Denmark 0-1 Spain: England discover quarter-final opponents after late Marta Cardona winner

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

If England are riding a metaphorical tidal wave of momentum towards their seaside quarter-final in Brighton next Wednesday, then their opponents have taken the more conventional route, nudging their way along the A23 from London, simply glad to have made it through the traffic.

It will be Spain at the Amex four days from now for Sarina Wiegman’s side, after the pre-tournament favourites eventually wore down a resilient Denmark defence to earn a 1-0 victory at the Brentford Community Stadium and secure passage to the last-eight as runners-up in Group B.

It is a clash that, from an England perspective, looks nothing like as daunting as it would have done when this tournament began less than a fortnight ago.

As against Germany here four nights ago, Spain dominated possession but lacked cutting edge, the difference coming first in the eradication of the defensive errors that had seen the Germans stamp their authority on the group with a 2-0 victory and then in Marta Cardona’s late header, which ensured qualification came with daylight between themselves and the Danes, rather than by virtue of goal difference.

In truth, there was little in Spain’s forward play to have given Leah Williamson or Millie Bright a sleepless Saturday night, and plenty in the way their defence struggled to contain a lone-furrowing Pernille Harder to have Beth Mead & Co licking their lips.

The Spanish will have to improve at both ends of the pitch to topple the hosts, who have so far scored 14 times without reply, but after their tournament began with the hammer blow of losing the planet’s best female player, Alexia Putellas, to injury, there will be relief at simply having emerged from the Group of Death alive.

From the pattern of this match, you would not have known that it was Spain for whom a draw would do.

La Roja brought the urgency, the tempo and indeed a touch of desperation as they moved the ball quickly and worked clever breaks in behind the Danish full-backs, only to hoik cross after cross into the middle, aiming at a non-existent aerial threat.

Their best chance of the first-half came from a more intelligent low pull-back, which Mariona Caldentey steered towards the bottom corner, where Lene Christensen was down smartly, though the goalkeeper blundered soon after in spilling a high cross to the feet of Athenea del Castillo and was fortunate to be helped out of jail by some hesitation and a last-ditch barricade of Danish bodies.

Denmark, meanwhile, had set up to contain and take the game deep. Six changes from the win over Finland prompted a reshuffle and saw Chelsea star Harder leading the line as a sole focal point.

At times, she looked so isolated she might as well have been playing a few miles up the river in the more familiar surrounds of Kingsmeadow, yet through some combination of brilliance and bloody-mindedness, the skipper found ways to fashion chances that might well have been capitalised upon had she been able to pass to herself.

The suspicion that Lars Sondegaard was the happier coach at the break was confirmed when Jorge Vilda used it to make a triple change, including the introduction of Real Madrid striker Esther Gonzalez, a more menacing central presence, if only for having the No9 on her back.

Still, the onus was on Denmark, or so logic would have told. Instead, they persisted with the same tactic of keeping things tight, hoping for some Harder magic on the break and it almost worked as she twisted and teed-up substitute Nadia Nadim, only for Sandra Panos to make a superb one-handed save and in an instant make amends for the error which had gifted the Germans their soft opener in the previous game. You sensed that for Denmark, the moment had come and gone.

Spain did not need their 90th-minute winner, but it came when a cross finally landed on a red head, Cardona steering Olga Carmona’s delivery back into the opposite corner and Spain towards the South Coast.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting