Denmark band of brothers determined to win Euros for fallen Christian Eriksen

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·3-min read
Denmark band of brothers determined to win Euros for fallen Christian Eriksen
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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Christian Eriksen will not walk onto the Wembley turf with Denmark on Wednesday, but he will be in the hearts and minds of all his team-mates as they prepare to take on England.

The scenes involving Eriksen on the opening weekend of Euro 2020 were some of the most traumatic ever witnessed on a football pitch, as he collapsed to the floor after suffering a cardiac arrest.

The Denmark midfielder received CPR and a shock from a defibrillator while on the pitch, with his team-mates forming a protective ring around him to shield what was happening from those inside the stadium and the millions watching around the world.

Since then, Eriksen has been recovering well and Denmark have gone on the most remarkable journey, which has seen them earn a showdown with England in the semi-finals.

Somehow, a story that started as a nightmare is becoming a fairytale, and the horrible scenes involving Eriksen have galvanised Denmark.

“He should have been here,” said Denmark midfielder Thomas Delaney in the wake of his side’s quarter-final win over the Czech Republic on Saturday.

“Of course, we carry him in our hearts. It is still something we are struggling with, but making him proud is something that makes me happy.”

Emotion can be a powerful tool when harnessed in the right way, and it has been impossible to not get sucked along into supporting Denmark on their journey. They have become everyone’s second team and, while England will have the support of nearly everyone inside Wembley, around the world one suspects people will be cheering Denmark.

“I think about [Christian] all the time, I wish he was here,” said Denmark boss Kasper Hjulmand. “I keep thinking how amazing it would be to see him play there. He is still a big part of this team. He is a big part of our road to Wembley. That team is not something we built overnight.”

As Hjulmand says, Denmark are not an overnight success story and, while the trauma around Eriksen may have spurred them on, underneath it all lies the foundations of a talented team.

When the squad met up for Euro 2020, they set their sights on at least reaching the semi-finals, which underlines the belief there is among them.

“The first thing I showed the boys when we met was a picture of Wembley, when we were there in the autumn,” said Hjulmand. “I said that we were going to come back.”

Hjulmand has proved true to his word and he has done an impressive job since being appointed last year.

That picture he showed the squad was from Denmark’s win over England in October of last year and they have lost just four times under Hjulmand. Three of those defeats came at the hands of Belgium, while the other was the game in which Eriksen collapsed, the group opener against Finland.

Brentford boss Thomas Frank — a fellow Dane — told Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet: “What we have seen tactically from Kasper has taken place at a very high level. I would describe it as top class, completely on par with Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel.”

Without star player Eriksen, Denmark have found a way to shine. Despite being only 21, Mikkel Damsgaard has stepped forward to become the team’s creator-in-chief and he has been allowed to flourish, thanks to the tireless work of Thomas Delaney and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg around him.

Out wide, wing-backs Joakim Maehle and Jens Stryger Larsen will make Gareth Southgate think seriously about matching Denmark’s 3-4-3 formation that has served them so well.

In defence, Denmark have been led superbly by captain Simon Kjaer and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. The two showed their leadership during the Eriksen crisis and they are the glue that holds this team together.

“It has been extraordinary, the support and this feeling of being a band of brothers,” said Kjaer. “We want to go all the way.”

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