Our 21

Mikkel Damsgaard's display against Belgium gives fans plenty of reason to smile

Ross Jackson
Mikkel Damsgaard was brilliant against Belgium
Mikkel Damsgaard was brilliant against Belgium /

Making your major international tournament debut must be a daunting prospect at the best of times, but the task Mikkel Damsgaard was faced with on Thursday evening was on a whole new level.

The young Sampdoria forward was drafted into Denmark's starting XI against Belgium as part of a complete reshuffle after Christian Eriksen's frightening heart scare ruled him out of the tournament.

The pressure on Damsgaard's shoulders as he lined up in the tunnel must have been truly unimaginable. Not only did he have the weight of expectation of an entire nation to deal with, there was the added factor of him now being one of the men his country would turn to in the absence of their talisman.

To say that he coped well under the circumstances would be a huge understatement.

The 20-year-old was highlighted by 90min prior to Euro 2020's kick off as one of the youngsters to keep an eye out for at this summer's tournament as part of the Our21 series, and his display against Roberto Martinez's side vindicated every glowing statement we've ever made about him.

From minute one Denmark attacked the Belgium backline and gave them no time to settle on the ball - a ploy which ultimately brought about the opening goal of the game with little more than 90 seconds of the clock - and Damsgaard was a central figure in their press.

Mikkel Damsgaard wasn't afraid to get on the ball and make things happen
Mikkel Damsgaard wasn't afraid to get on the ball and make things happen / Jonathan Nackstrand - Pool/Getty Images

Far from being overwhelmed by the responsibility placed upon him, the forward looked like he was thriving on the atmosphere created by the crowd and the likes of Jan Vertonghen and Jason Denayer were made to look like a bunch of 50-year-old men playing five-a-side when that one annoying bloke decides to bring his 17-year-old son along.

But don't be fooled into thinking Damsgaard's display was just 90 minutes of him running around like a headless chicken trying to win the ball back. The 20-year-old was key to his side's progressive play and had a hand in the majority of their forward moves.

The highlight of his outing came in the first half as he picked up the ball on the Denmark right. The Belgian backline was well set as he emerged towards the penalty area, though the Sampdoria man produced two stepovers that suddenly presented him with a goalscoring opportunity before his curling left-footed effort edged just half a yard wide of Thibaut Courtois' far post.

Damsgaard did have one moment he'll no doubt want to forget after he was booked for diving in the area, though we'll forgive him that given the occasion and his evident desperation to help his team to a positive result.

Mikkel Damsgaard's moment to forget
Mikkel Damsgaard's moment to forget / Jonathan Nackstrand - Pool/Getty Images

The loss of Eriksen was of course a massive blow to Denmark, though in Damsgaard they seem to have a player with the ability to produce the kind of moments of brilliance that the Inter man has built a career on.

Denmark's Euro 2020 campaign looks to be on the verge of fizzling out unless they can win their final group game and scrape their way through to the knockout rounds, though the future of Danish football looks to be in safe hands with Damsgaard in the side.