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Denmark lost its opening game of Euro 2020, but it was inconsequential considering the scare it had with midfielder Christian Eriksen collapsing on the field.
Eriksen reportedly urged his teammates from a hospital bed to complete the game against Finland, which had been suspended just before halftime.
Joel Pohjanpalo scored on a header in the 60th minute to give Finland a 1-0 win in Copenhagen, in its first appearance at the European championship.
Pohjanpalo and his teammate’s celebration were muted considering the circumstances, where the only thing that mattered was the health of Eriksen.
“First of all my heart goes to the family and friends of Christian Eriksen, I hope that everything is going well,” Pohjanpalo said after the match. “The message that we got is that everything at the moment is stable and everything is good. He was awake and he was also wishing that we continue playing. We got together with the Danish team and we decided to continue.
“It’s amazing to see how football connects people and how all the fans here from Finland and from Denmark were shouting his name and loving the game. He’s in our prayers and our thoughts.”
Eriksen, 29, a former Tottenham Hotspur and current Inter Milan star, needed urgent medical attention after collapsing shortly after making a pass and lying unconscious to the horror of all the players, 15,200 fans in the Parken Stadium, and all those around the world watching on television.
“It was a tough night,” an emotional Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand said. “I couldn’t be prouder of these people who take such good care of each other and in such a time when one of my very dear friends is suffering. The way the players talked in the locker room and were there to show their emotions.
“They decided not to do anything before we were sure that Christian was conscious and that everything was OK. So we had two options; to play the game or play tomorrow. Everyone agreed on playing today. Of course you can’t play a game with such feelings and what we tried to do was incredible. It was incredible that the players tried to play the second half, I’m very affected myself.”
Medical staff worked on Eriksen for nearly 15 minutes to revive him, which included chest compressions and CPR. Players from both teams looked visibly upset as Eriksen lay on the ground and the Danes eventually circled around him to shield him from cameras as medical professionals worked frantically on him.
“I didn’t see it myself, but it was pretty clear that he was unconscious,” said the Denmark team doctor Morten Boesen, who was brought out to the post-game media conference with Hjulmand. “When I get to him he is on his side, he is breathing and I can feel his pulse but suddenly that changes and as everyone saw, we started giving him CPR.
“Help came really, really fast from the medical team and the rest of the staff and with their cooperation we did what we had to do. We managed to get Christian back. He spoke to me before he was taken to the hospital for more analysis.”
Blankets were held around the gurney as it was wheeled off the field with Eriksen on it, but a picture emerged on Twitter showing his eyes were open and he appeared conscious.
The game was suspended by organizers with roughly five minutes remaining the first half. Players retreated to their respective locker rooms while fans remained in shock in the stands.
During the delay, the Danish soccer association announced Eriksen was awake and stable in hospital awaiting further tests. Fans cheered when the news was broadcast on the scoreboard and both Danish and Finnish fans took turns chanting Eriksen’s name.
A decision was made to complete the game at the players’ request after Eriksen reported communicated with his teammates from his hospital bed to get back on the field.
“There was no pressure from UEFA to play,” Hjulmand said. “We knew we had two options. The players couldn’t imagine not being able to sleep tonight and then having to get on the bus and come in again tomorrow. Honestly, it was best to get it over with. Of course you can’t play a game with such feelings and what we tried to do was incredible.”
Less than two hours after the incident, both teams returned to the field for a short warm-up before completing the end of the first half and then the second after a short five-minute interval. Mathias Jensen replaced Eriksen in the lineup.
The game was the second of three of the day. Russia and Belgium took the field in St. Petersburg a half hour after the Denmark-Finland match resumed.
Belgium won the game 3-0 and, after scoring his first of two goals, striker Romelu Lukaku ran to the camera and to wish Eriksen well. The two play together at Inter.
“It was tough to play because my mind was on my teammate Christian,” Lukaku said. “I hope he’s healthy and I dedicate this performance to him.”
Shortly after the restart, Pohjanpalo put Finland ahead heading in a cross which bounced in front of Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and in past him.
Denmark had an excellent opportunity to tie the game in the 73rd minute when striker Yussuf Poulsen was fouled in the penalty area by Finland defender Paulus Arajuuri.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg stepped up to take the penalty, but his soft shot was easily stopped by goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky, diving to his left.
Denmark made a frantic push to tie the game at the urging of its fans, but were unable to create another quality opportunity.