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Denmark channelling Christian Eriksen spirit on Euro 2020 journey as England clash awaits


Denmark were utterly crestfallen. Emotionally drained. Yet they knew they still had to fight on.

No team has been through anything close to what Denmark’s 26-man squad and their coaching staff have experienced over the past three weeks.

But incredibly, powered by the spirit of their absent friend, Kasper Hjulmand’s side have Euro 2020 glory in their sights.

It is sometimes forgotten that footballers are human too. They feel the same emotions that other humans do, no matter how much psychological or mental work they do at their respective clubs.

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Nothing can prepare a footballer for the wave of emotion that overwhelms you when you see something happen to someone you care about.

Denmark players gathered around their stricken team-mate Christian Eriksen
Denmark players gathered around their stricken team-mate Christian Eriksen

For the Denmark squad, they had to live through those tragic moments where perhaps they feared the worst for Christian Eriksen.

The playmaker collapsed on the pitch when in possession in the European Championship opener against Finland. Had it not been for the quick actions of Simon Kjaer and the Denmark medical team, he might not have survived.

The Denmark captain acted in rapid fashion when he saw Eriksen fall to the ground, clearing his airwaves and administering CPR while his friend’s life hung in the balance. T he rest of his team-mates formed a human shield to give Eriksen some privacy while he was being treated.

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Kjaer then went to console Eriksen’s devastated wife, Sabrina. It was a touching moment on the sidelines as she sought to reassure her and there was not a dry eye in the stadium at the final whistle.

Simon Kjaer consoled Christian Eriksen's partner Sabrina Kvist Jensen after his cardiac arrest
Simon Kjaer consoled Christian Eriksen’s partner Sabrina Kvist Jensen after his cardiac arrest

The players, fans and officials had all been on an emotional rollercoaster together and that horrible feeling of being suspended in the air had finally passed.

As the players walked off the pitch and went back to the dressing room, this no longer felt like football. It simply paled in importance to what had happened and everyone knew it. Yet several hours later, the players emerged from the tunnel, ready to continue.

There were outcries from journalists and fans criticising UEFA, claiming they had forced Denmark to play or risk a 3-0 defeat by default. They had decided to play with Eriksen in their hearts and their fans in the stadium. They gave it their all.

The game between Denmark and Belgium was stopped in the 10th minute in support of Christian Eriksen
The game between Denmark and Belgium was stopped in the 10th minute in support of Christian Eriksen

Finland, against all the odds having only mustered one shot to Denmark’s 18, scored the winner through Joel Pohjanpalo on the hour mark. They almost felt embarrassed, refusing to celebrate, but it was a crucial goal for the Nordic nation.

At that point, it looked as if the Danes were heading out, with Belgium and Russia still to play.

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But by some divine miracle, they made it through despite losing to Belgium. Their 4-1 scoreline over Russia was enough to secure third place in the group and with a positive goal difference progressed to the last-16 knockout round.

With every game and the news that Eriksen has been released from hospital, Denmark have grown strength by strength.

Christian Eriksen has since been discharged from hospital
Christian Eriksen has since been discharged from hospital

With every dark cloud there is light behind it and for Hjulmand, losing Eriksen was a big blow. Not just for his footballing abilities but as a dressing room presence too.

His understudy Mikkel Damsgaard has taken on the role brilliantly, with a goal against Russia and assist in the resounding 4-0 win over Wales in the next round.

What are your score predictions for England vs Denmark in the Euro 2020 semi-final? Let us know in the comments section below.

Goals from Thomas Delaney and Kasper Dolberg were enough to see off the Czech Republic 2-1 in the quarter-finals. And their run to the last four has led to many suggesting they can repeat the success of the side that won the competition in 1992.

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Hjulmand is not disagreeing whatsoever and thinks his side can use the memory of what happened to Eriksen to spur them on.

But the 49-year-old is keen for his players to ignore their heroes’ success from 29 years ago and “write their own history” when they visit Wembley in front of 60,000 fans on Wednesday.

Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand wore a red bracelet on his wrist in tribute to Christian Eriksen
Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand wore a red bracelet on his wrist in tribute to Christian Eriksen

“I believe in my team’s character,” Hjulmand said. “And in the love and compassion they’re receiving from the fans. It’s giving us wings.

“We’re playing with Eriksen in our hearts. We really believe in ourselves and we’ll continue to fight.”

A number of players perhaps only well-known in their respective leagues have made a notable impression on the world stage. Damsgaard is reportedly a target for Tottenham, Joakhim Maehle has been linked with Chelsea and Martin Braithwaite has put himself in the shop window as he looks set to leave Barcelona.

There are several players in their squad who ply their trade in the Premier League. Some are very familiar with the England squad — Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg faces Harry Kane in training everyday, while Kasper Schmeichel is a Leicester City veteran; there aren’t many new faces to him.

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As players often do in the pre-match build-up, Mason Mount texted a joke to his Chelsea team-mate Andreas Christensen asking why he doesn’t score more goals like his long-range drive against Russia for his club.

Christensen laughed it off but it shows that the mind games, friendly or sinister, have already begun. The 25-year-old gave his response, issuing a warning to the Three Lions about their strengths and stating there is not much daylight between the teams.

Denmark have beaten Russia, Wales and Czech Republic to reach the semi-finals
Denmark have beaten Russia, Wales and Czech Republic to reach the semi-finals

“I feel like we have the qualities to play against everyone. As a team, I would not say they are that much better,” Christensen said on Monday.

It would be patronising and reductionist to suggest Denmark’s form is solely because of what happened to Eriksen. This is a squad blessed with an abundance of talent, as evidenced by the fact Yussuf Poulsen — a striker for RB Leipzig — has been forced to make do with a bit-part role.

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That said, a number of factors will make England favourites going into the semi-final on Wednesday and the Three Lions will have the pressure of such a tag to cope with.

For instance, they have only played one game outside of the UK — the memorable 4-0 win over Ukraine in Rome on Saturday. Denmark had to travel to Baku for their tie against the Czechs and in playing at Wembley, only Danish fans currently residing in the UK will be able to attend the match.

It means that of the 60,000 people expected, England fans will be there in droves, making it almost a home match.

Denmark's loyal fans will not be attending Wembley unless they already reside in the UK
Denmark’s loyal fans will not be attending Wembley unless they already reside in the UK

But Kjaer believes Eriksen’s illness has had a positive impact on the squad, bringing them closer together as a unit and enhancing their performances on the pitch.

“It did something to the group. We thrive and we’re safe together,” he told Goal.

“We know we can trust the people around us. We know that if one of us is in trouble, then someone else is there for you.

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“It gives us security and of course it makes Christian feel good. We can press because we know that the player next to us is there to back us up.”

Even if Denmark do not have an army of fans making their way over from Scandinavia, they know that Eriksen will be cheering them on from afar — and he can be their “12th man” to help them take another step closer towards a phenomenal triumph.





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