Also, a lot of heart and passion did not save Denmark in the first European Championship game after the dramatic collapse of top star Christian Eriksen from the second defeat at the European Football Championship.
Supported by 25,000 loud spectators in Copenhagen, the co-host lost 1: 2 (1: 0) on Thursday despite an early lead and a passionate performance against third place in the World Cup (1: 0) and is facing the premature end of the European Championship.
The 1992 European champion with no points is now even bottom of the group behind Belgium (6), Russia (3) and Finland (3).
Decisive for the course of the game was the comeback of the Belgian top star Kevin de Bruyne from Manchester City, who was substituted on just two and a half weeks after his eye socket and nose bone fracture in the Champions League final at the beginning of the second half. The 29-year-old prepared the equalizer by Dortmund's Thorgan Hazard (55th minute) and then scored the winning goal himself (71st). Yussuf Poulsen (2nd) from German runner-up RB Leipzig gave the hosts an early lead and even increased the goose bumps atmosphere in the Parken Stadium.
For the Danes it was the expected emotional evening when they returned to the place of their drama. In the stadium where the 29-year-old Eriksen collapsed and was revived on the pitch in the opening game against Finland (0-1) last Saturday, his teammates were cheered as they warmed up this time. Everyone contributed to this overall experience in Eriksen's honor. Numerous fans came to the stadium with his name and shirt number 10 on their jerseys.
On the stands were posters like “Hele Danmerk er med dig, Christian” (All of Denmark is with you, Christian). Even before the national anthems, the stadium control played the football anthem “You'll never walk alone”, which is usually played at Liverpool FC as a symbol of solidarity. After ten minutes of play, referee Björn Kuipers from the Netherlands even interrupted the game so that all spectators and players could applaud again loudly for Eriksen. Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand had warned the day before that this huge wave of support could overwhelm his players.
But what actually happened was what captain Simon Kjaer had anticipated in his greeting to the fans in the afternoon: "We will enter the place with Christian in our hearts," wrote the AC Milan defense chief. The fact that Eriksen is doing better is "the greatest motivation for all of us". This released so much energy in the Danes that they literally attacked the Belgians with sporting means and passionately threw themselves into every ball and every duel.
99 seconds had just been played when the arena seemed to shake to its foundations. After a mistake in the Belgian defense, Poulsen got the ball and hit the corner with a precise low shot. It was the second fastest European Championship goal in history after Russian Dmitri Kiritschenko, who scored against Greece after 65 seconds in 2004. The Danes acted like crazy and did not allow the Belgians to develop at all. Joakim Maehle, Daniel Wass and Mikkel Damsgaard could have extended their lead before the break. The Belgians around their star striker Romelu Lukaku, who was friends with Eriksen, had no chance of scoring in the first half.
But then came de Bruyne, who had missed the European Championship opener against Russia (3-0). The former Bundesliga professional from VfL Wolfsburg got off to a good start when he prepared for Thorgan Hazard to equalize with a cross pass. It was preceded by an irresistible solo by Lukaku. A little later, Axel Witsel made his comeback after 159 days. Borussia Dortmund's defensive man tore his Achilles tendon at the Bundesliga match in Leipzig at the beginning of January.
But it was above all de Bruyne who gave the Belgian game the impetus it had previously missed. The blond boy not only conducted, but also hit himself with a low shot in the near corner for the lead. Out of respect for Eriksen, he did not celebrate his goal. Shortly before the end, the Danes, who never gave up, were close to equalizing, but Martin Braithwaite (87th) hit the crossbar with a header.