Wales were eliminated in the second round of Euro 2020 as they were thrashed by Denmark, whose inspiring journey at the tournament continues to the quarter-finals.
Backed by a fervent and almost exclusively Danish crowd, Kasper Hjulmand’s side led as Kasper Dolberg curled in a fine 27th-minute strike from the edge of the penalty area.
Dolberg struck again in the 48th minute as he seized on a defensive error from Wales substitute Neco Williams to smash in from close range.
That goal deflated Wales, who never looked like clawing their way back into the game as Joakim Maehle added a late third for the jubilant Danes.
Substitute Harry Wilson was then shown a straight red card for a late foul on Maehle before Martin Braithwaite struck a fourth goal in added time as Wales’ campaign ended miserably.
Robert Page’s men had performed well to get out of a difficult Group A which also featured Italy, Switzerland and Turkey, but this impressive Danish side proved a challenge too far.
Denmark had already provided the uplifting story of these finals, showing admirable resolve to reach this stage having been galvanised by midfielder Christian Eriksen’s recovery from a cardiac arrest.
The next stop on their fairytale voyage will be Baku for a last-eight tie with the Netherlands or the Czech Republic next Saturday.
As for Wales, they will return home exhausted but, in time, proud of their efforts in reaching the knockout stages again in only their third appearance at a major tournament.
Wales’ long road comes to an end
Wales’ journey to this point had been long and arduous. Whereas Denmark had the luxury of playing all three of their group games at home in Copenhagen, Wales had travelled to the tournament’s eastern outpost in Baku for two matches before facing Italy in Rome.
This was effectively a third away game from four for Page and his players, and initially they seemed to relish the challenge as they made a purposeful start to the game.
Captain Gareth Bale looked dangerous on the right, cutting inside on to his left foot and sending a 20-yard shot wobbling just wide of the post before finding space again and creating openings for his fellow attackers.
That proved to be a false dawn as Dolberg’s goal changed the game.
From that point Wales found themselves retreating further into their own half in the face of Danish pressure, as well as having to contend with an injury to right-back Connor Roberts and a yellow card for striker Kieffer Moore which curbed his threat as a physical pivot to the attack.
Moore felt hard done by not to win a free-kick in the build-up to Denmark’s second goal as he was manhandled by Simon Kjaer, who he was adjudged to have fouled for his booking earlier.
But the goal was still largely Wales’ own doing as Williams’ attempted clearance fell to Dolberg, who had the simple task of finishing inside the box.
That goal was a body blow for Wales, who seemed devoid of energy and ideas as they tried in vain to mount a comeback.
A 2-0 defeat would have been disappointing enough but a wretched final five minutes saw Wales fall apart, their concession of two late goals and Wilson’s red card bringing their campaign to a thoroughly depressing conclusion.
Denmark’s home from home
Denmark not only had the advantage of having thousands of fans with them in Amsterdam – unlike Wales, whose supporters were banned from travelling – but also the backing of locals and neutrals at the Johan Cruyff Arena, Eriksen’s former home with Ajax.
Pre-match estimates of 5,000 Danes were way off – almost every single one of the 16,000 people inside the stadium was wearing Danish colours and giving this game the strong sense of a home fixture for Hjulmand’s side.
Denmark were initially a little slow to make that advantage count but, once Dolberg put them in front, they took total control.
Dolberg, another former Ajax player, was a handful for Wales’ centre-backs, while he was well supported in wide areas by fellow forwards Mikkel Damsgaard and Braithwaite.
It was Barcelona’s Braithwaite who made the key pass for the second goal, surging past Joe Rodon and firing in the low cross which Williams diverted into Dolberg’s path.
Denmark were now utterly dominant and growing in confidence, giving their home crowd from home further reason to cheer when Maehle, unmarked at the back post, fired into the top corner.
The Danish supporters had to wait to celebrate Braithwaite’s injury-time goal, initially disallowed for offside, but after a VAR check they could continue their party in Amsterdam and look forward to a quarter-final in Baku.