After scoring a goal to help Denmark advance to the European Championship, Joachim Maele went straight to a TV camera and formed a “10” with his fingers.
That was for Christian Eriksen.
Maele’s goal in the 82nd minute gave extra brilliance in Monday’s 4-1 victory over Russia, giving Denmark second place in Group B and an automatic place in the round of 16.
After the collapse of Eriksen in the first match and the two subsequent losses of the team at home, Denmark finally managed to celebrate in front of its boisterous and jubilant supporters at Parken Stadium.
“If anyone deserves this, it’s our players,” said Denmark coach Casper Hulmand. “I can’t imagine how they managed to come back from what they went through. So much credit to the boys. “
Eriksen – who is number 10 for the national team – suffered a cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated with a defibrillator. He was released from the hospital on Friday.
Denmark, Russia and Finland finished with three points, but the Danes had a better goal difference. Belgium won the group with nine points, crowning it with a 2-0 victory over Finland.
Now a meeting with Wales awaits Denmark in Amsterdam on Saturday. And a tournament that almost started with a tragedy could still be a triumph.
Given all the team’s earlier misfortunes, it might have been appropriate to help them this time with a huge gift. After Mikkel Damsgaard put Denmark ahead in the 38th minute with a striking shot outside the zone, Yusuf Poulsen made 2: 0 in the 59th, making a massive defensive mistake. Roman Zobnin tried to send a return pass to his goalkeeper, but instead gave the ball straight to the Danish striker, who could score it in an empty net.
“Occasionally you’re lucky and the ball just lands right where you’re standing,” Poulsen said. “I don’t think I’m following for the first time in my life, and then they give me a present.”
Russia only needed a draw to advance, and Artem Dzyuba brought the visitors back into the match when he made 70-1 from the penalty spot 2-1.
However, Andreas Christensen scored from the net in the 79th minute and Maele finished a quick counter to put the game in doubt.
Russia had disappointed Denmark for most of the first half with their defensive tactics. But Damsgaard, who entered the starting lineup in the absence of Eriksen, created the opener when he collected a pass from Pierre-Emil Heuberg, took a touch to create a small space and made a shot that floated in the upper corner.
The 20-year-old Damsgaard became Denmark’s youngest goal scorer at the European Championships.
Then the game opened significantly after the break, as Russia had no choice but to move on.
“The second goal actually came out of nowhere and did not give us cause for optimism,” said Russian coach Stanislav Cherchesov. “Then we allowed two counterattacks and paid for those with two goals.”
Russia’s penalty came when Yannick Westergaard tripped Alexander Sobolev in the zone and Dzyuba shot right in the middle.
Christensen had scored just one international goal before, in 2017, but put an end to Russia’s hopes of returning by shooting with a growing long-range shot when the ball fell on him shortly after goalkeeper Matvey Safonov made a double save.
The Chelsea defender also paid tribute to Eriksen by shaping “10” with his fingers – and made a self-active celebration by putting his hands to his ears.
“It’s an internal joke we have,” Christensen said. “They call me the man with the big ears.”
After the last referee’s signal, the entire Danish team formed a circle in the center of the field to follow the last minutes of the game of Belgium, before making an honorary tour in front of their supporters of the serenade.
“It’s a relief,” Maehle said, “and redemption.”