Wales were knocked out of the second round of Euro 2020 when they were defeated by Denmark, whose inspiring journey at the tournament progresses to the quarter-finals.
Backed by a staunch and almost exclusively Danish crowd, Kasper led Hjulmand’s side as Kasper Dolberg curled up in a fine 27th minute from the edge of the penalty area.
Dolberg struck again in the 48th minute when he grabbed a defensive error by Wales substitute Neco Williams to attack from close range.
That goal deflated Wales, who never looked to claw their way back into the game as Joakim Maehle added a late third-place finish for the cheering Danes.
Substitute Harry Wilson was then shown a full red card for a late foul on Maehle before Martin Braithwaite scored a fourth goal in extra time as Wales’ campaign ended miserably.
Robert Page’s men had done well to get out of a difficult Group A that also included Italy, Switzerland and Turkey, but this impressive Danish squad proved a challenge too far.
Denmark had already delivered the uplifting story of this final and showed an admirable determination to reach this stage after midfielder Christian Eriksen recovered from cardiac arrest.
The next stop on their fairytale journey is Baku this Saturday for a final eighth band with the Netherlands or the Czech Republic. As for Wales, they will return home exhausted, but in time will be proud of their efforts to once again reach the knockout stage in their third appearance at a major tournament.
Wales’ long road comes to an end Wales’ journey to this point had been long and arduous. While Denmark had the luxury of playing all three of their group matches at home in Copenhagen, Page’s side had traveled to the tournament’s eastern outpost in Baku for two matches before facing off against Italy in Rome.
This was in fact a third away game of four for Wales and at first they seemed to enjoy the challenge as they made a purposeful start to the game.
Looking dangerous from the right, Captain Gareth Bale cut in on his left foot and sent a shot from 20 yards that faltered just wide before finding space again to create openings for his fellow attackers. That turned out to be a false dawn, as Dolberg’s excellent goal changed the game.
From then on, Wales pulled further and further back into their own half under pressure, also dealing with an injury to right-back Connor Roberts and a yellow card to striker Kieffer Moore, putting his threat as a physical pivot to the attack.
Moore felt saddened not to have won a free kick in the run-up to Denmark’s second goal after being assaulted by Simon Kjaer, who had been fouled for his booking earlier.
But the goal came largely from Wales themselves, as Williams’ effort fell to Dolberg, who had the simple task of finishing inside the penalty area. That was a heavy blow to Wales, who seemed bereft of energy and ideas as they tried unsuccessfully to make a comeback.
A two-goal defeat would have been disappointing enough, but in the miserable final five minutes they fell apart, with two late strikes and Wilson’s red card bringing their campaign to a very depressing end.
Denmark’s home from home Denmark not only had the advantage of having thousands of fans with them in Amsterdam, but also the support of locals and neutrals at the Johan Cruijff Arena, Eriksen’s former home when he played for Ajax.
Pre-match estimates of 5,000 Danes were a long way off – almost every one of the 16,000 people in the stadium wore their colors and gave this match the strong feel of a home game for Hjulmand’s side.
Denmark was a little slow at first to make that advantage count, but once Dolberg put them in the lead they took full control. Dolberg, another former Ajax player, was a handful for Wales centre-backs, while being widely well supported by fellow forwards Mikkel Damsgaard and Braithwaite.
It was Barcelona striker Braithwaite who made the key pass for the second goal, blasting past Joe Rodon and firing into the low crotch that distracted Williams in Dolberg’s path.
Denmark was now completely dominant, which gave their fans even more reason to cheer when Maehle, unmarked at the back post, fired into the top corner.
The Danish supporters had to wait to celebrate Braithwaite’s stoppage time goal. Initially disallowed for offside, a VAR decision meant they could continue their game and progress in the tournament.