Andreas Christensen has been reflecting on a special night at Euro 2020 for himself and his Denmark team-mates…
As he slammed an unstoppable shot past Russia keeper Matvey Safonov to make it 3-1 in the 79th minute, Christensen’s face was a mixture of surprise, relief and ecstasy.
The defender looked as shocked as anyone in Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium as he raced away to celebrate with team-mates and 23,000 jubilant compatriots.
The emotion was palpable and, for once, it had little to do with football permutations. Denmark’s growing lead was edging them into the last 16 courtesy of Finland falling to Belgium in the other group game but this was about so much more than that.
Christian Eriksen’s collapse had understandably rocked the Danes and defeat in both their opening matches at the tournament left them on the brink of an early exit. It was, according to Christensen, who was awarded UEFA’s Star of the Match, time to step up.
‘This team needed a successful experience,’ he said shortly after the final whistle. ‘With the support we have received all week, even though it has looked difficult, we have believed in it all the way.’
Despite the scoreline, which ended up 4-1 to the hosts, the contest was even and edgy for long periods. Denmark finally took the lead seven minutes before the break and then made it 2-0 on the hour mark, though that buffer lasted just 10 minutes.
‘We tried to start strong, as we did against Belgium, but we knew very well that because they might take a draw, they would be difficult to open up,’ explained Christensen.
‘It was about having patience without playing slowly. It was maybe a little too slow in the first half but as soon as it opened up, we showed our quality. In the end, the right team won.’
The 25-year-old’s own stunning strike was his first goal in three-and-a-half years, a rising effort from over 30 yards out that flew through the air and crashed into the back of the net.
‘I don’t think the keeper could see anything because he didn’t really manage to react,’ he claimed. ‘I was just trying to keep the ball down and it worked so it looks really good! Of course, I’m incredibly happy with the goal and happy that I could contribute to the team’s victory.’
Explaining the celebration that followed, which involved team-mates pulling their ears to mimic the Champions League trophy, Christensen said: ‘It’s an inside joke that runs a bit with me because I won the trophy with the big ears.’
Denmark’s own search for silverware continues into the knockout round, where they will take on Wales in Amsterdam on Saturday.