two clinical finishes.

With the backing of a partisan crowd at the stadium where the absent Christian Eriksen made his name, Denmark hit the front midway through the first half before Dolberg – on his first start of the tournament – doubled his tally shortly after the break.

Mathias Jensen, Martin Braithwaite and Joachim Andersen all hit the woodwork, though those near-misses mattered little when Joakim Maehle made sure of an emphatic Danish victory.

Wales' misery was then compounded with Harry Wilson's harsh sending off and Braithwaite's strike in the fourth minute of added time.

 

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