Jeppe Højbjerg’s hands helped Denmark keep Iraq off the scoreboard in an Olympic opener that will give more confidence to the Asian side.
The Esbjerg keeper was called upon several times against a busy Iraqi side who could’ve very well taken all three points in a 0-0 draw at the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha in Brasília on Thursday.
Brazil and South Africa contend Group A’s other opening match at 3 p.m. EDT.
Iraq outshot Denmark 17-9, but Hojbjerg was the difference.
Denmark came close to opening incredibly well when Brentford man Lasse Vibe made a smart run from the right side to pop a shot off the far post.
Højbjerg was called into duty for a counter attack save moments later, as both sides kept the pace high early.
Denmark’s size advantage was on display early as the Danes worked the ball around the 18 via headed 50-50 wins.
Unfortunately, the match settled down in both sides’ thirds.
That changed in the 26th, as Denmark countered from a good spell of Iraqi possession. Vibe was parried by Mohammed Hameed, and a Danish foul stopped the rebound from mattering.
Udinese’s Ali Adnan forced Hojbjerg into a terrific punch save of a free kick just as the first half reached stoppage time, and a chippy half ended without a goal.
Hameed made a flying punch on Casper Nielsen to keep it scoreless off a 48th minute free kick.
Hammadi Ahmad forced Hojbjerg into an extending catch of a 22-yard shot with under 20 to play, as the match simultaneously felt open yet destined for 0-0.
That happened thanks to Hojbjerg, who made save after save in the final minutes thanks mostly to smart positioning.