Fire rained down from the heavens above the Westfalenstadion, the rain fell in great torrents, giant hailstones bounced off the turf, thunder roared, and the match was suspended for 25 minutes while the storm passed.

On a wild and turbulent night in the football heartlands of the Ruhr, Germany played with the fire and embraced the chaos. They flirted with defeat at the hands of a fine Denmark team but they walked through the storm and came out the other side.

This was a magnificent, nerve-jangling, brutal, roller-coaster of a night of football that could have swung either way and when it was over, Germany had their first knock-out win at a major tournament since 2016.

Those with longer memories will recall how they were knocked out of their home World Cup at this stadium by Italy in 2006 and there were moments amid the tempest when it felt as if history were about to repeat itself at this home European Championship.

But Denmark had a goal disallowed for the most marginal of offsides just after the interval and when the ball went down to the other end, VAR ruled that Joachim Andersen, whose goal had been ruled out moments earlier, had handled a cross from David Raum.

Jamal Musiala scored Germany’s second goal of their 2-0 win over Denmark at Euro 2024

Kai Havertz netted from the penalty spot for the first goal of the game after a controversial handball call

Kai Havertz netted from the penalty spot for the first goal of the game after a controversial handball call

 If it was a night when the gods seemed angry, it seemed they were most angry with Denmark. They had started to outplay Germany in much the same way they had outplayed England in Frankfurt but Germany were grateful to a night of titanic defending from Antonio Rudiger and Germany got the breaks.

MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS 

Germany (4-2-3-1): Neuer 7; Kimmich 7, Rudiger 7, Schlotterbeck 7, Raum 6 (Henrichs 80); Andrich 6 (Fullkrug 64, 5), Kroos 7; Sane 6, Gundogan 6 (Can 64, 5), Musiala 8 (Wirtz 80); Havertz 6.

Subs not used: Gross, Fuhrich, Baumann,Muller, Beier, Anton, Mittelstadt, ter Stegen, Koch, Undav.

Goals: Havertz 53 (pen), Musiala 68

Manager: Julian Nagelsmann 7

Denmark (3-4-2-1): Schmeichel 7; Andersen 6, Vestergaard 6, Christensen 6 (Bruun Larsen 80); Bah 6, Delaney 6 (Norgaard 69, 5), Hojbjerg 6, Maehle 6; Eriksen 6 (Damsgaard 80), Skov Olsen 5 (Poulsen 69, 5); Hojlund 4 (Wind 80).

Subs not used: Kjaer, Jensen, Dolberg, Jorgensen, Hermansen, Kristiansen, Ronnow, Dreyer, Kristensen,

Bookings: Andersen, Maehle

Manager: Kasper Hjulmand 6

Referee: Michael Oliver 6

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And once they got the breaks, they started to play with freedom and Jamal Musiala scored a glorious second and they would have won by more if it had not been for a series of superb saves by Kasper Schmeichel.

Germany were not hugely convincing but they still played some wonderful football and their victory will banish some of the doubts that had assailed them in the wake of their disappointing performance in the draw with Switzerland.

They will now play the winner of the Round of 16 tie between Spain and Georgia in Stuttgart next week. If it is Spain, that will be the blockbuster tie of the tournament so far. If it is Spain, Spain will be favourites.

Germany thought they had taken the lead after three minutes when Nico Schlotterbeck, in for the suspended Jonathan Tah, rose magnificently to head a corner from Toni Kroos into the back of the net.

The Westfalenstadion celebrated wildly but referee Michael Oliver had spotted Joshua Kimmich blocking off a defender’s covering run and ruled the effort out. Kimmich tried to atone with a blistering 30-yard piledriver that was too hot for Schmeichel to hold.

Germany poured forward. Antonio Rudiger lofted a finely-judged pass into the path of Kai Havertz, who had made space for himself in the box. Havertz’s volley was on target but it was not struck cleanly and Schmeichel dived to push it wide.

It is the fate of Havertz, in recent years at least, to divide opinion both for club and country and many had been agitating for Niclas Fullkrug to start instead of him last night, particularly as Fullkrug plays his club football here for Borussia Dortmund.

It took Rasmus Hojlund 18 minutes even to get his first touch. Two minutes later, Denmark finally created their first threat. Joachim Andersen drilled a superb 70-yard pass over the Germany defence into the path of Christian Eriksen and Eriksen provided the moment of the match thus far by taking it down beautifully.

Rasmus Hojlund didn't have his first touch until 18 minutes, with his side starting slowly

Rasmus Hojlund didn’t have his first touch until 18 minutes, with his side starting slowly

Christian Eriksen was left cursing a missed opportunity to give his side the lead in the first half

Christian Eriksen was left cursing a missed opportunity to give his side the lead in the first half

The perfect touch took the ball into his path and he tried to curl his shot around Manuel Neuer but Rudiger recovered well and stretched out a leg to divert the effort to safety. Eriksen cursed the missed opportunity.

And then, in the 35th minute, the rain came. The skies had been grumbling and chuntering for some time and dark clouds had been gathering. Soon, forked lightning streaked across the sky and the thunder came in deafening roars.

The lightning looked uncomfortably close and Mr Oliver, quite rightly, decided to take the players off. It was the only decision to make with the safety of the players in mind. The rain was torrential. Giant hailstones bounced up off the pitch as well.

Germany had their best chance of the match so far as soon as play restarted. Havertz ran on to a superb cross from the Germany left and met it on the full ten yards out. He should have scored but he directed it too close to Schmeichel, who kept it out with a reaction save.

Denmark were right back in this game, though, and when Schlotterbeck dawdled on the ball in his own box and then stumbled over it, Hojlund stole it off him and rifled a shot into the side-netting.

Minutes later, Denmark threatened again. They broke at speed and Eriksen played a clever first-time pass into the path of Thomas Delaney. Rudiger closed him down but Delaney slid the ball to Hojlund. Hojlund tried to dink it over Neuer but Neuer blocked it.

Before the second half began, Mr Oliver called Ilkay Gundogan and Schmeichel, the two skippers, together and pointed up at the skies again. It looked as if there were warnings of another electrical storm heading towards the stadium.

The game restarted anyway. Germany soon wished it hadn’t. Eriksen drove a free kick deep to the back post, it was nodded back and then curled into the box. A melee ensued and Joachim Andersen blasted it into the net. VAR official Stuart Attwell checked it and it was ruled out for offside. Replays showed it was that fans’ favourite: a player offside by the length of his toenail.

It was a cruel moment for Denmark. But their fortunes took another turn for the worse immediately when Germany were awarded the penalty for Andersen’s handball.

Havertz stood over the penalty. Given some of the antipathy aimed towards him, the pressure must have been immense. He ran up slowly and halted his run to try to make Schmeichel commit. Schmeichel didn’t commit. But Havertz hit his penalty perfectly. Even though Schmeichel guessed the right way, the ball went past his left hand and in off the post.

Havertz nearly scored again he burst through with a lovely touch and a clever flick. Leroy Sane was running alongside him but he was bundled over as Havertz prepared to pass to him. Havertz lifted his effort over Schmeichel’s dive but it rolled agonisingly wide.

Midway through the half, after Hojlund had wasted a chance by shooting too close to Neuer, Germany put the game out of reach. Schlotterbeck played a fine pass over the top of the Denmark defence, Musiala outstripped Andersen and curled his shot around Schmeichel and into the corner of the net.

Once it had been rain that poured. Now beer flew through the air.

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