Copenhagen – Having been put through the wringer by their team at Euro 2020 so far, Danish fans are preparing for another outpouring of emotion as the side takes on Russia on Monday needing a win to have any hope of making the knockout stage.
Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest in the opening Group B game against Finland temporarily derailed all thoughts of the side repeating its victorious Euro 92 campaign, but his remarkable recovery has both the team and the fans wanting to get back to winning ways for him.
On a sultry weekend afternoon at Faelledparken, teams of boys born in 2006 and representing Skjold and Frederiksberg BK played on a bumpy grass pitch overlooked on one side by the Parken stadium, where Eriksen collapsed, and on the other by the Rigshospitalet hospital, where he was taken to recover.
Afterwards the Frederiksberg players spoke of their shock when Eriksen slumped to the grass, with some admitting that they cried when they thought the playmaker had died on the field while representing their country.
“I was scared that he would die. When he fell down to the ground and his team mates were pushing on his chest, it was very scary,” defender Ayoub told Reuters.
Remarkably, both Eriksen and the Danes bounced back. The midfielder has been discharged from hospital after having a device fitted to regulate his heartbeat and prevent future heart attacks.
His team carried on without him, scoring in the second minute against Belgium before going on to lose 2-1, but a win over Russia could see them make the knockout stages, if other results favor them despite having had the worst-possible start.
“I don’t really have a favorite player but I think the best player is surely Christian Eriksen,” Ayoub said.
“It’s hard without him, he’s a very great player — there’s something missing in Denmark’s game when he’s not on the pitch. They need him.”
With its numerous soccer pitches and leafy trees offering shade, Faelledparken is a magnet for the residents of Copenhagen during the summer, and state broadcaster DR has its studio located in one corner, with Parken looming in the background.
On one unused field, a giant shirt of the kind passed over the heads of fans on the terraces is being prepared ahead of Monday’s game. The word “hero” in Danish is plastered in white plastic where the name should be, but as yet it has no number.
It might eventually be adorned with the No. 4 worn by captain Simon Kjaer, who ran to the aid of the stricken Eriksen, or with the No. 20 of Yussuf Poulsen, who scored against Belgium on Denmark’s return to Parken after the near-tragedy.
As his team changed from their boots and jumped on their bikes to cycle home, Frederiksberg coach Bilal Bezzerougi laughingly declined to offer advice to Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand ahead of the game at Parken on Monday.
“I don’t have any tactics, just go out and play soccer,” was the best he could manage.
With Hjulmand and the team having promised Eriksen victory over the Russians, that might just be enough.
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