A last-gasp Marta Cardona goal decided the Group B crunch encounter to secure Spain a quarter-final with England.
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Spain sunk Denmark at Brentford Community Stadium to finish runners-up in Group B and continue their 100% record of qualifying for the Women's EURO knockout stage – a fourth time in four appearances.
25' Christensen denies Del Castillo
54' Carmona fires into side netting
71' Christensen parries Carmona effort
78' Paños saves Nadim strike
90' Cardona heads in the winner
Match in brief: La Roja leave it late
Spain flew out of the traps in front of a lively crowd of 16,041 spectators at Brentford Community Stadium, with early attacks from Mariona Caldentey and Leila Ouahabi down the left forcing Denmark to drop deep.
When out of possession, however, the well-drilled Denmark XI fell comfortably into a 5-4-1 system, narrowing their lines and forming a blockade tough to breach. They also posed a constant danger on the counterattack as La Roja settled high up the pitch and looked to play free-flowing football, with Pernille Harder breaking free and bearing down on goal twice in the opening 16 minutes.
Sticking to their game plan, Spain continued to press, and when Ona Batlle's searching delivery found Athenea del Castillo in the Denmark mixer, the opener was there for the taking – but the forward could only bundle into the arms of Lene Christensen. Shortly after, the keeper was again called into action, first to deny Mariona Caldentey's low strike, before gathering a curled effort from Del Castillo.
In the second half, La Roja continued to turn the screw and, looking to make an instant impact from the bench, Olga Carmona thrashed a decent opportunity into the side netting. The Real Madrid winger came close again in the 71st minute with an effort requiring Christensen to parry.
A draw would take Spain through to the quarter-finals, whereas Denmark knew they had to win. As full time loomed, the Danes began to take more risks, and in their best chance of the contest, Harder broke before teeing up Nadia Nadim, whose strike was turned away by Sandra Paños diving high to keep La Roja in second spot.
The teams went toe to toe as the game grew in intensity, and in the 90th minute Spain finally broke Denmark as Marta Cardona rose highest to connect with Carmona's cross and head in the winner. With that, Spain's passage to the quarter-finals was secure, and they will play England on Wednesday 20 July.
Player of the Match: Aitana Bonmatí (Spain)
"She has brilliant technique, keeps possession and makes line-breaking passes. Her vision is great, like the conductor of a well-tuned orchestra, directing and leading. A great player."
UEFA Technical Observer panel
Sture Sandø, Denmark reporter
What a captivating game! Denmark did what they had promised and gave Spain a harder time than they expected. In the end, it turned out not to be enough, but what a night they gave us here in Brentford. This team might be out of the EURO, but the side are far from finished.
Simon Hart, Spain reporter
It's job done for Spain, who have maintained their record of always surviving the group stage. One of coach Jorge Vilda's half-time substitutes, Cardona, made the difference, scoring from a ball by her fellow sub Carmona. The fact that Vilda made those changes shows he is still looking for solutions in his attack – a conundrum to consider anew ahead of the quarter-final showdown with England.
Jorge Vilda, Spain coach: "In the first half we got a bit bogged down. The ball wasn't flowing and we didn't create chances so something had to change. In the second half we saw something better – an improvement on the wings, with our passing, connecting with our No9. And at the end we got the goal."
Irene Paredes, Spain captain: "We trusted ourselves until the end. We weren't creating as many chances as we wanted, but we kept trying to the very end and finally got that goal."
Lars Søndergaard, Denmark coach: "Even though we lost, I think it was the best performance in years. The future looks promising. We have lifted ourselves defensively, tactically and mentally from game to game in this EURO after a tough start. In a way, I'm satisfied with this performance, but of course I'm disappointed it ended with defeat."
Pernille Harder, Denmark captain: "It's incredibly annoying. Our game plan worked quite well, and we kept them from creating big chances. We created reasonably good opportunities that we have to make use of if we are to win a game like this. It's a tough feeling."
- Spain have lost only one game in their last 26 international matches (W21 D4): Matchday 2's 2-0 defeat by Germany.
- By beating Denmark, Spain have recorded two victories at a single EURO for the first time.
- This was only Spain's second victory in 14 matches against Denmark.
- Spain have reached the knockout stage in all four of their Women's EURO finals appearances: 1997, 2013, 2017 and 2022.
Denmark: Christensen; Ballisager, Boye Sørensen, Sevecke; Thomsen (Nadim 73), K. Holmgaard, Junge, Veje (S. Holmgaard); Madsen (Larsen 73), Harder, Kühl (Troelsgaard 58)
Spain: Paños; Batlle, Paredes, León, Ouahabi (Carmona 46); Guijarro; Bonmatí, Caldentey; S. García (Cardona 46), L. García (González 46), Del Castillo (Aleixandri 80)
Spain will meet Group A winners England in the quarter-finals on Wednesday 20 July at Brighton & Hove Community Stadium.