Martin Braithwaite (left) and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg reveal the anguish the players felt
Kasper Schmeichel has spoken of Denmark’s desire to do “something extraordinary” for Christian Eriksen at Euro 2020 as the players revealed for the first time the trauma of seeing their stricken team-mate fighting for his life.
Eriksen is said to remain in a stable condition at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen after the Inter Milan playmaker collapsed to the ground following a cardiac arrest late in the first half of Denmark’s opening game against Finland at the Parken Stadium on Saturday.
Schmeichel and the Denmark captain, Simon Kjaer, visited Eriksen in hospital on Sunday while the rest of the squad were able to speak to the midfielder via video link amid emotional scenes.
Schmeichel said it was “damn nice to see him and talk to him” and said the fear of almost losing Eriksen would be a motivating factor during the rest of the tournament as they bid to do their team-mate proud, despite their dismay at having to restart the Finland game only hours after it was abandoned. Denmark lost 1-0.
“It was great to see him smile and laugh and be himself,” the Leicester City goalkeeper said at a press conference on Monday morning alongside Denmark team-mates Martin Braithwaite and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
“I am sure that we as a team can do something extraordinary for Christian and the people who stand in the stands and witnessed it.
“We’re still in the tournament. We lost but we gave everything we had. I’m sure we will give everything we have. The most important thing is that we stand together and do our best.
“The support we have received from all fans, world leaders and royalty, has left an imprint. We have felt a lot of love from all sides and we can use that.”
Dutch fans showed their support for Christian Eriksen
Schmeichel and Kjaer were pictured comforting Eriksen’s partner, Sabrina, on the pitch as the player received emergency medical treatment. And the goalkeeper said it felt “inhuman” that Sabrina and Eriksen’s family should be forced to watch the situation unfold in a public setting.
“I knew very well that his wife and children, mother and father, family and friends were among the audience,” Schmeichel said. “I stood looking for them. It was an inhuman situation for them. The hardest part was the idea of what could happen. The idea that his wife, children and family should sit and watch it. That was definitely the hardest part.”
Braithwaite briefly broke down in tears as he addressed the media on Monday morning but insisted on carrying on and said it had been a huge relief to be able to speak to Eriksen on Sunday.
“I am still touched by the situation but most importantly Christian is feeling better and therefore I am feeling better, too,” the Barcelona forward said. “His health is the most important thing of all.
“It was important for me personally via video to see that he was feeling better. I had some pictures in my head from last Saturday that I would like to get rid of.
“We were all about to lose a friend and a team-mate. It’s not something you normally think of on a football field. It is joy and love usually. No one can prepare for what happened.”
Denmark resumed the Finland game less than two hours after Eriksen’s collapse and Schmeichel and Braithwaite led a chorus of condemnation for Uefa’s handling of the situation given that the squad was not in the right frame of mind to play.
“We were put in a position that I personally do not feel we should be put in,” Schmeichel said. “We had two choices. To come back on Sunday at 12 or play on. It probably required someone higher up to say that it was not the time to make a decision.
“When there is a head injury on a football pitch, there is a doctor who makes the ultimate decision. It probably should have been here, too. What has happened has happened now and hopefully they learn from this.”
Braithwaite said Denmark had taken the “least bad option” by deciding to resume the game on Saturday night rather than play the next day after the players resolved that none of them would have been able to sleep that night.
“None of the options were good – we took the least bad one,” Braithwaite said. “There were lots of players who were unable to play. We were completely different. We made the least bad decision.
“We were told we had to make a decision. I wished there was a third option because I did not want to go out again. But Uefa said there were two options. We made a decision because we knew we would not be able to sleep at night.”
The Denmark squad back in training
Denmark’s squad was back training on Monday morning at their camp in Elsinore ahead of Thursday’s second Group B game against Belgium, who beat Russia 3-0 in their opening match. Hojbjerg, who missed a penalty against Finland – a task that would ordinarily have fallen to Eriksen – said he was just relieved his team-mate was stable in hospital.
“We stood on the pitch and could see people starting to flutter their hands and you know very well then that the situation is crazy – crazy and awful,” the Tottenham midfielder said. “For me, the most important thing is that Christian is well. I talked to him yesterday and it meant a lot.”