FILE PHOTO: Football player Christian Eriksen meets the press in the mixed zone at Hotel Barcelo, Marbella, Spain March 24, 2022. Ritzau Scanpix via REUTERS
By Philip O’Connor
Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen’s return from a near-fatal heart attack at Euro 2022 to the peak of his powers during recent internationals has the country’s fans dreaming of what the playmaker can achieve at the World Cup.
In a proud football nation known for punching above its weight where everyone has an opinion on the game, Eriksen stands alone as a player universally loved and the 30-year-old will arrive in Qatar primed to pay them back for their affection.
It was not always like this.
Back in 2010 Eriksen was a callow youth who had broken into the Denmark squad just in time to be included in Morten Olsen’s World Cup plans, but he was not quite trusted by the Denmark coach and only played in two games in South Africa.
That did not last long and a stellar performance against England at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen the following February cemented Eriksen’s position as the fulcrum of the national side for the decade to come.
The Danes missed the finals in Brazil four years later and by the time they arrived in Russia in 2018 he was the central figure in the team and had been for several years.
By then Olsen had made way for the pragmatic Age Hareide and Denmark never really got going, with the Norwegian coach failing to get the best out of his precocious playmaker.
Sometimes unfairly characterised as a luxury player who lacks bite, Eriksen showed great resolve to tough it out at Inter Milan under Antonio Conte, where he eventually played a key role in the team that won the Italian title in 2021.
Aside from his ability to score from distance with either foot, what sets Eriksen apart is his vision and intelligence.
He seems to be able to see how the game is going to unfold a split second before everyone else and uses that time to punish the opposition with snap shots and incisive passing.
“I think everyone knows now how good he is – what he does looks easy, but he could play on any team in the world,” Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand told Reuters in a pre-World Cup interview.
As the outpouring of anguish in the wake of Eriksen’s Euros heart attack showed, he is still loved by all and, having fully recovered, will again be the heartbeat of Hjulmand’s team when the World Cup gets underway.
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