Euro 2020 matchday 15: Gareth Bale embraces Welsh underdog tag

Wales boss Robert Page is confident his side’s “against the odds” Euro 2020 journey can continue with a victory over Denmark in Amsterdam.

Only Switzerland and Sweden have travelled more miles than Wales during the cross-continent tournament and Page said they had overcome a logistical “nightmare” to reach the last 16.

“We think we’ve got a game plan that can hurt them,” said Page, who has a full squad to select from other than suspended Chelsea defender Ethan Ampadu.

“It was about getting through, but we didn’t want to finish third in the group.

“We’ve earned the right to finish second and the credit has got to go to the players for doing that against all the odds.

“There were a lot of people who didn’t see us finishing second.”

Bale happy with role of underdog

Gareth Bale has embraced Wales’ underdogs tag, with Euro 2020 rivals Denmark counting on support from across Europe following Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest.

Inter Milan midfielder Eriksen collapsed on the pitch during Denmark’s tournament opener against Finland in Copenhagen on June 12 and is recovering at home.

Denmark qualified for the knockout stage on a wave of emotion and have become a lot of people’s ‘second team’ after what happened to Eriksen but captain Bale said Wales were familiar with being underdogs.

“That’s normal anyway. We’re always the underdogs and used to that tag. It doesn’t make a difference to us,” said the Real Madrid forward.

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“Obviously we understand the situation that happened with them and we’ve sent all our best wishes to Christian but it won’t have any bearing on the game.

“The players have been in situations before where teams are favourites and supported more.

“Against Turkey they had 18,000 fans in the stadium (when Wales won their group game in Baku 2-0), so it makes no difference.”

Amsterdam is Dane’s home from home

Denmark’s coach Kasper Hjulmand during a training session
Denmark’s coach Kasper Hjulmand believes playing in Amsterdam is like having home advantage (Claus Bech/AP)

Denmark boss Kasper Hjulmand believes Amsterdam’s “huge” connection with Danish football will benefit them.

Eriksen spent five years at Ajax prior to his 2013 Tottenham move and numerous Danish players have progressed through the club’s celebrated academy.

“We’re playing at Christian’s old home and we’re so excited to give it our all against Wales,” Hjulmand said.

“If there’s a club outside Denmark that means something for Danish football it is Ajax.

“We have three players from there and Christian was 16 when he came to Ajax.”

Taylor praised

Christian Eriksen gives a thumbs up in an Instagram post
English referee Anthony Taylor has been praised for his handling of Eriksen’s collapse (Christian Eriksen/Instagram)

UEFA’s referees chief Roberto Rosetti has praised English official Anthony Taylor for his “perfect” handling of Eriksen’s cardiac arrest during the Denmark v Finland match.

Taylor immediately spotted the seriousness of the situation when the Dane collapsed just before half-time in the match on June 12 and signalled for medics to come on within seconds.

“Everyone recognised that Anthony was perfect. He managed this difficult moment in a great way,” said Rosetti.

“We are proud about his behaviour, we are proud about his cold blood.

“We recommended to the referees that safety is first, it is the most important target for us.

“The referees must, and they are ready to, stop the match immediately in these situations. Anthony was amazing.”

Eriksen has since been discharged from hospital in Copenhagen after being fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD).

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Big decision for Mancini

Italy coach Roberto Mancini finds himself with selection problems of the best kind ahead of their last-16 tie against Austria.

Paris St Germain midfielder Marco Verratti returned from a knee injury to replace Manuel Locatelli, who scored twice in the win over Switzerland, and impressed in the the final group win over Wales.

“Verratti or Locatelli? Someone good will not play,” was the Italian coach’s response when asked about his dilemma.

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Stat attack

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Wales goalkeeper Danny Ward is well prepared for anything Denmark have to throw at him as he has seen plenty of action already. The Leicester number two, who comes up against the man he plays deputy to in Kasper Schmeichel, is joint-second on the list of ‘most saves’. “We have great competition and we have a really good relationship. I don’t see any weakness in him. He’s a complete goalkeeper,” said Schmeichel.

Euro 2020 Round of 16 fixtures infographic
How the last 16 at Euro 2020 shapes up (PA Graphics)

Up next

Wales v Denmark (Round of 16, June 26, Amsterdam, 1700 BST)
Italy v Austria (Round of 16, June 26, London, 2000)