Poland captain Robert Lewandowski has backed the decision of the Polish football association to refuse to play their Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifier against Russia next month following developments in Ukraine.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, following weeks of rising political tensions in the region. The conflict escalated further on Friday, with the fighting reaching the capital city of Kyiv.

Russia had been set to host Poland in March, but on Friday, UEFA confirmed any international matches due to be held in Russia or Ukraine would have to be moved to a neutral venue, as well as confirming St Petersburg had been stripped of holding this season's Champions League final, which will now be played in Paris.

The winner of the tie between Poland and Russia would have been due to play either Sweden or the Czech Republic for a place in Qatar, but on Thursday, the Polish, Swedish and Czech FAs requested that Russia be barred from hosting any upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

On Saturday, the president of the Polish FA, Cezary Kulesza, took to Twitter to confirm they will refuse to play March's qualifier as part of the pair's final pathway to this year's tournament.

"No more words, time to act!" Kulesza posted on Twitter. "Due to the escalation of the aggression of the Russian Federation towards Ukraine, the Polish national team does not intend to play the play-off match against Russia. This is the only right decision. We are in talks with Sweden and Czech federations to present a common position to FIFA."

Bayern Munich star Lewandowski retweeted the post, saying: "It is the right decision! I can’t imagine playing a match with the Russian National Team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues.

"Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening."

Football's world governing body FIFA said in a statement that it: "condemns the use of force by Russia in Ukraine and any type of violence to resolve conflicts. Violence is never a solution and FIFA calls on all parties to restore peace through constructive dialogue.

"FIFA also continues to express its solidarity to the people affected by this conflict.

"Regarding football matters in both Ukraine and Russia, FIFA will continue to monitor the situation and updates in relation to the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers will be communicated in due course."

Robert Lewandowski says war is against "everything beautiful in sport" as he pleaded for solidarity with Ukraine amid Russia's invasion of the country.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, following weeks of rising political tensions in the region. The conflict escalated further on Friday, with the fighting reaching the capital city of Kyiv.

Sportspeople, teams and organisations around the globe have joined in the condemnation of Russia's attack.

On Friday, Bayern Munich – Lewandowski's club side – lit their stadium up in the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag, with coach Julian Nagelsmann expressing his shock at the invasion.

"Everything beautiful in sport is against what war brings," Lewandowski posted to his official social media channels.

"For all people who value freedom and peace, this is a time of solidarity with the victims of military aggression in Ukraine."

On Thursday, the Polish football association, along with their counterparts from Sweden and the Czech Republic, requested that Russia be barred from hosting any upcoming World Cup qualifiers. The four nations are in the same play-off pathway for Qatar 2022.

Russia had been set to host Poland in March, but on Friday, UEFA confirmed any international matches due to be held in Russia or Ukraine would have to be moved to a neutral venue, as well as confirming St Petersburg had been stripped of holding this season's Champions League final.

Lewandowski, who is Poland's captain, went on to explain that he will hold discussions with his team-mates as to whether they wish to face Russia.

"As the captain of the national team, I will talk to my colleagues from the team about the match with Russia in order to work out a common position on this matter and present it to the president of the Polish Football Association as soon as possible," the statement finished.

UEFA's decision to move the Champions League final from St Petersburg to Paris has been criticised by the Russian Football Union (RFU), which believes the move was "dictated by political reasons".

The decision came after European football's governing body condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Thursday and called an emergency meeting of the executive committee to discuss the situation.

It is understood UEFA agreed to relocate the final on Thursday, the first day of Russia's military assault, which continued on Friday. An announcement was delayed while a suitable new venue was selected.

The match will now be held at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, Paris at the original time of 20:00 GMT (21:00 CET) on May 28.

It was also ordered that all Russian and Ukrainian club sides, as well as the national teams, must play their home matches at neutral venues "until further notice" during competitions that fall under the auspices of UEFA.

The RFU criticised UEFA's announcement, adamant the Krestovsky Arena was still able to meet requirements, including from a safety perspective.

RFU president Alexander Dyukov, who is also chairman of majority state-owned Russian energy company Gazprom, which sponsors the Champions League and the Krestovsky Stadium, said: "The Russian Football Union has been acting as a reliable partner of UEFA for a long time, not only fulfilling all the necessary obligations, but also offering and providing comprehensive support in the implementation of new projects and holding major competitions.

"The most important and prestigious of them was to be the UEFA Champions League final in St Petersburg, preparations for which have continued to this day and fully met all the requirements, including from the point of view of safety.

"We believe that the decision to move the venue of the Champions League final was dictated by political reasons. The RFU has always adhered to the principle of 'sport is out of politics', and thus cannot support this decision.

"The RFU also does not support the decision to transfer any matches involving Russian teams to neutral territory as this violates the sports principle and infringes on the interests of players, coaches and fans.

"We are always ready to provide all the necessary guarantees for holding international football matches in Russia with a high level of organisation and security."

The RFU's statement also noted that it will continue its preparations to host Poland in Moscow in next month's World Cup qualifying play-off after the Polish Football Association (PZPN) and its counterparts from Sweden and the Czech Republic – either of whom could play Russia in the second play-off finals – signed a joint statement saying they would not play matches in the country.

The RFU added: "The introduced restrictions do not apply to the matches of the qualifying stage of the World Cup in Qatar, held under the auspices of FIFA on March 24 and 29. The RFU continues to prepare for them as planned."

Andriy Shevchenko declared "war is not the answer" as he implored people to make their opposition to Russia's invasion of Ukraine known. 

Russia's military crossed the border into neighbouring Ukraine on Thursday and commenced military action, prompting widespread condemnation. 

Shevchenko, Ukraine's all-time leading goalscorer and former head coach, wanted people to join him in speaking out against the attacks as he expressed a desire for the restoration of peace. 

"In the early hours, a full-scale war was initiated by Russia. My people and my family are under attack," Shevchenko wrote on social media. 

"Ukraine and its population want peace and territorial integrity. Please, I ask you to support our country and call the Russian government to stop their aggression and violation of international law.  

"We only want peace. War is not the answer." 

World Athletics has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine but said, for now, there are no plans to relocate the 2022 World Race Walking Team Championships scheduled for March 4-5 in Muscat, Oman or the 2022 World Athletics Indoor Championships scheduled for March 18-20 in Belgrade, Serbia.

Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this week drawing outrage from governments and sporting organisations across the globe. World Athletics joined the throng on Thursday in a statement released on its website and on several media platforms.

In the statement, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe is said to have spoken to senior vice-president Sergey Bubka and the Ukraine Athletics Federation offering support.

Since 2015, the Russian Athletics Federation has been suspended from World Athletics due to doping violations and is, therefore, ineligible to host World Athletics events or send teams to international championships.

FIFA refused to make a snap decision on whether Russia will be allowed to host World Cup play-off matches in March but said it is "monitoring the situation". 

Widespread condemnation followed Russia's full-scale invasion of neighbouring Ukraine on Thursday.

Stats Perform understands that UEFA will confirm on Friday that St Petersburg will no longer host this season's Champions League final. 

In a joint statement, Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic, who are in the same qualification pathway as Russia for this year's World Cup, said they would not consider playing matches in the country. 

Russia are scheduled to take on Poland in Moscow on March 24. If they win, they will face Sweden or the Czech Republic at home five days later.

FIFA called for the "rapid cessation of hostilities and peace in Ukraine" but stopped short of confirming whether Russia's hosting rights would be taken away.

"FIFA condemns the use of force by Russia in Ukraine and any type of violence to resolve conflicts," the statement read. 

"Violence is never a solution and FIFA calls on all parties to restore peace through constructive dialogue. FIFA also continues to express its solidarity to the people affected by this conflict. 

"Regarding football matters in both Ukraine and Russia, FIFA will continue to monitor the situation and updates in relation to the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers will be communicated in due course." 

Ukraine will also contest the 2022 World Cup play-offs, but the draw precludes them from playing at home. 

Russia should not be allowed to host World Cup qualifying play-off matches due to the nation's invasion of Ukraine, the respective football associations of Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic have said.

The four countries are in the same UEFA qualifying pathway for Qatar 2022, with Russia set to host Poland next month. Should they win that fixture they are scheduled to be at home to the winner of Sweden versus the Czech Republic.

A joint statement from the trio said they would not consider playing matches in Russia following president Vladimir Putin's decision to launch military action into neighbouring Ukraine, with all three insisting a neutral venue should be found.

"Based on the current alarming development in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, including the security situation, the Football Associations of Poland (PZPN), Sweden (SvFF) and Czech Republic (FACR) express their firm position that the play-off matches to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, scheduled for 24 and 29 March, should not be played in the territory of the Russian Federation," the joint statement read.

"The signatories to this appeal do not consider travelling to Russia and playing football matches there. The military escalation that we are observing entails serious consequences and considerably lower safety for our national football teams and official delegations.

"Therefore, we expect FIFA and UEFA to react immediately and to present alternative solutions regarding places where these approaching playoff matches could be played."

Russia, Poland and Sweden all confirmed their place in the second-stage playoffs after finishing as runners-up in their respective qualifying groups.

They were joined by the Czech Republic as one of the two best-ranked Nations League finishers not already qualified or involved in the play-off pathway.

Russia already face serious sanctions, including sports-related punishments, following their invasion.

They are expected to be stripped of hosting rights for the Champions League Final, while there is serious doubt over the Formula One Russian Grand Prix.

Schalke have removed Gazprom branding from their shirts in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Thursday.

The 2.Bundesliga club are sponsored by the Russian energy company, which is majority state-owned and the country's largest company in terms of revenue.

Schalke's move comes after Russia's attack on neighbouring Ukraine attracted widespread international condemnation.

The Gelsenkirchen-based team has not confirmed if it has severed its financial relationship with the company.

"Following recent developments, FC Schalke 04 have decided to remove the logo of main sponsor GAZPROM from the club's shirts," the club said in a statement.

"It will be replaced by lettering reading 'Schalke 04' instead. The association will inform you about further possible steps in due course."

Schalke's actions come amid mounting expectation that Russia will be stripped of hosting the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League final in May.

The competition's showpiece fixture is set to be played in St Petersburg, coincidentally at the Gazprom Arena.

However, Stats Perform understands European football's governing body, UEFA, will announce a change of venue after an emergency executive committee meeting on Friday.

Elsewhere, this year's Formula One Russian Grand Prix appears to be under threat, while serious doubts hang over next month's Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying play-offs, in which both Russia and Ukraine are set to take part.

UEFA-partnered fan group Football Supporters Europe (FSE) has publicly called for the relocation of May's Champions League final – currently set for the Russian city of St Petersburg – after the country launched an attack on neighbouring Ukraine. 

Russian president Vladimir Putin opted to launch a military assault on Ukraine on Thursday, having previously recognised the independence of two breakaway regions in the east of the country.

Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, responded by cutting diplomatic ties with Moscow and announcing the imposition of martial law.

As such, pressure is growing on UEFA to move European club football's biggest game away from the Gazprom Arena as a result of Russia's actions.

The FSE, an independent fans' organisation that is recognised as a representative association on fan issues by the likes of UEFA and the Council of Europe, has called for the governing body to strip Russia of the showpiece event.

"On this tragic day, our thoughts are with everyone in Ukraine, our friends, colleagues, members and their loved ones," read a post on the FSE's official Twitter account.

"Given the events unfolding, we expect an imminent announcement from UEFA on the relocation of the Champions League final from St Petersburg."

UEFA said in a statement earlier this week that there were "no plans" for a venue change, but pressure could now reach intolerable levels given the escalation of the crisis.

Last season's final between Chelsea and Manchester City was relocated to Porto from Istanbul with only two weeks' notice, as Turkey was on the United Kingdom's 'red' list, meaning fans were urged not to travel for the game due to coronavirus risk levels.

The Ukrainian Premier League has been suspended after the government's imposition of martial law following neighbouring Russia's decision to launch an attack on the country.

Russian president Vladimir Putin opted to launch a military assault on Ukraine on Thursday, having previously recognised the independence of two breakaway regions in the east of the country.

Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, responded by cutting diplomatic ties with Moscow and announcing the imposition of martial law.

As a result, Ukraine's premier footballing competition will be forced to halt. 

"Due to the imposition of martial law in Ukraine, the championship of Ukraine has been suspended," read a short statement on the league's website.

Defending champions and 16-time winners Dynamo Kiev currently trail Shakhtar Donetsk by two points at the division's summit, although the competition's ability to reach a conclusion will now be thrown into doubt.

The ongoing crisis has also brought scrutiny to UEFA's decision to host May's Champions League final in the Russian city of St Petersburg, with recent reports suggesting European football's showpiece event could be moved from the Gazprom Arena.

Likewise, FIFA's World Cup qualification campaign could also be affected, with Russia due to face Poland and Ukraine set to meet Scotland in the upcoming play-offs next month.

Roberto Mancini admitted Italy would rather not have to do battle with Portugal for a place in the 2022 World Cup if they get past North Macedonia.

The European champions were on Friday drawn to face North Macedonia in a semi-final next March after missing out on automatic qualification for the tournament in Qatar.

Italy will come up against either Portugal or Turkey in a decisive showdown if they avoid a semi-final upset.

Euro 2016 champions Portugal were consigned to a play-off spot in dramatic fashion as Aleksandar Mitrovic's last-gasp strike saw Serbia through as Group A winners.

Italy boss Mancini is confident his side will qualify, but gave an honest reaction to the prospect of trying to deny Cristiano Ronaldo what could be his last trip to a World Cup.

He said: "We are always confident and positive. Macedonia had a good qualifying group, we will have to play a great match. Then we will see what happens in the final.

Asked about the prospect of coming up against Portugal, he said: "We would have liked to avoid them, in the same way Portugal would have gladly avoided Italy."

The draw also threw up the possibility of Wales going up against Scotland for a place in the finals, should they overcome Austria and Ukraine.

Russia will host Poland, with the winners playing either Sweden or the Czech Republic. 

Italy or Portugal will miss out on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after the two most recent European champions were drawn in the same play-off path.

Roberto Mancini led Italy to a Euro 2020 triumph earlier this year, yet the Azzurri failed to qualify automatically for next year's World Cup, with Switzerland progressing instead.

Portugal, Euro 2016 winners, also fell short, finishing three points behind Serbia in Group A.

And now one of the heavyweights will fail to appear in Qatar, with both teams drawn together in Path C of the play-offs, which will take place in March.

Italy were drawn in a semi-final against minnows North Macedonia, who are aiming to make their first appearance at a World Cup, while Portugal will face Turkey.

Should they progress, Portugal will have home advantage in the Path C final to determine which team progresses to Qatar. While Cristiano Ronaldo could well be fighting to play in his final World Cup, the Azzurri will be aiming to avoid missing out on the tournament for a second successive time.

Path A threw up the possibility of Wales going up against Scotland for a place in the finals, should they overcome Austria and Ukraine, who went unbeaten in a qualifying group that also included reigning world champions France, respectively.

In Path B, Russia will host Poland and Sweden will play the Czech Republic. 

The winner of Russia v Poland will host the Path B final.

Play-offs draw in full

Path A

SF1 – Scotland v Ukraine

SF2 – Wales v Austria

F1 – Winner SF2 v Winner SF1

Path B

SF3 – Russia v Poland

SF4 – Sweden v Czech Republic

F2 – Winner SF3 v Winner SF4

Path C

SF5 – Italy v North Macedonia

SF6 – Portugal v Turkey

F3 – Winner SF6 v Winner SF5

A remarkable 81st-minute Russia own goal on a waterlogged pitch in Split gifted Croatia the 1-0 win they needed to top Group H and qualify for the 2022 World Cup on Sunday.

Russia led the pool coming into the decisive clash after a run of five straight victories, although they showed little ambition of making that six by beating Croatia for the first time in six meetings.

Seemingly happy instead to sit on a goalless draw that would keep them on course for Qatar, the visitors sought to rely on a defensive record that saw them concede just once in their winning run.

That approach looked to have paid off with the game entering the final 10 minutes and Croatia short of ideas, only for an inadvertent intervention from a Russia defender to turn the situation on its head.

A hopeful Croatia cross from the left skidded through a sodden penalty area and bounced off the knees of left-back Fedor Kudryashov, squirming beyond goalkeeper Matvey Safonov into the bottom-right corner.

Incredibly, that was the first goal in four matches between the sides in qualifying for the European Championship and World Cup.

Russia, who had attempted only one shot to Croatia's 19 up to that point, suddenly scrambled forward in search of an equaliser, but the 2018 finalists clung on, condemning their opponents – hosts of the last finals – to the play-offs.

We had to wait an extra year, but the Euro 2020 group stage threw up drama and records – and in terms of goals it delivered magnificently.

With the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku hitting their stride, it was a feast for the strikers, with 94 goals scored across the 36 games.

That represented a massive raising of the bar after only 69 goals were netted at the same stage in the 2016 tournament.

Here, Stats Perform looks at the most eye-catching numbers that defined the first 13 days of this delayed tournament – ahead of the do-or-die knockout stage getting under way.

 

Ronaldo making up for lost time

Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to score as many as five goals in the group stages of a single European Championship since Michel Platini bagged seven for France in 1984, on his way to a nine-goal tournament tally. Three of Ronaldo's goals for Portugal at this tournament have been penalties, while Platini netted just one spot-kick during France's run 37 years ago.

Impressively, Platini's goals in 1984 came from an expected goals (xG) rate of just 3.32, while Ronaldo has recorded his five from a total of 4.71 so far. Opta builds its expected goals data by measuring the quality of an attempt based on variables such as assist type, shot angle and distance from goal, whether it was a headed shot and whether it was defined as a big chance. It means Ronaldo has put away approximately the number of goals he should have expected to score.

Ronaldo scored twice from the penalty spot in Wednesday's 2-2 draw with France, the first game in the history of the Euros to see three spot-kicks scored, excluding shoot-outs.

Defending champions Portugal have been far from perfect, however, dropping a competition-high five points from winning positions.

While Ronaldo has the most goals of any player so far in these finals, he has not been able to keep up with the rising tide of own goals. There have been a staggering eight, as many as were scored between the 1980 and 2016 editions combined.

 

Firing range

Why wait until seeing the whites of the goalkeeper's eyes before offloading a shot?

Patrik Schick had one quick glance towards David Marshall's goal and let fly from 49.7 yards at Hampden Park to put the Czech Republic 2-0 in front against Scotland. That incredible moment gave Schick the longest-range strike on record at the European Championship, with such measured distances available from the 1980 tournament onwards.

There were 304 shots from outside the penalty area in the group stage, but only 12 goals scored from such long range. That ratio of one goal for every 25.3 shots from long distance was nevertheless an improvement on the Euro 2016 numbers, when just 16 goals from outside the area were scored from 638 attempts across the whole tournament – one every 39.9 shots.

 

Low Countries, tall targets

Belgium and the Netherlands are nations who have experienced mixed fortunes on the football field in the 21st century, but both will feel a big moment could be arriving.

The Belgian Red Devils were absent from all major tournaments between their appearances at the 2002 and 2014 World Cups, while the Dutch were conspicuous by their absence from Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

Lukaku, with three goals so far, has been a terrific spearhead of the Belgium side, netting 50 per cent of the goals their players have netted (excluding own goals) at Euro 2020 despite only taking 22 per cent of their shots – seven of 32 attempts.

If Lukaku keeps firing, with Kevin De Bruyne and co prompting from midfield, then Belgium, who have never won a World Cup or European Championship, have a strong chance to show why they are ranked by FIFA as the world's number one team.

Belgium exceeded their collective xG tally by 3.15 – scoring seven against xG of 3.85 – the highest number by which any side surpassed their expected goals in their opening three games.

Their neighbours, the Netherlands, have also caught the eye. Ronald Koeman lifted the Oranje from their doldrums and successor Ronald de Boer has guided the team through the group stage as top scorers and with a 100 per cent record.

That Group C success, with eight goals scored and two conceded, came on the back of Georginio Wijnaldum scoring three times. In doing so, he has overtaken Marco van Basten and Dirk Kuyt on the list of the Netherlands' leading international goalscorers, moving to 25, one ahead of the former Milan and Liverpool forwards.

Or, to put it another way, Wijnaldum is halfway to matching Robin van Persie's record haul of 50 international goals.

 

Boring, boring England?

England, by netting only twice, became the lowest-scoring side to ever finish top of a group at a European Championship. They did not so much storm through Group D as plod a methodical path through to the last-16 stage, although an xG of 4.45 suggests England have at least been creating chances, albeit not finishing as well as they might.

Yet England might yet go far. Germany visit Wembley next Tuesday and will encounter English players who have only been dribbled past 12 times in the group stage, the lowest number among all competing teams. England's expected goals against (xGA) tally is a miserly 1.33, the second lowest in the tournament behind an Italy side (1.3) who have got it right at both ends of the pitch to.

Turkey's players were dribbled past on 36 occasions, a group-stage high, and only North Macedonia (8.85) had a higher xGA than Senol Gunes' team (7.69), who failed to live up to 'dark horse' expectations.

 

Riding their luck? Or being all out of it?

Wales conceded just twice, defying an xGA total of 5.47, and reached the knockout stage on the back of that. The gap of 3.47 between expectation and reality with that metric was the highest among all competing teams.

Conversely, Scotland scored just once against an xG of 4.00 – with 3.00 the highest negative difference between xG and goals scored.

Russia bowed out, and could hardly blame anyone but themselves. Their players made three errors leading to goals – more than any other side and the joint-most by any nation at a finals going back to 1980, the point from which records are available.

Hungary also exited the tournament. They predictably finished last in the 'group of death' – adrift of France, Germany and Portugal – but Hungary were surprisingly ahead for more minutes and trailed for fewer than any other team in that Group F campaign.

Denmark squeezed through in second place behind Belgium in Group B, becoming the first team in European Championship history to reach the knockout stages of the competition having lost their first two group stage games. After the alarm of the Christian Eriksen situation, many would love them to go further.

Would you Luka that!

Luka Modric became the oldest player to score for Croatia at the Euros, netting a gorgeous strike in the 3-1 win against Scotland at the age of 35 years and 286 days. That made it an unusual double for the veteran playmaker, who also holds the record for being Croatia's youngest scorer at the tournament (22 years 73 days versus Austria in 2008).

Modric continues to marvel, and there was a slice of history for another midfielder in the group stage as Switzerland's Steven Zuber became only the third player since 1980 to register three assists in a single European Championship game – doing so against Turkey – after Portugal's Rui Costa in his rampaging 2000 display that tormented England and Denmark's Michael Laudrup in 1984 against Yugoslavia.

Kasper Hjulmand said Denmark after thinking about Christian Eriksen "all the way" as the head coach revelled in the nation's magical night at Euro 2020.

Denmark remarkably booked their place in the last 16 of Euro 2020 with a stirring 4-1 win over Russia in Copenhagen on Monday, setting up a showdown against Wales.

After losing 1-0 to Finland – a game overshadowed by the cardiac arrest suffered by star midfielder Eriksen – and 2-1 to star-studded Belgium, Denmark's hopes of making the knockout stages were slim before the clash at the Parken Stadium. 

But Denmark produced a devastating performance to open their account at Euro 2020 and seal second spot in Group B thanks to goals from Mikkel Damsgaard, Yussuf Poulsen, Andreas Christensen and Joakim Maehle.

Denmark became the first team in European Championship history to reach the knockout stages of the competition having lost their first two group-stage games, while it also marked the first time Denmark had scored four goals in a major tournament game since a 4-1 victory over Nigeria at the 1998 World Cup.

"What a night. We hoped that it would be a magic night at Parken," Hjulmand told reporters. "I want to start by saying thank you to all the people who have been supporting us and have shown so much love.

"I don't think it would have been possible without all the support. I could feel that it really affected the players, so thank you so much for all the support. It means the world to us.

"The motivation, the team spirit and the friendship among the players were amazing. We played three games at a very high level, and if anyone deserves this, it's our players. I can't imagine how they managed to come back from what they went through, so a big credit to the boys. Thanks a lot for the support we've got from the whole of Denmark.

"I think it helps the team and hopefully it gives the country some good moments. It's something we all love, so thank you and a huge congratulations to the boys. It's really awesome."

Hjulmand added: "I have to say that the team spirit we have, and how everyone contributes, is amazing. And then mixing it up with amazing performances is just fantastic.

"AC [Andreas Christensen] is one of the best defenders out there. He has everything that a player needs. Joakim [Maehle], I don't know if he is still running out there. He just runs. He's very, very strong. He runs a lot. I don't know what he's taking, but he runs a lot. He manages the left side, but that's of course with more players. That's part of the team spirit, and people who didn't get to play today, I respect them a lot. I respect the people who did contribute on the pitch, the technical staff.

"It's hard to describe what this team has been through in the past four weeks. We're thinking about Christian [Eriksen] all the way, and Wales are a very tough opponent. They came very far last time. They have really great players, so I think it's going to a very equal game. They're very flexible, they change their strategies and their positions, so it's going to be hard to know what to expect from that time.

"It's just like with ourselves. We started a little weakly, but we moved AC and changed a few positions, and that's what Wales do a lot. It's going to be a very interesting and equal game."

Russia boss Stanislav Cherchesov said: "I thanked the guys for what they've done. They were up for this game but it just didn't go our way. We could have taken our chances in the first half but didn't, then conceded a goal from a half-chance and couldn't get back in the game. We have to think about all of this and move forward."

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