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Denmark's night of drama ends in ecstasy

"I think we deserved to go through to the quarter-finals," said Denmark assistant coach Søren Randa-Boldt after his side won the drawing of lots at Nya Parken on Thursday.

UEFA Executive Committee member Karen Espelund oversaw the draw
UEFA Executive Committee member Karen Espelund oversaw the draw ©Sportsfile

Denmark had not even been in action at Nya Parken, but the cheer of the night in Norrkoping on Thursday belonged to the Scandinavian side's assistant coach Søren Randa-Boldt.

With the match between Spain and Russia ending 1-1, Randa-Boldt had to hurry himself over to the scene of the encounter for a rather different kind of contest: a drawing of lots to determine whether Denmark or Russia would join Iceland in the quarter-finals as the other third-placed team.

The entire Russia delegation – players, staff and families – packed into the back of the press conference room for the ceremony, and even the Spain players were pulled in by the drama, but the ball picked out of the bowl by UEFA Executive Committee member Karen Espelund meant only one thing – Denmark were through. Instead of a roar from the Russians, a solitary yelp of delight from Randa-Boldt followed the announcement, which set the Danes up for a last-eight meeting with France on Monday.

"We are very happy," Randa-Boldt told UEFA.com. "I feel for Russia; it's horrible for them. But we're happy and we're ready, and I think we deserved to go through to the quarter-finals. We played against Russia in April and won 5-0, so I think we're a better team, but in a draw anything can happen. We've played very well and just missed out in front of goal, but that will come."

If elimination was heartbreaking for Russia, the last few days have certainly not been easy for Denmark. After contesting their last Group A game on Tuesday, they had to wait to see if their tournament dream would endure or fizzle out – just as they had at Finland 2009, when they ended with fewer points than fellow third-placed sides England and Norway. "It's been terrible," said Randa-Boldt. "We tried to go through in Finland four years ago. That time we were unlucky, but this time we were lucky."

Naturally enough, the 42-year-old was hoping to avoid a drawing of lots altogether as Thursday's Group C fixtures unfolded. Watching nervously in nearby Linkoping, he nonetheless had to hop over at full time, but the trip soon proved worthwhile. "We were in Linkoping and it looked good," he said. "We thought England could be the big problem and not Russia. We thought Spain would win 2-0, 3-0 or 4-0, but this year in the European Championship every game is hard."

'Hard' could even be an understatement for Denmark's next test, with France barring their route to the semi-finals in their last-eight tie in Linkoping. The only team to have won all their group assignments, Les Bleues have looked excellent at Sweden 2013, sweeping aside England 3-0 after securing top spot in their section with a game to spare.

"I've seen France, all their matches, and they're a very good team, but we have a chance against them," said Randa-Boldt, who has also served as Denmark women's Under-19 coach since 2008. "It will be difficult, but when you finish third in your group, you have to play a tough team afterwards." If you are still involved at all, he might have added.