Football fans enjoyed goals, emotions and "a whole lot of beer" as they packed into the fan zone in the main square of Aarhus to witness Denmark's valiant exit from the competition.
Supporters often follow their teams come rain or shine and the host nation's loyal fans looked as though they might have to brave the elements only for the torrential rain which had soaked the square – the Vesterbro Torv – to give way to evening sunshine as kick-off between Denmark and Iceland approached.
"I'm optimistic, of course. I'm a Dane so I have to support the team," said Rasmus Bahnsen, behind one of the refreshment stalls in the fan zone, based in the shadow of Aarhus's 12th century cathedral. No prizes for guessing his biggest seller: "Beer – a whole lot of beer and sausages."
The most frenetic action of the first half from Aalborg came at the kiosks as litres of the local brew washed down the barbecued Store Klaus – or Big Klaus – sausages. The wooden tables, more of which had been hastily put in place as the crowd swelled before kick-off, were nearly tipped over, though, as anxious supporters jumped to their feet when Denmark keeper Mikkel Andersen pawed the ball away from goal after it had ricocheted dangerously off Mathias Zanka Jørgensen.
"Denmark started well but Iceland got back into it," said Peter Dyrman, who had arrived three hours before the Group A finale to ensure he and his sister's children, Emma, 13, and Jacob, 10, had front row seats. "It's great to be here – a lot of fun." "It's a shame the weather's not so good," added Peter's friend, Thomas Christiansen, who was accompanied by his son, Mads, 9. "Our kids love football, so it's great to have the tournament here, it gives them inspiration."
Though the crowd's enthusiasm was sapped by Kolbeinn Sigthórsson and Birkir Bjarnason putting Iceland 2-0 ahead come the hour mark, hope had not yet headed for the warmth of home. "I love football," said Solveig Nielsen, who was kicking every ball as she tucked into an ice cream. "We're good when we're under pressure."
As the evening chill descended, the heat was turned up on the Icelandic goal. A litany of chances were created – and wasted – though, and as frustration grew, every spurned opportunity was greeted by louder and louder groans. When Bashkim Kadrii struck the bar, the Danish fans rose as one, and sank back down onto their seats in despair, heads in hands.
Kadrii's subsequent goal, with nine minutes left, sparked real hope, but as theatre-goers spilled out from the adjacent playhouse after watching Hamlet, they witnessed another tale of Danish sorrow in the making as Hjörtur Valgardsson's third for Iceland ended the hosts' dream.
"I'm so disappointed," said fan zone manager Kasper Egelund. "Things have been good so far and we've had a lot of people for concerts. We didn't know what to expect but things have worked out well. The result wasn't good today but at least people enjoyed it."
As the disappointed supporters trudged disconsolately away, at least one man still had a smile on his face among the deserted tables. "I'm Icelandic," said Eyjolfur Vestmann Ingolfsson, flanked by daughters, Erna Soley, 8, and Eva Maria, 7. "It's outstanding. It's the first time we've beaten Denmark in a football match.
Other than the birth of my children, it's the best day of my life."
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