UEFA Euro 2020

Wales out-thought by Kasper Hjulmand and Denmark in round of 16 defeat

Max Parsons
Kasper Hjulmand came out on top against Rob Page on Saturday evening
Kasper Hjulmand came out on top against Rob Page on Saturday evening / Koen van Weel - Pool/Getty Images

Spirits were high in the Wales camp following the Dragons' matchday two performance against Turkey, in which a stunning team showing earned them a 2-0 win and put them on four points in Group A of Euro 2020.

Since then, a lack of control and scoring opportunities in a 1-0 defeat to Italy somewhat dampened the mood - although not very much at all, considering they still made it through to the knockout stages.

Italy v Wales - UEFA Euro 2020: Group A
Wales' team spirit has been visible throughout the tournament / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

However, their round of 16 4-0 loss to Denmark was heartbreaking from Wales fans' perspective. Apart from the heart-wrenching score line, the match highlighted a lack of tactical nous and experience.

Things started brightly, with Gareth Bale, Daniel James and Aaron Ramsey all troubling Kasper Hjulmand's back line. Ramsey's movement was pulling players out of position and creating openings for others, while Bale wandered around, unleashing efforts that had Kasper Schmeichel scrambling. James' movement was also of concern, taking the centre backs out of the equation with typically electric runs across the 18-yard box.

But things changed with one subtle move by Hjulmand. The Denmark manager took Andreas Christensen out of defence and moved him into the midfield, changing the formation from a 5-2-3 to a 4-3-3. Reshuffling the defence into a back four, Christensen then sat in front, screening his colleagues - and he did so to perfection.

Andreas Christensen
Andreas Christensen was crucial to Denmark's win over Wales / Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

Ramsey was immediately nullified by the Chelsea man's presence, therefore stifling Wales' creativity, while the long out ball to Kieffer Moore was shut down thanks to Christensen's freedom between midfield and defence, allowing him to stay tight to the Welsh front man from goal-kicks and other set pieces.

It was a tactical move that shut Wales down completely.

And after Kasper Dolberg's brilliant opener on 27 minutes, it was a tactical move that required a response; and quickly.

But, as the final score line may suggest, that response never came from Rob Page. The former Port Vale and Northampton manager proved he's simply not tactically adept enough at this level, not changing shape or approach during the interval, and therefore predictably not solving Wales' tactical conundrum.

The Dragons continued to fail to break through midfield lines, with Christensen remaining practically impenetrable as a holding midfielder.

Denmark soon got their second, when Dolberg capitalised on Neco Williams horrible mistake to secure a brace in clinical fashion. A 2-0, and seemingly unassailable, lead allowed Hjulmand to rejig his side once again. The Danes eventually reverted to a back five with a midfield three, giving them two solid lines of defence to Wales' press and enough bodies to stifle their opposition in the centre of the pitch.

The introduction of creative players like Harry Wilson (who actually saw red late on) and David Brooks was too little too late. An already rigid and brilliantly organised Denmark side, commanded by the heroic Simon Kjaer, stood firm to rather measly and unimaginative attacks - tactically, they were simply not bright and sharp enough to challenge Hjulmand and his players.

Harry Wilson, Daniel Siebert
Harry Wilson was given a red card after coming on / Koen van Weel - Pool/Getty Images

In fact, Denmark remained the more threatening side, breaking out of defence in blistering style to bag another two goals - Joakim Maehle and Martin Braithwaite adding a couple of late strikes to seal a 4-0 victory.

It's important to note how good the Danes' performance was - especially given the circumstances surrounding the camp and Christian Eriksen - but, let's face it, it was made easy by their opposition.

Firstly, Page's lack of response to Denmark's first-half reshuffle and, secondly, the introduction of creative sparks only after the Danes had once again changed shape to see out the win were factors that gave the Dragons little chance of ever overcoming a quick-thinking and quick-acting Hjulmand.

Team spirit can get you far but, in the end, a lack of that efficient, brutal, cutting-edge tactical prowess have cost Wales another fairy-tale European journey.