For a friend: How Denmark left their hearts out on the pitch for Christian Eriksen

Christian Eriksen had collapsed to the ground during Denmark's first game of Euro 2020 against Finland, and had to receive CPR.

The Denmark players celebrate a goal at Euro 2020. (Image: Twitter/Martin Braithwaite)

In the past year and a half, the world has been a strange place. Restrictions against human interactions, deserted streets, and shops, people losing their lives by the hundreds each day, and an overall gloomy state of affairs. It is true that the coronavirus pandemic has indeed released its full wrath upon humankind. In such trying times, football often serves as an antidote to millions of fans, even if it was once a week. As the Euros edged closer, people found something to be excited about, something to look forward to. Indeed, regular football would do a lot to put some people’s minds at ease. Who would have imagined that one of the scariest and heartbreaking moments in footballing history would unfold in this competition? Copenhagen, Denmark was ready for some action.

There was a sense of positivity in the air as Danish football fans made their way to the stadium in the heart of the capital to see their beloved Denmark play. Most countries in Europe share one common trait, their unrelenting love for the beautiful game. It did not matter if a country was a powerhouse in the sport or just a minnow so to speak. And if it is the Euro Cup, every single team will have immense support. Denmark fans turned out in numbers for the game against Finland on that fateful day June 12, 2021.

It was perhaps an even more momentous occasion for Finland, for who, this was their first European competition. Lead by their talisman Teemu Pukki, Finland had performed momentously in the Euro Cup qualifiers and had finally made their way to the finals. Finnish fans, one might say, were more excited than the Danish, and were perhaps making more noise as the away supporters at the Parken stadium.

DENMARK’S FIRST MATCH: EXCITEMENT TO HORROR

The match began with a very organised and well-drilled Denmark side taking control of the game from the first minute. They were passing the ball beautifully, making slick moves into the Finnish penalty area, and keeping the games away from their own half. Finland did not even manage to get a single shot off, however miscalculated and far from the Danish goal. Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel might have had the most comfortable half of football of his career.

One of the main orchestrators, probably the most important, was Inter Milan playmaker Christian Eriksen. He seemed lethal, finding those passes that cut through the Finnish defence. After a point of time, it got rather frustrating as the Denmark strikers were not being to find a finish against the Finnish. The scoreline might have been 0-0 but the game was far from tight. Denmark were getting close and right at the stroke of half-time, they received a throw near the Finnish penalty area. What followed left everyone shocked.

Eriksen received the ball from the throw, and within a second, without any contact, collapsed to the ground. The Finnish player marking him seemed to be frozen for a moment, staring helplessly around him as Eriksen’s teammate made a beeline for their teammate. Danish captain Simon Kjaer stood closest to the former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder. It seemed like Eriksen had fainted. The skipper ensured that there was no additional danger as he prevented his teammate from swallowing his tongue.

Soon after, there was chaos. Medical staff scrambled across to Eriksen, who was not responsive to their calls. The Danish and Finnish players moved to tears, some too shocked by the gravity of what had happened to move. They formed a wall around Eriksen that prevented television cameras from taking shots of him. As UEFA controlled stadium coverage of all Euro matches, the footballing body came under heavy criticism for not cutting off the telecast as soon as it happened. However, fans watching at home understood that Eriksen was being given CPR and a defibrillator had been brought it. The world stood frozen in that one moment as people started to assume the worst. It was a lot like that moment in Formula 1 when Romain Grosjean’s car burst into flames while he was in it.

RELIEF

Thankfully, like Grosjean, Christian Eriksen had not suffered the worst. A journalist’s photograph showing Eriksen being escorted out of the stadium with his eyes open brought relief for millions around the globe. As fans and players heaved a sigh of relief, UEFA forced the Danish and Finnish players to make an impossible choice. Would they like to complete the match on that day itself or wait until the next? For a set of players that had witnessed what transpired that day, this decision was, quite frankly, inhumane. UEFA came under immense criticism, and rightfully so.

The players later agreed that they would complete the match on that day itself. Finland won the game 1-0. They had only one shot in the entire match, compared to Denmark’s 22. Nobody can blame the Danish, however. It was a position no one ever would want to find themselves. Even Finland’s first goal in the Euros got no celebration from either fans or players, out of respect. A class act from the Finnish.

DENMARK TAKES THE FIELD…FOR ERIKSEN

Denmark’s next match was against group favorites Belgium. On paper, there was no competition. Belgium was the superior side by far, and there should have been no question about the winner. The Danish, however, shattered those illusions of being the stronger side on paper. It took them only two minutes to take the lead. They dedicated the goal to Eriksen. It was not meant to be, however, as the Belgians scored two in the second half.

Denmark’s final group game was a must-win, and they had to do it handsomely if they were to qualify for the knockout stages. Standing in front of them was the 2018 FIFA World Cup quarter-finalist, Russia. The same side that had knocked out mighty Spain from the world cup five years ago. Once again, the Danish side was the weaker one on paper.

However, what Denmark had was the will to fight for a teammate and a friend. There is nothing Eriksen would have wanted more than to see his team qualify to the round of 16. That is possibly what he might have said to his teammates when they went to visit him in the hospital after he was awake. And his players did not disappoint. It was a Danish performance like no other. They played with so much energy, so much passion, so much desire to win. The difference in skill between them and Russia was completely overshadowed by how hard each and every single one of those Danish players worked.

Denmark won handsomely, dispatching four goals while conceding only once. Each and every one of their goals was dedicated to Eriksen, and so was the victory. They are scheduled to face Wales in the first round of 16 tie of Euro 2020 on Sunday. For a side like Denmark, winning the Euros would be a next-to-impossible feat as of yet. However, as long as they keep fighting with their teammate Christian Eriksen in their mind, they will give their all on the pitch, and will rightfully earn the respect of footballing fans around the world.




WRITTEN BY
Sportslumo Desk

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