When Christian Eriksen returned to training after suffering cardiac arrest in the European Championship last year, it was with one primary goal in mind.
“I think one of the first conversations I had with the doctor… was that my goal was to play the World Cup if all goes well,” Eriksen told FIFA’s website in a recent interview. . “It was the dream at the time.” Few who saw Eriksen surrounded by paramedics and teammates as he lay lifeless on the pitch at Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium would have considered the dream realistic.
But Eriksen is once again set to be a key part of Denmark’s squad in Qatar, less than 18 months after medics used a defibrillator to restart his heart as a horrified nation – and much of it of the world of football – was watching.
It will be the next step in a remarkable comeback that has already seen Eriksen return to elite football, first with Brentford and then Manchester United – showing he is still among the best playmakers in the world. He made his national team return in March, scoring two minutes after coming on as a substitute in a 4-2 loss to the Netherlands. He also scored with a shot from 25 yards against Croatia in the Nations League in September.
“I feel on top and comfortable,” Eriksen told Danish media during last month’s international break. “There’s really nothing that can stand in my way.” A TEAM TO WATCH While Eriksen is Denmark’s best player, he’s far from the only reason to pay attention to the only Scandinavian team at the World Cup. Their ordeal at Euro 2020 only seemed to make Denmark stronger as a team as their teammates bonded into an even tighter group afterwards.
Denmark reached the semi-finals of the tournament before losing to England, then completed a near-perfect World Cup qualifying campaign – winning their first nine games to secure a place in Qatar before losing the 10th and last game.
“I think this team has the potential to reach another level,” said Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand. “When I think back to that Euro semi-final against England at Wembley, for example, we know we can play a lot better than we did that day.” To underline this statement, Denmark beat defending World Cup champions France 2-0 in their last Nations League game in September.
“If we can play at this level again, we also have a good chance of getting a good result for the World Cup,” Eriksen said after the win over France.
The Danes will face France again in Qatar, as well as Australia and Tunisia in Group D.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS Denmark have conceded just one goal in their first nine World Cup qualifiers, underscoring the strength of a defense anchored by veteran goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, captain Simon Kjaer and fellow centre-back Andreas Christensen.
Tottenham’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg adds another focal point in midfield while 22-year-old winger Mikkel Damsgaard is seen as a star in the making. The only question is where the goals will come from. Full-back Joakim Maehle was Denmark’s joint-top scorer in qualifying with five goals, while regular striker Yussuf Poulsen scored just one.
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