The worldwide love and support Denmark received after Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest in the early stages of Euro 2020 has propelled them to the quarter-finals, coach Kasper Hjulmand said after their 4-0 rout of Wales.
Midfielder Eriksen collapsed in their opening Group B game, but the Danes recovered from two defeats to squeeze into the last 16 with a 4-1 drubbing of Russia in their last game.
Roared on by their fans in Amsterdam’s Johan Cruyff Arena on Saturday, they blew away the Welsh with two goals from Kasper Dolberg and one apiece by Joakim Maehle and Martin Braithwaite.
“When Christian collapsed, that’s when everything changed for me,” Hjumland told a news conference.
“I felt we were put in a totally different situation. We are grateful for all the love and support everyone has shown because it gave us wings, and being in the quarter-finals is amazing.
“Knowing that this ground was Christian’s first home after leaving Denmark, I would have loved for him to have been here with us today but I know that he is with us anyway.”
Eriksen, who had a heart starter device implanted after his life was saved when CPR was administered to him on the pitch, played for Ajax from 2010 to 2013.
Dolberg, also a former Ajax product, enjoyed a dream return with a superb brace on his first start in the tournament.
“This is total madness. It’s surreal. It was here it all started for me, and to play here again in this setting was insane. We dreamed about this and believed that we can get here,” he said.
“This has always been a great team to be a part of and I felt I was in a special afternoon when I walked around the city and then into the stadium today.”
Dolberg, who was an unused substitute in the opening two games and played for 30 minutes against Russia, started against Wales instead of the injured Yussuf Poulsen.
“We have been waiting for a forward who shows that he should play as a centre forward,” former Denmark international Jan Molby told Denmark’s TV3+ broadcaster.
“Dolberg seized the opportunity. The two goals are very much like him, he just races into the area and finishes.”
The Danes will meet either the Netherlands or the Czech Republic, who clash in Budapest on Sunday, for a semi-final berth on July 3 in Baku.
Maehle was upbeat about their chances.
“Look at the support we had in Amsterdam, it’s completely nuts,” he told TV3+. “The self-confidence and the courage we bring is something we must take even further.”
Denmark’s thrashing of Wales made them the first team to score four or more goals in consecutive matches in European Championship history.