Denmark taking Eriksen inspiration to Wembley at Euro 2020

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Danish supporters hold a banner for Christian Eriksen, during the Euro 2020 soccer championship quarterfinal match between Czech Republic and Denmark, at the Olympic stadium in Baku, Saturday, July 3, 2021. (Ozan Kose, Pool via AP)

BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Christian Eriksen’s absence makes it even harder to forget what happened to him.

Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand found that out on Saturday, his mind wandering from the match even as his team was playing in the European Championship quarterfinals.

“I thought about him during the game and after the game,” Hjulmand said through a translator after the 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic. “I keep thinking how amazing it would be to see him play (in the next match). He’s still a big part of the team and he’s a big part of our road to Wembley.”

Eriksen survived a cardiac arrest during Denmark’s opening Euro 2020 match three weeks ago, and the emotional outpouring that followed has spurred the team on — all the way to the semifinals at Wembley Stadium.

The Danes will next play England on Wednesday in London.

“He’s always been a very important part of the team and he still is,” Denmark midfielder Thomas Delaney said through an interpreter. “Of course we carry him in our hearts. He should have been here. It’s still something we’re struggling with, but making him proud is something that makes me happy.”

Eriksen collapsed face-first on the field in the first half of the match against Finland on June 12. His teammates formed a wall around him as medical workers resuscitated him with a defibrillator. He spent a week in the hospital before going home to recover.

The team’s next match will be at a stadium Eriksen knows well. The home of England’s national team also served as Tottenham’s temporary home for part of Eriksen’s seven years at the London club.

And in October, Eriksen scored Denmark’s only goal at Wembley in a 1-0 victory over England in the Nations League.

“That team is not something we’ve built overnight,” Hjulmand said. “He has been a part of the team for a very long time. I think about him all the time, wish he were here and I’m sending a lot of greetings to him and he’s a big part of this result.”

Denmark lost to Finland in the opening match at Euro 2020, and then lost another against Belgium. The Danes still managed to advance by beating Russia in their final group match, helped by the fact that Belgium went undefeated in its three matches.

Eriksen, who now plays for Inter Milan, was released from the hospital before the match against Russia and he visited his teammates as soon as he got out.

Since then, he has been sending messages of support on social media and has been in contact with the team privately.

More messages are sure to follow in the coming days.

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