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Eriksen scores on Copenhagen return as England, France, Italy win friendlies


Paris (AFP) – Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen scored Tuesday on his return to the Copenhagen stadium where he suffered a cardiac arrest last year as England and France also won the latest round of pre-World Cup friendlies.

The Dane, wearing the captain’s armband, struck in the 57th minute to round off Denmark’s 3-0 friendly win against Serbia in the Parken Stadium where he collapsed and nearly died in a European championship match against Finland last June.

“To come back to Parken and score a goal with the welcome I received… is something that gives you goosebumps. It makes me incredibly happy,” said Eriksen.

At Wembley, Ollie Watkins scored on his first start for England as Gareth Southgate’s rejigged side beat 10-man Ivory Coast 3-0.

A reshuffled France also saw Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud on target for the world champions in a comfortable 5-0 victory over South Africa eight months before the World Cup kicks off in Doha.

European heavyweights Germany and the Netherlands played out a 1-1 draw in Amsterdam while Italy salvaged some pride days after failing to qualify for a second consecutive World Cup, beating Turkey 3-2 in Konya.

In Copenhagen, taking to the pitch, Eriksen was handed the captain’s armband and received a huge wave of applause from the home crowd.

“Welcome home Eriksen” and “Welcome home Christian” banners were unfurled by fans as the players came onto the pitch at the capital’s national stadium.

Joakim Maehle opened the scoring for Denmark after quarter of an hour with Jesper Lindstrom adding a second eight minutes after the break. 

Eriksen, who has relaunched his club career with Brentford in the Premier League, scored the third with a shot from outside the box for his 38th goal in 111 appearances. 

The 30-year-old was substituted after 80 minutes, leaving the field to a standing ovation and was later named man of the match.

In London, Southgate’s new-look home team took time to settle but first-half strikes from Watkins and captain Raheem Sterling either side of a red card for the visitors put them in total control.

The game fizzled out as a sporting contest as England lost their rhythm but Tyrone Mings headed home from a corner in stoppage time to add gloss to the scoreline for the Euro 2020 runners-up in the final match before the World Cup draw on Friday. 

European champions Italy also rung the changes days after their shock defeat to North Macedonia that denied them a World Cup berth.

Bryan Cristante’s 35th minute header and a Giacomo Raspadori brace gave the European champions the win after Cengiz Under had given the hosts a fourth-minute lead.

Serdar Dursun pulled one back with seven minutes left but Gianluigi Donnarumma, who had a wobbly evening, stopped the Fenerbahce forward from heading Turkey level moments later with a superb save.

“It was the first time that they all played together so it wasn’t easy for them,” added Mancini.

“They’re all young lads, they need time. It wasn’t easy even if the match itself wasn’t worth very match. They were good and that makes me happy for them.”

– Dominant France –

In Lille, Giroud scored either side of a Mbappe brace for his 48th goal for Les Bleus to close in on Thierry Henry’s record of 51.

Mbappe curled in France’s opening goal after 23 minutes off an Antoine Griezmann cross with the Atletico Madrid forward also involved in Giroud’s second.

Mbappe got the third with quarter of an hour to go from the penalty spot with Wissam Ben Yedder and Matteo Guendouzi adding two as South Africa played a man down after Khuliso Mudau’s late sending-off.

In Amsterdam, Tottenham forward Steven Bergwijn came off the bench to equalise for the Netherlands after Thomas Mueller had put the Germans ahead just before the break.

“Heading into Qatar, we have to use every international match and that was valuable,” said Germany captain Manuel Neuer.

“We were decent for long stretches and the bottom line is that the team is on a very good path.”

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