For Belgium, the group stage at the European Championship could hardly have gone better. The semifinalists of the last World Cup beat Finland 2-0 on Monday, their third straight win in the qualifying round, to finish in first place in Group B.
The defeat however leaves the Finns in the third position and with a very small chance of qualifying to the round of 16 as one of four best third-place finishers. Finland was on its way to the draw that would have secured the team second place in the group when goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky had the misfortune of scoring a cruel own-goal in the 74th minute. This was followed by Belgium's second goal, scored by Romelu Lukaku in the 81st minute.
Belgium will play one of the four third-place finishers in the round of 16 in Sevilla on Sunday, with coach Roberto Martinez having more options after seeing Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel — three key players — proving their fitness after recent injuries.
Denmark routs Russia
Denmark, on the verge of getting eliminated, claimed an astonishing 4-1 victory over Russia to scramble into the last 16 of Euro 2020 on a head-spinning night in Copenhagen.
Nine days after Denmark's talisman Christian Eriksen needed life-saving treatment after suffering a cardiac arrest in front of a stunned Parken Stadium crowd, his teammates duly delivered on their promise to "do it for Christian". Needing a victory to have any chance of making progress after losing to Finland and Belgium, it was Eriksen's replacement Mikkel Damsgaard who lit the touchpaper with a 38th-minute wonder goal, the first act on a night of high drama.
When a dreadful mistake by Russia's Roman Zobnin allowed Yussuf Poulsen to double the lead on the hour, it looked as though fate was smiling kindly on Denmark.
(AP Photo/Hannah McKay, Pool)
It was not that simple as even a win would not have been sufficient had Finland avoided defeat by Belgium, a match bizarrely being played in St Petersburg.
The script took a dark turn when Russia's giant striker Artem Dzyuba converted a penalty at almost the exact moment a Belgium opening goal was being disallowed by VAR.
But the anxiety ended when Maehle's 82nd-minute goal put some extra gloss on a 4-1 win over Russia on Monday that gave Denmark second place in Group B and an automatic spot in the Round of 16.
Denmark, Russia and Finland all finished with three points but the Danes had the better goal difference.