Kasper Hjulmand, the Denmark head coach, speaks with the media following Saturday's night's match
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Uefa has come under attack from Denmark’s head coach for giving players the “wrong” options which led them to resume their match against Finland after Christian Eriksen’s collapse.
In an impassioned press conference, Kasper Hjulmand expressed pride at his players’ reaction but admitted he had regrets over the decision to play less than two hours later.
European football’s governing body had given Denmark the option of either continuing the Group B game in Copenhagen that night or on Sunday. The Saturday resumption, which led to a 1-0 defeat, was seen as the lesser of two evils by the players.
When asked whether Uefa had been compassionate enough, Hjulmand recognised that it had been “very difficult” for them given the unprecedented scenes in a major tournament. “But looking back, I think it was a wrong thing – to make the decision between the two scenarios to the players – in this case,” he added.
“Players were in a shock condition, players who don’t really know yet if they lost their best friend, and they have to decide between these two things.
“I have a sense that we shouldn’t have played, but I know it’s difficult. It’s just a feeling I have. Maybe we should have just got on the bus and gone home… but that’s just my feeling now. I think it was a very, very tough decision – a tough message that the players had to try to make a decision.”
Eriksen, the Inter Milan and former Tottenham midfielder, remains in a stable condition at the Rigshospitalet hospital in Copenhagen, having been given CPR treatment by medical staff on the field by team medics.
In the frantic minutes after he collapsed in the 42nd minute of the match, his partner, Sabrina Kvist Jensen, feared he had died.
Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel ran over to reassure her Eriksen was breathing, but it has since emerged that not even his team doctor was confident he would survive.
Medic Morten Boesen laid bare the horror of their opening game in Copenhagen, saying even he was thinking the worst while trying to resuscitate the former Tottenham playmaker.
“Well, he was gone. We did cardiac resuscitation. And it was cardiac arrest. How close were we [to losing him]? I don’t know. We got him back after one defib, so that’s quite fast.”
The Denmark-Finland game, which had kicked off at 5pm, was stopped after 41 minutes. It restarted at 7.30pm, with the Danish Football Union saying Denmark’s players chose to play on after speaking to Eriksen.
Eriksen spoke again to his Denmark team-mates from hospital on Sunday as he continued to recover.
Reliving the horror, Hjulmand, who had been in tears, admitted it was “very, very hard to move on”.
“Of course it was a very positive thing to see Christian today, but everyone needs to think about the pictures they have in their head,” he added. “They will be given the time needed. For some it will take a longer time but all of them have something to think about and deal with. We will try to help the best we can. It is not something you shake off like this and move on. There is something to be dealt with.”
He said that he was “really proud to be a coach of a team, who responded the way they did”, adding: “I think that football showed the best face. There’s a lot of talk about commercialising and big money and greed and stuff like that in football and sometimes that is the agenda, but here we see what football is about. Team spirit, compassion, and love.
“It was also a very, very strong signal of what football really is.”
The Danish FA confirmed that Eriksen’s team-mates had received specialist help to come to terms with the shocking incident.
Peter Schmeichel, the former Denmark goalkeeper and father of Kasper, also told the BBC “it was the worst two hours in my time in football”.
He added: “It happened not far from where the wives of the players were situated. Of course, Christian’s [partner] saw that and came onto the pitch. I saw Kasper run over to her. I spoke to him last night and he [said that he] ran over to say that Christian was breathing. She actually thought that he had passed away. To confirm that, he went back to be absolutely sure he wasn’t saying anything that was out of order. By then, Christian was talking to the doctor.”
Downing Street said the Prime Minister was “shocked” by what happened to Eriksen and that his thoughts were with the Danish player and his family.
Eriksen fell to the floor as he ran to control the ball from a throw-in, with no players near him. The BBC apologised for showing extended footage of the scenes. A spokeswoman for the corporation said any complaints to Ofcom as a result would be made public in due course.
The harrowing scenes evoked memories of Fabrice Muamba, the former Bolton Wanderers and Birmingham City midfielder, who suffered a cardiac arrest in an FA Cup tie against Tottenham at White Hart Lane nine years ago.
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