Denmark fought back from 2-0 down with Nicklas Bendtner’s brace, but were ultimately beaten 3-2 by Portugal in a thrilling encounter.
It was an unexpected start to Group B with the Danes beating World Cup finalists Holland and the Portuguese falling 1-0 to Germany. Those results put huge pressure on Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates to win or face a first round exit, especially as they’ve scored just once in their last four games, but both sides fielded the same starting XI as in the opening match.
The Danes were forced into an early substitution due to Niki Zimling’s injury and went behind to the first genuine scoring opportunity on 24 minutes.
A corner was whipped in for Real Madrid defender Pepe’s glancing header at the near post to surprise the goalkeeper and William Kvist on the line.
Ronaldo’s free kick was deflected over the bar before Portugal doubled their advantage with Helder Postiga. Nani stroked the ball back in from the right side of the box and the former Tottenham man was ready to fire in from six yards.
Denmark pulled one back just before the break, having finally posed a threat. Michael Krohn-Dehli nodded a Jakob Poulsen ball back across the face of goal for an unmarked Nicklas Bendtner to tap in from point-blank range.
Portugal almost added a third, but Helder Postiga and Ronaldo couldn’t get the final touch to a Nani cross with goalkeeper Stephan Andersen and Roma’s Simon Kjaer making desperate interventions.
After the restart Ronaldo went clear on the counter only to fire straight at Andersen and a screamer of a Kvist half-volley whistled over the bar. Denmark lost their second player to injury, as Dennis Rommedahl pulled up with a suspected strain.
Bendtner drilled wide with Rui Patricio rooted to the spot, but Ronaldo wasted a golden opportunity to put the result beyond doubt. At the 77th minute he was clear on goal with only Andersen to beat when he incredibly turned wide with the inside of his right foot.
That proved a very costly mistake indeed, as moments later Denmark completed their comeback from 2-0 down to 2-2. A cross came in from the right for Bendtner’s header at the back post that went in off the upright.
Ronaldo again failed to make the most of a chance when closed between two defenders, then completely mis-kicked from seven yards when he latched on to a corner.
However, substitute Silvestre Varela restored Portugal’s lead just three minutes after coming off the bench. He hit a fresh air left-footed shot at first from Fabio Coentrao’s cross, but it fell kindly and he was able to smash home the second attempt with his stronger right foot.
In stoppages Danish sub Lasse Schone threatened to make it 3-3, but blasted high and wide from a very promising position.
Denmark 2-3 Portugal
Scorers: Pepe 24 (P), Helder Postiga 36 (P), Bendtner 41, 80 (D), Varela 87 (P)
Denmark: Andersen; Jacobsen, Kjaer, Agger, S Poulsen; Kvist, Zimling (J Poulsen 16); Rommedahl (Mikkelsen 61), Eriksen, Krohn-Dehli (Schone 90); Bendtner
Portugal: Rui Patricio; Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao; Raul Meireles (Varela 84), Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho; Nani (Rolando 89), Helder Postiga (Nelson Oliveira 64), Cristiano Ronaldo
Ref: Thomson (Sco)