Our 21

Mikkel Damsgaard carries creative torch in stunning Denmark victory over Wales

Max Cooper
Damsgaard is a star in the making
Damsgaard is a star in the making /

This Denmark side continues to surprise us all.

After the traumatic events which unfolded on Matchday 1, when Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest, and his teammates protected him from the world's glare, and subsequent two defeats to Finland and Belgium, many suspected that Denmark's tournament could well have been over

Instead, this team has grown since, stepping up to fill the void left by Eriksen, as he begins his long road to recovery. But one boy has thoroughly accepted the challenge of lighting the spark which has been lost in the Inter star's absence.

Mikkel Damsgaard was relatively unknown by non-Serie A viewers prior to the first whistle of Euro 2020, but two weeks later, the winger is now one of the most talked about footballers on the continent.

The 20-year-old announced himself on the European stage in fine fashion, scoring the opening goal in Denmark's vital 4-1 victory over Russia on the final day of the group stages. His curling and dipping strike set the tone for his nation - a tempo which they have maintained heading into the knockout rounds.

Damsgaard was once again instrumental in Denmark's success, providing an assist for the opening goal, as his side defeated Wales 4-0 to book their place in the quarter-finals.

The Sampdoria winger was absolutely electric on Saturday, lighting up the Amsterdam Arena with his lightning movement, intricate trickery and clutch contributions. In fact, the statistics speak for themselves when analysing a pulsating first half.

The number 14 beat his man with every single attempt, found his target with every cross, and created the most chances over the first 45 minutes. His understanding with his teammates was uncanny, popping up in tight areas to tap the ball into a colleague, before darting into space and awaiting the return.

That movement and ability to evade his marker was crucial to the deadlocking-breaking strike, as he showed fabulous awareness to utterly bamboozle the Wales backline. Damsgaard began a diagonal run, and soon found a pass being pinged into him while on the march.

He domesticated the delivery, continued to move away from goal, before suddenly producing the neatest of turns and wriggling free of his desperate marker. Now being pressed by two onrushing defenders, Damsgaard awaited the perfect moment, and daintily caressed a pass into the path of Kasper Dolberg.

The striker did the rest with a vicious blast from the edge of the area, but so much of that goal was owed to the intelligence and magic of Damsgaard. The Sampdoria starlet did not rest on his laurels however, and set about torturing the Welsh defence, opening up gaps and working crossing positions all afternoon.

All of that in only an hour, too.

The youngster was substituted on 60 minutes, when coach Kasper Hjulmand decided it was time to protect his starlet for the next round. There's no doubting his place in the starting lineup now, either - he has shown he can carry the attacking responsibility of his country.

His ability to play between the lines would undoubtedly have sparked comparisons with the master of the art, Eriksen himself. Many feared that without their number 10, Denmark would struggle to create opportunities and break down stubborn defences.

Kasper Hjulmand, Mikkel Damsgaard
Job done / Koen van Weel - Pool/Getty Images

Well, those fears have subsided, and have instead been replaced with quiet optimism. Damsgaard is the cause for that new-found belief. He is intelligent, sharp, technically gifted and brimming with confidence.

This is his tournament, and he's doing Eriksen and the rest of his nation proud.

Damsgaard is one of a select few players to have been chosen for 90min's Our 21 Euro 2020 series.