BELGIUM became the latest nation to book their spot in the last 16 of the Euros after coming from behind against Denmark to record a crucial victory in an emotional encounter in Copenhagen yesterday afternoon.

The Danes had no shortage of motivation to draw on after the traumatic collapse of Christian Eriksen in their opening fixture against Finland, and the roar from the crowd in Copenhagen as the game got under way was matched by the manner in which they flew out of the traps. And with barely 100 seconds played, they had their reward as Yusuf Poulsen opened the scoring.

To say that former Celtic defender Jason Denayer, now on the books at French powerhouse Lyon, was culpable is an understatement. In a move that spat in the face of nominative determinism, it was the centre-half’s careless pass out from the back under little pressure that was greedily snapped up by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Determined to atone for his error, Denayer went harrying after the ball, allowing Hojbjerg to slip in Poulsen and the striker seized his chance to drill his shot into the bottom corner.

Buoyed by their blistering start, Denmark went chasing a second. Martin Braithwaite spurned a decent opportunity and Daniel Wass failed to connect with a dangerous-looking cross as the hosts bombarded their opponents. Belgium were rattled and looked disorganised, but they just about kept themselves in the contest.

Then, with ten minutes played, the moment the crowd had been waiting for. Play stopped on the park as both sets of players joined the stadium in a round of applause for Eriksen: a touching show of support for Denmark’s No.10, who was wearing his shirt and taking in the game from his hospital bed just 400 yards away.

Denmark were flying by now; Belgium were unrecognisable to the team that swept all before them in qualifying. There was a laxness about their play, a carelessness in possession and a general malaise abut the way they shifted the ball. They were toothless in attack, vulnerable at the back and lucky to get into the break only a goal down – especially after Mikkel Damsgaard weaved his way through a crowd of Belgium defenders towards the end of the first half, only to roll the ball wide of the far post.

Something had to change and Roberto Martinez did just that at the interval, introducing Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne – who missed the opening game of the tournament as he recovered from a facial fracture – from the bench at the expense of Napoli forward Dries Mertens.

It proved to be a masterstroke. Denmark started the second half in much the same way they played the first but it soon became clear that Belgium were an altogether different animal now. And when Thorgan Hazard equalised ten minutes after the restart, it was no surprise to see De Bruyne at the heart of it.

Romelu Lukaku was given a rare opportunity to charge into vacant space down the right and he seized it with gusto. Barrelling forward, he eventually cut the ball back to De Bruyne on the edge of the area, surrounded by Danish defenders. He retained the presence of mind to use his first touch to chip the ball forward, removing one opponent, before using his second to slice the ball back across the face of goal for Hazard to prod home from a few yards.

It was a moment of magic from De Bruyne but what followed was even more mesmerising. Lukaku was again heavily involved as the Belgians menacingly stroked the ball around the edge of the area, and it was eventually shifted left into the path of the onrushing De Bruyne. He allowed himself a quick glance up before unleashing an impeccably-hit half-volley that thundered in at the near post, just outwith the reach of Kasper Schmeichel’s despairing arms.

Denmark scrapped to get back into the game and no one came closer than Barcelona forward Braithwaite, who flicked a cross from Bologna’s Andreas Skov Olsen goalwards only to see it ricochet off the top of the crossbar. It summed up Denmark’s day: close, but not quite.