SARANSK, Russia: Yussuf Poulsen was relieved to go from “bad guy” to Denmark’s hero on Saturday by ruining Peru’s first appearance at a World Cup finals for 36 years with the winning goal to seal a 1-0 victory in Saransk.
Poulsen made amends after conceding a first-half penalty that was awarded after the referee consulted the VAR system, but which Peru midfielder Christian Cueva blasted over the crossbar.
“It was an emotional game, especially for me after giving away the penalty,” admitted the 24-year-old man-of-the-match.
“I thought I was the bad guy, but then I was the good guy after scoring — that’s the way football is.
“I’m grateful, we fought very well and gave it everything we had.”
Poulsen showed great finishing to hit the winner on 59 minutes to the dismay of the overwhelmingly Peruvian crowd in the 40,502 capacity stadium.
The win extends Denmark’s unbeaten run to 16 games without defeat and ends Peru’s 15-match unbeaten streak.
Peru veteran Paolo Guerrero, who only made it to Russia after a late reprieve for a drug ban, came on for the final 30 minutes, but his efforts at the Mordovia Arena came to no avail.
Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel played a key role with a string of second-half saves.
“He’s acrobatic, he’s fast on his feet and his goal-line play is probably one of the best in the world — you have to acknowledge his performance,” said Denmark’s coach Age Hareide.
Authorities in Lima estimate around 25,000 fans flew to Russia to see their team’s return to the World Cup and Saransk was a sea of
Their chants were near-deafening on occasion, as were the whistles each time Denmark had the ball or dared to attack.
“We were a little bit afraid of the atmosphere and the intensity of it, that affected us,” admitted Hareide.
As a result, Peru dominated the opening 25 minutes, but after weathering the early storm, the Danes started to push forward.
They had to bring on Ajax’s Lasse Schone with 36 minutes gone when central midfielder William Kvist was stretchered off with a suspected broken rib.
Hareide expects the midfielder to be ruled out of the rest of the tournament.
When Poulsen clipped Cueva’s boot on 45 minutes, referee Bakary Gassama checked with the VAR.
He soon pointed to the spot for the second penalty awarded through the system of the day after France had also benefited against Australia.
Cueva took the spot-kick himself but, to Poulsen’s relief, his effort ballooned over the bar.
Just moments after Peru wasted a clear chance, when Cueva squared to Andre Carrillo who failed to connect, Denmark scored. The ball was quickly moved forward and Poulsen showed great finishing to beat Gallese. — AFP