Christian Eriksen is front-and-center in the minds of all around the footballing world, but especially in Copenhagen, where he's recovering from cardiac arrest at a hospital down the road from where his Denmark faced Belgium in the teams' second group game of Euro 2020.
The scenes from Saturday's horrifying collapse and near-death experience are still fresh, with Eriksen needing to be resuscitated on the field at the end of the first half of Denmark's 1-0 loss to Finland in the Danish capital. And in Denmark's first match since then and the build-up to it, Eriksen has been the focus. The daily updates about his recovery have been encouraging, with Eriksen himself posting on social media that he's "fine — under the circumstances." Thursday came word that he would be fitted with an implantable device to monitor his heart, one that the Danish federation said has been recommended by "specialists nationally and internationally," and his recovery has served as a rallying point for his country and national team.
"Today, we will enter the pitch against Belgium with Christian in our hearts and thoughts,” Denmark captain Simon Kjaer, who helped save Eriksen's life, said Thursday. ”It gives us peace in our minds, which allows us to focus on the game of football. We will play for Christian, and as always for all of Denmark. That is the greatest motivation for us all.”
Prior to the game, which Belgium ultimately won, 2–1, Red Devils' star and Eriksen's Inter Milan teammate Romelu Lukaku indicated that both teams would play the ball out in the 10th minute—in honor of Eriksen's No. 10 shirt–for a stadium-wide minute of applause as part of the emotional scenes all around the Parken Stadium before, during and after the poignant tribute.
A giant Eriksen jersey was carried onto the field prior to the players coming out of the tunnel to kick off the tributes, with the famous Liverpool theme "You'll Never Walk Alone" ringing throughout the stadium upon their entry.
Belgium then gifted a signed "CHRISTIAN" jersey to Denmark at the meeting of the captains following the anthems, showing the continued worldwide support for the player and his national team.
On the field, Denmark provided its own tribute less than two minutes in, pouncing on a turnover and scoring through Yussuf Poulsen. At 99 seconds in, it became the second-fastest goal in the history of the competition.
The moment that had been discussed prior to the match took place a few seconds after the clock hit the 10-minute mark, with the match coming to a halt and both teams taking the cue from the fans in attendance, stopping to applaud for Eriksen for a minute. Supporters, meanwhile, unfurled a banner that, translated, read "All of Denmark is with you, Christian."
The good vibes didn't carry all the way through for the hosts. Man City star Kevin De Bruyne came off the bench at halftime for Belgium and made the difference, with an assist and a goal that overturned the early deficit.
Nevertheless, Denmark is still playing for a greater purpose, and it remains alive in the competition despite having lost its first two games. It could yet go through as a third-place finisher with the right set of circumstances.
“We’ll try to prepare ourselves for this experience,” Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand said before the match. “But it will be emotional for sure. But we should use these emotions for the match and get ready to fight, get ready to play well. And allow ourselves to go with everything we have. And hopefully we can use this for something positive and be strong out there.”
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