sports

Eriksen brings calm to Denmark squad


Denmark's number 10, Christian Eriksen, will be a quiet but inspirational figure for his team during the World Cup, after his sudden cardiac arrest during a Euro 2020 game traumatised a nation.

The Middelfart-born playmaker spent eight months out following his collapse on June 12, 2021. He returned in a Premier League game for Brentford on February 26 this year.

A few weeks later, he was back playing for Denmark in a game against the Netherlands.

Even though the Danish squad proved their worth without him, reaching the semi-finals of the Euro and easily qualifying for the World Cup, Eriksen's return was warmly welcomed.

"His return to the team less than one year after, it's a little cliche to say but it's a fairytale story which almost seems unreal," Andreas Kraul, a sports commentator for broadcaster DR, told AFP.

"And from the minute he was back, he has made a difference," Kraul added.

At press conferences, coach Kasper Hjulmand has praised Eriksen's contribution to the team.

"The Danish national football team is better with than without Christian Eriksen, because his calmness is infectious, so the whole team is better able to make the right decisions," Hjulmand said recently.

The small country of 5.9 million people has an intimate relationship with their team, but things have changed since Eriksen's collapse.

"He's now also a symbol of hope and joy," one supporter, Kasper Thomsen, told AFP.

Most agree that his new-found maturity has benefited the side, of which he is one of the veterans – along with captain Simon Kjaer and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

"We see the signs of a relaxation and ease in Christian's game, which is fantastic," coach Hjulmand noted.

"He's so composed and calm, and he plays a lot of deep balls left and right, he keeps the game moving when he needs to, and it's a pleasure to see the way he settles in on the pitch," he added.

However, the depth of talent in the rest of the squad also allows the player with 117 caps and 39 goals for Denmark to relax.

"A good thing for Eriksen is that the team is not depending on him as much as it used to. Sometimes in his career there has been too much weight on his shoulders," Kraul noted.

"He seems more relaxed on the pitch, seems almost to be enjoying himself."

Eriksen, who had to leave Inter Milan after having a pacemaker fitted to regulate his heartbeat, remains humble and approachable.

The former Ajax midfielder "has both feet on the ground," according to Anders Skjoldemose, who coached him at Odense when Eriksen was just 15.

Skjoldemose recalled when Eriksen had just returned from a trial at AC Milan and he asked the youngster how it went.

"He just said 'OK.' Most people would have been really excited but for him it was just fine," he said.

Eriksen "is still the same person, still the same player," Skjoldemose added.

"On the pitch he gives everything in every game. He has become a leader by not being someone who yells at others but because of his play, and that's why he's likeable."


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