BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Denmark’s journey at the European Championship is headed to London.
The Danes, who have developed into a surprise contender after their tournament began with midfielder Christian Eriksen suffering cardiac arrest on the field, advanced to the Euro 2020 semifinals on Saturday by beating the Czech Republic 2-1.
Following the usual tributes to the recovering Eriksen from UEFA and fans — a giant No. 10 shirt laid out on the field and a “For Christ10an” banner in the stands — Denmark quickly took control against the Czechs on a hot and humid night in Azerbaijan.
Jens Stryger sent an outswinging corner in the fifth minute to Thomas Delaney, standing in space by the penalty spot. Delaney’s bouncing header went in past the outstretched hand of goalkeeper Tomáš Vaclík.
Denmark doubled the lead just before halftime. Joakim Maehle hit a cross from the left using the outside of his right foot. The ball eluded Martin Braithwaite’s attempt at a header but Kasper Dolberg got past his marker and beat Vaclík in the 42nd.
“What we’ve been through, it’s hard to describe. It wasn’t our best game but maybe it was about that time that we struggle,” Delaney said. “We have a great atmosphere within the team, so why not take the next step again?”
The place in the semifinals is the farthest Denmark has progressed at a major tournament since winning the European title in 1992. The team will next face England on Wednesday at Wembley Stadium.
“We make history that we achieved the semifinal now,” Stryger said. “It’s been many, many years ago since Denmark was there. … We know Denmark is going crazy right now.”
Czech Republic forward Patrik Schick scored his fifth goal at the beginning of the second half, putting him even with Cristiano Ronaldo as the tournament’s leading scorers. Schick was given plenty of space by defender Jannik Vestergaard to hit a first-touch shot off Vladimir Coufal’s curled pass.
The Czechs pushed hard to level the score in a physical game which finished with Tomas Soucek and Jan Boril both with their heads wrapped in bandages after collisions with Danish players.
Denmark lost its first two games at Euro 2020, first against Finland — when Eriksen collapsed on the field — and then to Belgium. The Danes were on the verge of elimination before beating Russia, Wales and the Czechs in succession.
Eriksen, who has to be resuscitated with a defibrillator in that opening match, has been recovering at home.
The last of four Euro 2020 games played on the shores of the Caspian Sea in Baku took place in front of 16,300 fans, even though up to 31,000 would have been allowed under coronavirus pandemic regulations. Danish fans far outnumbered the few dozen from the Czech Republic.
Stadium security removed a rainbow flag from Danish fans during the warm-up before the game.
The Danish players gathered in front of their traveling fans after the final whistle to celebrate. Delaney wore a Danish flag as a cape and placed a red and white wig on the head of grinning substitute Andreas Cornelius.
The Czech players sprawled on the grass.
“It’s a huge disappointment. We did the maximum to succeed but we were running out of steam toward the end and were unable to turn things around. It’s over for us, unfortunately,” Schick told Czech public TV. “As far as the goals, it was all good for me. But we all feel that we could have done better today. The Danes could have been beaten.”
Associated Press writer Karel Janicek in Prague contributed to this report.
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