Copenhagen (AFP) – Denmark can take heart that Christian Eriksen is recovering and will be cheering them on along with the rest of the country as they try to salvage their Euro 2020 campaign against fancied Belgium in Copenhagen on Thursday.
Kasper Hjulmand’s talented side know that their qualification from Group B will be in jeopardy if they get the same treatment that leaders Belgium dished out to Russia on Saturday, and they need to bounce back from their traumatic 1-0 defeat by Finland.
Eriksen told the world on Tuesday that he was “fine — under the circumstances” following his sickening mid-match collapse and said he will be right behind the teammates who rallied to his side as medics rushed to save his life.
Those players were still dazed when, after what UEFA called a “crisis meeting”, they returned to the field some two-and-a-half hours after kick-off to finish a match which had long since been overshadowed by Eriksen’s plight.
That loss came after what Kasper Schmeichel described on Monday as “a position, that I personally feel that we shouldn’t have been put in” as Denmark were offered the choice to complete the game that evening or Sunday afternoon.
However on Tuesday coach Hjulmand said Eriksen was in daily contact with the rest of the team and was trying to gee up his friends before they face the world’s top-ranked team.
Hjulmand said that “no-one can replace Christian” but will be looking to harness the emotions of the home crowd at the Parken Stadium, where Denmark will have the backing of some 25,000 fans after the Scandinavian nation relaxed coronavirus restrictions.
The 16,000 home fans present for the Finland match created a wall of noise in the first half as Denmark piled on the pressure, and the ‘Roligans’ will be in even fuller voice to cheer on their country on Thursday.
Some have taken to spray-painting murals in honour of their missing star around Copenhagen.
“It will be emotional for sure. But we should use these emotions for the match, and get ready to fight,” Hjulmand said.
– Ominous Lukaku looms –
They will need all the support they can get against Eriksen’s Inter Milan teammate Romelu Lukaku, whose ominous double in Belgium’s 3-0 win over the Russians showed why at the age of just 28 he is by some distance Belgium’s all-time record scorer with 62 goals.
Belgium top Group B on goal difference ahead of Finland and can seal their passage to the knockout stage with a game to spare at the Parken.
Roberto Martinez’s side were hugely impressive in their opening match and have been further boosted by the news that Borussia Dortmund midfielder Alex Witsel is available again after recovering from an Achilles tendon injury which had kept him out of action since January.
Witsel only began running again around a month ago but Belgium’s physiotherapist Lieven Maesschalk, who guided the player’s recovery, said “he isn’t scared” about his return.
“He is ready to play even if the risk of a relapse isn’t zero,” said Maesschalk on Tuesday.
Team doctors suggested that the 32-year-old should get some playing time against the Danes even if he is unlikely to start the match.
The news comes after playmaker Kevin De Bruyne trained with his Belgium teammates for the first time at the Euro on Monday, sparking hopes he could too play a role against the Danes.
The Manchester City playmaker missed the Russia match after having surgery for nose and eye socket fractures caused by a collision with Germany defender Antonio Rudiger in the Champions League final.
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