Kevin De Bruyne made the difference while Romelu Lukaku and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg impressed as well, Belgium eked out a narrow 2-1 win over Denmark.
Spurred on by their raucous supporters at the Parken Stadium, Denmark made a whirlwind start to the game, scoring in the second minute after pouncing on an error by Jason Denayer. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg won the stray ball before laying it on for Yussuf Poulsen, who produced a peach of a finish to hand the hosts the lead and bring the house down.
The remainder of the first half saw Denmark remain thoroughly dominant, with Belgium struggling to reach the final third, although the score remained 1-0. Post the interval, Denmark continued to be the more dominant of the two sides, but Kevin De Bruyne’s introduction did start to sway the game in Belgium’s favour before he created the equaliser, which was netted by Thorgan Hazard.
Midway through the first half, Belgium were finally ahead, as De Bruyne scored from a top class finish after some fine work by Lukaku. And in the final 20 minutes or so, Belgium held on to their narrow advantage to seal all three points and progress to the Round of 16. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over both the sets of players.
Kevin De Bruyne fractured his nose and eye socket during the UEFA Champions League final on May 29.
A little over two weeks later, he needed just 45 minutes to grab a goal and assist for Belgium's comeback victory vs. Denmark in his Euro debut. ?
BELGIUM'S HERO ?? pic.twitter.com/AZcP5e0Z4s
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 17, 2021
Kasper Schmeichel: 5/10
There was not a whole lot that Schmeichel had to do in the game, especially with Denmark dominating half of it. However, he did concede two goals and he ought to have been positioned a lot better to keep out Kevin De Bruyne’s effort.
Andreas Christensen: 5/10
Not the best of displays by Christensen. Helped in building up play smartly from the back in the first half, but the second half was brutal for him and Denmark, as they were outplayed by Belgium. Could have done better to close down De Bruyne for his goal.
Simon Kjaer: 6/10
For much of the game, Kjaer did exceedingly well to keep the Denmark defence organised and disciplined. His individual numbers were impressive as well, as he completed 4 tackles, won 6 duels while making 3 interceptions. However, he could have done better in the face of the Belgium assault in the second half, which pulls his rating down slightly.
Jannik Vestergaard: 5/10
Back in the starting lineup as part of Kasper Hjulmand’s decision to change the system, Vestergaard did well to keep a check on Dries Mertens in the first half. His downfall came after the arrival of De Bruyne, who completely outplayed him whenever the Belgium playmaker was stationed in front of him. Imperious in the air, he won each of his aerial duels, but needed to do more on the ground.
Daniel Wass: 6/10
Unlike Joakim Maehle on the left flank, Wass was not nearly as involve from the right wing-back position. Having said that, he did complete most of his attempted passes, while putting in the hard yards behind the ball. Taken off for Jens Stryger Larsen.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg: 8/10
Assist in UEFA Nations League
Assist in World Cup qualification
Assist at #EURO2020
?️ Pierre-Emile Højbjerg has been an unlikely provider for Denmark this season #DEN #BEL pic.twitter.com/HPcQWIrxyF
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 17, 2021
In what was a superb start to the game, Hojbjerg showed tremendous awareness to win the stray ball after Jason Denayer erred before laying the ball on for Yussuf Poulsen to score. Thereafter, he settled into his position and defended with all his might. Continued to look a class apart, but he was not able to stop Belgium in their tracks during their onslaught.
Thomas Delaney: 7/10
A solid performance in the middle of the park by Delaney, who did well to ensure Denmark were in control for much of his stay on the pitch. Completed 82 percent of his attempted passes while also winning every duel he competed in. Did his best.
Joakim Maehle: 8/10
A tireless display by Maehle, who charged up and down the left flank with purpose, absolutely owning Thomas Meunier in their duel. Performance levels did drop a little when Belgium were in control, but he still managed a game-high 4 key passes while winning 4 duels. Not among those to be blamed for the defeat.
Martin Braithwaite: 6.5/10
One of those days when it just was not to be for Braithwaite. The 30-year-old showed some silky touches while always posing a threat when on the ball. However, he just was not able to find the back of the net and even smashed the crossbar with a headed effort. Still, impressive enough.
Yussuf Poulsen: 7/10
Poulsen would have been thankful for the early gift from Belgium but he still had a lot to do to beat Thibaut Courtois and his finish did exactly that. Did get a few half-chances thereafter, but he was unable to produce the same kind of quality with his end product before being taken off after the hour mark.
Mikkel Damsgaard: 6/10
Reinstated into the starting lineup, Damsgaard was a bundle of energy on either flank, constantly looking to take his man on. A bagful of tricks of flicks, he was a handful for just about every Belgium defender. However, a silly dive proved to be his undoing in the second half and it was all downhill after that. A promising display gone kaput.
Christian Norgaard: 6/10
Introduced just after the hour mark in place of Poulsen, Norgaard was thoroughly professional in his display, completing every pass that he attempted to push Denmark forward efficiently. Just was not enough in the end, that.
Jens Stryger Larsen: 6/10
On for Wass, Stryger Larsen always looked to push forward to look for potential opportunities to create a goal. However, he was negated rather well for the most part, although he did complete all but one pass attempted.
Mathias Jensen: 6/10
On for Delaney, Jensen worked his socks off in the final quarter of an hour and hardly ever lost the ball cheaply. Even came closer to scoring once, but was unable to make the difference in the end.
Andreas Cornelius: 5/10
Not the brightest of cameos by Cornelius, who could not really get any opportunities to score late on.
Andreas Skov Olsen: N/A
A late introduction, Skov Olsen was extremely efficient with his usage of the ball but could not inspire the comeback.
Thibaut Courtois: 6/10
A busy outing for Courtois, who was made to work hard by a spirited Denmark side. The Belgium no. 1 made 4 key saves, but he could not have done anything to keep out Yussuf Poulsen’s perfectly placed shot. Completed all but five passes in what was a solid performance.
Toby Alderweireld: 6/10
Nervy from Alderweireld, who was not himself in parts of the game and constantly struggled to keep a lid on Martin Braithwaite. Having said that, he did make some important defensive contributions as well, completing 3 clearances, 3 tackles and 2 blocks while winning 4 duels. Has to step up now.
Jason Denayer: 4/10
Jason Denayer’s agent right now ? #OL pic.twitter.com/3d9mhNRo6V
— Genesis ???⚽️??? (@FiGenesis) June 17, 2021
Drafted into the starting lineup in place of Dedryck Boyata, Denayer made a horrific start to the game as he lost the ball cheaply before Poulsen opened the scoring for Denmark, when he ought to have closed down the Denmark striker as well. Continued to suffer in the first half but steadily improved post the interval and might have just kept hold of his spot.
Jan Vertonghen: 6/10
Passed fit for the game and donning the captain’s armband for Belgium in the absence of Eden Hazard, Vertonghen had his fair share of troubles in the first half and particularly against Mikkel Damsgaard. However, he started holding his own with every passing minute and made several big clearances while making a couple of blocks as well.
Thomas Meunier: 5/10
Shoddy display by Meunier, who just could not get the better of Joakim Maehle for large parts of the game. That he was sloppy on the ball at times just made things worse and he lost possession 16 times. Hardly carried a threat in the final third either and he really has to be doing better, seeing as he is unchallenged at right wing-back.
Leander Dendoncker: 5/10
After a difficult first hour or so, it was only a matter of time that Dendoncker would be taken off for Axel Witsel. During his stay on the pitch, the youngster struggled with nerves despite completing all but two passes. However, it is in the defensive phases when he needed to do much better.
Youri Tielemans: 6/10
A game of two halve for Tielemans. In the first, he lost the ball cheaply at times and could not manage to win the midfield battle against Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. In the second half, he improved steadily, with the presence of Axel Witsel beside him helping his a great deal.
Thorgan Hazard: 6/10
A dreadful performance for the most part by Thorgan Hazard, who was utterly wasteful with the ball at his feet, which often meant that Romelu Lukaku was left isolated in a difficult first half. But, in an improved second half, he appeared in the right place at the right time to net the equaliser and did not lose the ball cheaply all that many times, which pulls his rating up slightly.
Dries Mertens: 5/10
Quite a frustrating evening for Mertens, who did not see much of the ball in the first half, which was thoroughly dominated by Denmark. Got just 18 touches on the ball while completing only 62 percent of his attempted passes before being taken off for Kevin De Bruyne, who changed the game completely.
Yannick Carrasco: 6/10
It was the kind of game wherein Carrasco did not get the chance to showcase his best abilities. While the 27-year-old completed most of his balls and was not wasteful in possession, Denmark were simply too spirited for the opening hour or so, which kept him out of the game.
Romelu Lukaku: 8/10
? Romelu Lukaku is recognised for his sensational second-half performance ???#EUROSOTM | @Heineken | #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/9ss0748TjB
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 17, 2021
Belgium did not enjoy themselves one bit in the first half and surely enough, Lukaku suffered as a result. However, the star striker seemed to be the only player capable of making things happen before half-time and then did make things happen post the interval, as his run created the space before Kevin De Bruyne set Thorgan Hazard up for the equaliser. Such a well rounded superstar.
Kevin De Bruyne: 9/10
Introduced at half-time in place of Mertens, De Bruyne quickly made his mark on the game when he set up the equaliser, showing tremendous footwork and awareness after receiving it from Lukaku before Thorgan Hazard scored. De Bruyne then got on the score sheet himself, producing a finish that was right out the top drawer to complete the comeback. What a difference maker.
2 – Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne are the first pair of substitutes to both assist in a European Championship match for the same side since Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben for the Netherlands (v France) in 2008. Influencers. #BEL #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/b7WyQGXlO3
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 17, 2021
Eden Hazard: 7/10
On for Carrasco, Hazard showed that he is slowly but surely getting his sharpness back. Linked up superbly with De Bruyne and Lukaku while setting the former up for what would be the match-winner. Getting back to his best.
Axel Witsel: 7/10
On for Dendoncker, Witsel made his first appearance at UEFA Euro 2020, showing just what his side were missing up until now. The introduction of the veteran midfielder enabled Belgium to get more control in the game and suffocate Denmark, which helped De Bruyne and Lukaku in running riot in the final third. Job well done.
Thomas Vermaelen: N/A
A late introduction, Vermaelen helped see the game out.
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