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EURO Classics: Denmark 2-3 Portugal

Watch this thrilling UEFA EURO 2012 group stage game in full on UEFA.tv – and get the background here.

Denmark got themselves into all kinds of trouble in their UEFA EURO 2012 meeting with Portugal, but came back to set up a thrilling finish in Lviv.

WATCH IN FULL ON UEFA.TV


Context

All Cristiano Ronaldo's EURO goals
All Cristiano Ronaldo's EURO goals

Denmark edged out Portugal in their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying group, but met them again in Poland and Ukraine after two Cristiano Ronaldo goals had helped Paulo Bento's side past Bosnia and Herzegovina in the play-offs. The EURO '92 winners started a tough Group B well, winning 1-0 against the Netherlands, while Portugal lost to Germany by the same scoreline and were on a poor run of form. Denmark boss Morten Olsen was not reassured, though: "Portugal were unlucky against Germany, while we needed good fortune [to beat the Netherlands]."

Key players

Cristiano Ronaldo: Ronaldo was fresh from lifting his first Liga title with Real Madrid and had scored in both qualifying encounters with Denmark. Germany had stopped him scoring, but the Danes looked less formidable opponents.

Pepe: Ronaldo's team-mate at Madrid, the central defender had netted Portugal's first goal at UEFA EURO 2008 – against Turkey – and was set for a key role against Denmark, at both ends of the pitch.

Nicklas Bendtner celebrates a goal against Portugal
Nicklas Bendtner celebrates a goal against PortugalAFP via Getty Images

Nicklas Bendtner: The striker's tap-in against Portugal in Denmark's final qualifier had taken his side to the finals, and he was preparing to make his 50th appearance for his country in Lviv. Could he make it a day to remember?

What happened

While Denmark began brightly, Portugal soon turned the tide, Pepe heading their first goal of these finals from a João Moutinho corner before Nani exploited some more off-balance defending with a powerful cross for Hélder Postiga to make it 2-0. As half-time approached, the Danes seemed to be a lost cause. Salvation was at hand, though; Bendtner headed his 20th international goal four minutes before the break.

Morten Olsen's side had to press on in the second half, with Ronaldo passing up two decent opportunities to extend Portugal's lead before Bendtner levelled matters with ten minutes to go. However, Portugal substitute Silvestre Varela was to have the last word, winning a thrilling game with his low strike.

Reaction

Highlights: Best goals of EURO 2012
Highlights: Best goals of EURO 2012

Paulo Bento, Portugal coach: "The team was focused throughout and showed real quality. The equaliser was unjust but we didn't bow our heads; we showed character and got the winner we deserved."

Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal forward: "At 2-0 we thought the result was practically certain, but we had to score a third to kill the match off, and we weren't able to do it. Then we had some difficulties, but in the end we had the luck we didn't have against Germany, and we won."

João Moutinho, Portugal midfielder: "What we did today is what counts – to play our best until the end, with the same spirit we've had since the beginning."

Morten Olsen, Denmark coach: "It's a horrible feeling to concede so close to the end and end up losing the game. It's good we had the ball the most but it is goals that count; our goals were also better but Portugal got three."

Elsewhere that night

Mario Gomez struck his second and third goals of the finals as Germany sealed their place in the quarter-finals – and condemned the Netherlands to a second straight defeat. The Bayern ace had come in for criticism despite his winner against Portugal, and was pleased to have proved his worth again. "It was very important for me," he said. Coach Joachim Löw added: "Today he had two chances and scored two goals – he's got real class."

Aftermath

EURO 2012 highlights: Portugal 2-1 Netherlands
EURO 2012 highlights: Portugal 2-1 Netherlands

Ronaldo finally found his shooting boots at the third time of asking, registering twice in a 2-1 win over the Netherlands to take Portugal through. He finished up as one of the tournament's five top scorers with three goals, but was left frustrated as his team lost to Spain on penalties after a goalless semi-final draw. He was set to take the fifth Portuguese spot kick, but never got the chance, the eventual EURO winners prevailing 4-2.

Denmark gave Germany a run for their money in their closing Group B game, but a 2-1 loss spelled the end of their campaign. They did not qualify for the next three major tournaments, a duck they broke by booking a place at UEFA EURO 2020.

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