Wales cast in unfamiliar role for unique Euros last-16 showdown with Denmark

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 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Wales are used to being the ­underdogs, but Saturday’s match against Denmark promises to be a unique experience for them.

At Euro 2016, Wales captured the minds and hearts of fans all over the world during their run to the semi-­finals. For all intents and purposes, they essentially became people’s ‘second team’ as they continued to defy the odds.

However, Rob Page’s side know that, for once, the world is against them, given Denmark’s remarkable story at this tournament. The Danes have somehow managed to carry on playing following the traumatic scenes involving Christian Eriksen during the opening weekend, when the midfielder collapsed on the pitch following a cardiac arrest.

The spirit and unity in the Denmark squad has spread to fans around the world, who are now willing the team to turn what threatened to be a harrowing summer into a dream one.

“I think 99 per cent of the world is going to be supporting Denmark,” said Wales defender Connor Roberts.

“It’s going to be tough but we’re a good team, we’ve got good players and we’ve got a little bit of momentum with good performances under our belts. They’re a really good team and they’re going to have a lot of support but, when we cross that white line, we just have to give everything.”

Given travel restrictions caused by Covid-19, Wales will again be without their huge army of travelling fans for the match in Amsterdam.

The Netherlands currently bars non-essential visitors from the UK, meaning the 16,000 inside the Johan Cruyff Arena will largely be Denmark fans, after their FA were given a bumper allocation of tickets.

Any locals attending are expected to support Denmark, as Eriksen came through the Ajax academy.

Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales are accustomed to being the underdogs (AFP via Getty Images)
Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales are accustomed to being the underdogs (AFP via Getty Images)

“First and foremost, we’re glad that Christian Eriksen is recovering really, really well,” said Page.

“With regards to business on Saturday, we’re there to beat them, there’s no emotion from us with regards to that we are there to do a job and we will absolutely be ready for it.”

Emotion aside, Saturday promises to be an intriguing game ­— not least because the draw has opened up for both Denmark and Wales.

Like England, they are most certainly on the easier side of the draw, given that they would avoid Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain until the final.

But the neutrals will favour Denmark in Saturday’s last-16 tie in Amsterdam (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
But the neutrals will favour Denmark in Saturday’s last-16 tie in Amsterdam (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

It is why Wales are hoping Saturday could be just the start of another run during the knockout stages, just like five years ago.

“Anything can happen now — we’re into knockout football,” said midfielder Aaron Ramsey. “So, we’ve given ourselves an opportunity. We know what we have. We’re a threat. We keep games tight, so who knows. Why not go all the way again?”

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