football

Denmark determined to deliver where it all began for Christian Eriksen


Denmark will not have the raw emotion of Parken behind them for the first time at Euro 2020 when they face Wales but Amsterdam holds its own power and poignancy for Kasper Hjulmand’s team. The city, and stadium, where Christian Eriksen started his professional career offers a fitting stage for the Danes to deliver another tribute to their stricken playmaker.

“We are playing in Christian’s old home,” said the Denmark head coach. “We are really looking forward to this after a great experience at the Parken [Stadium] and some crazy days. We had three games at Parken that were filled with enough emotion to last an entire lifetime and now we are so excited to give it our all against Wales.”

Eriksen was 16 when he signed his first professional contract with Ajax in 2008, following a path trodden by many celebrated Danish footballers, and Hjulmand believes the country’s close connections with the famous Amsterdam club will bring added support for his players on Saturday. That appears guaranteed, with the Dutch authorities giving Denmark fans a 12-hour window to attend the last-16 tie while banning Welsh supporters because the UK is not on their designated safe list.

“If there is a club that means something to Danish football outside of Denmark and has done something for Denmark then it is Ajax,” Hjulmand said. “They have been developing and improving Danish players for years so of course there is a huge connection between Amsterdam, Ajax and Denmark. We have three players from there in this squad.

“Christian was 16 when he came to Ajax and left five years later. Then there’s [Kasper] Dolberg and many others I could mention were discovered in Denmark and developed in Ajax.

A young Christian Eriksen in action for Ajax in 2012.
A young Christian Eriksen in action for Ajax in 2012. Photograph: VI-Images/VI-Images via Getty Images

“I know a lot of people here and the philosophy they have behind football is something I respect a lot. Johan Cruyff was one of the biggest players and coaches in football. I feel connected to this and the philosophy they have.

We have a huge connection to this city and I hope everyone in the Netherlands will feel the same thing tomorrow and come in red and white and not orange. I hope we will have some support from this wonderful place.”

Denmark’s head coach believes there is a power driving his team in their response to the cardiac arrest suffered by Eriksen in the opening game against Finland. He said: “We dealt with a very traumatic experience and the same night we kept playing. Then we played one of the best teams in the world a couple of days later [Belgium] and then we beat Russia. That shows the power we possess. It is both a mental and physical power.”

Hjulmand added: “We respect Wales. What they’ve done in the last few years is really good, they remind us of ourselves. They are proud to represent their country, everyone supports them and the players always give their best football. We respect them a lot. At the same time we feel safe and comfortable in the things we do. We have so much power that we will hopefully have again tomorrow in what I consider to be an equal game.”

There will be several club reunions on the pitch with the two goalkeepers, Kasper Schmeichel and Danny Ward, teammates at Leicester and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg up against his Tottenham colleague of last season Gareth Bale.

“Not many players have done what Gareth has done over the past 10 years,” said the Denmark midfielder, who has three assists in three games at the Euros. “He is an amazing player, a fantastic guy, a leader. He’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with. I know how much Wales means to him and what this game means to him. I wish him all the best but not tomorrow.”



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