The big screen at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador showed a convincing 4-0 win for Brazil and the victors duly celebrated the triumph with their fans. For the losing team, such a hefty scoreline would ordinarily be a sobering experience rather than a joyful one, yet the Danes nevertheless left the pitch smiling. They had just found out that despite the defeat they had qualified for the knockout rounds of the Men's Olympic Football Tournament at Rio 2016.
"We're pretty excited that we got through," said Denmark's beaming captain Lasse Vibe in an interview with FIFA.com. "Obviously after the game we were a bit confused. We'd just lost 4-0 and they'd outplayed us, but at the same time we knew it didn’t matter because we were through anyway. After digesting it all, we're just very happy."
Goalkeeper Jeppe Hojbjerg was likewise visibly relieved. The Denmark No1 was tested at regular intervals by the nimble-footed Brazilians and had to pluck the ball out of his net four times. "It was a tough match for us," he said. "Brazil played very well and have really good players. It wasn't fun to lose 4-0 but we're in the next round. Straight after the match none of the players knew that, but fortunately our coaches did. We're through and that's the most important thing."
Positive memories of facing Nigeria
Nigeria await in the last eight, a team Vibe and Co have fond memories of. In a warm-up tournament ahead of the Olympics, Denmark recorded a comfortable 6-2 victory over their quarter-final opponents.
"It’s going to be a different match," predicted Hojbjerg. "That was a friendly game. You never know which players will play. Of course we can use the experience from that game but we just have to perform well." His captain, meanwhile, is hoping Nigeria will not play as well as Brazil did: "I'm expecting a difficult match. I hope we can play like we did against South Africa." In that encounter, coach Niels Frederiksen's charges picked up their only win in the group stage to pave the way for their quarter-final berth.
Unlike the Nigerians, who lost to Colombia in Sao Paulo, Denmark do not need to travel to a different venue. Will that minor detail ultimately be decisive?
"It's definitely an advantage," said Vibe. "With this tight schedule and games every three days, recovery and sleep are very important. We've been travelling a lot. We went to Rio as well after the first game to participate in the opening ceremony. We're very happy to stay here and that'll be a good thing for us." This afternoon's game will determine whether or not that statement proves to be true.