A little after 6 p.m. local time, Christian Eriksen can expect the windows of his temporary accommodation to start shaking. You can see the Parken, Denmark’s national stadium, from your room in Rigshospitalet and one can only imagine how dislocating it must feel to see thousands of red jerseys cut through the glorious summer heat as your teammates prepare to face Belgium in inside. On the off chance that he might not be able to hear fans sooner, his noise will resonate loud and clear in the 10th minute of the game – the game will pause and they will rise as one to acclaim their number 10 in a show of thanks, love and pure relief that he’s listening at all.
“It’s a crazy situation for him,” said Kasper Hjulmand, Denmark’s head coach. Eriksen should have been doing what he’s done since 2010, making his side work.
Until his world turned upside down on Saturday, Hjulmand had been planning something special on the court for this one: Eriksen was going to play an unspecified new role, one meant to give the Belgians something else to think about, which the pair had discussed during one month. .
Now nothing will be as expected and the biggest unknown, with the prosaic comparative issue of maintaining interest in Euro 2020 alongside the emotional outpouring, is exactly how everyone makes sense of it all.
Saturday had started as a carnival. Denmark is recently free from most Covid-19 restrictions and, with flags lining Copenhagen’s most popular streets, football represented a perfectly timed launch. Then came the inhalation that stopped an entire country in its tracks, Eriksen’s collapse in the 42nd minute against Finland sparked fears of the worst. The sense of shock prevailed even as good news about his condition emerged, so the visit to Belgium feels like the moment when everyone can breathe out as one.
“I know both the players and I are making great strides after what happened,” Hjulmand said. “We have more hours with good feelings than bad feelings and we are ready to do our best.”
Denmark opted to train at their base in Helsingor on Wednesday, but Hjulmand offered his players the opportunity to visit Parken quietly in the evening and take time to recalibrate; Those who found it useful were able to travel there by bus to process the scenes and feelings that confronted them in surprisingly close locations, rather than being overwhelmed upon arriving at the Belgium game.
“Reactions will be different from player to player,” said Yussuf Poulsen, the center forward. Denmark is in a situation for which no one could adequately prepare.
However, there is a desire to get back on track – to make this a joyous occasion both by honoring Eriksen and by winning. In recent days, conversations at the camp have turned more voluntarily to soccer.
When the team trained on Monday for the first time since Eriksen’s cardiac arrest, a gloomy mood offered little suggestion that anyone was ready to return to normal and it was impossible not to sympathize with the intense frustration that Uefa felt that essentially forced them to expose themselves in deciding whether the Finnish game will resume. By Tuesday, the smiles had started to return and Hjulmand struggled to point out that the standard arrangements – meetings, video clips, training routines – would not be neglected.
The feeling is that all bets are off: who could blame Denmark if the occasion just turned out too much, but who would be surprised if they came to Belgium and played the game of their lives? This time they will be backed by 25,000 followers, meaning Parken will be two-thirds full, after an increase from the previous 15,900 was agreed. The sun will rise again; it will be an atmosphere conducive to a happier place in the history books.
Belgium will gladly contribute to this. “A celebration for football and for Christian”, this is how Roberto Martínez described the event that his players will enter. Romelu Lukaku said Belgium would kick the ball if it were in possession when the clock struck 6:10 pm. Eriksen and Lukaku, teammates at Internazionale, have exchanged messages. “I told him to take his time and if he wants to talk, I’m always here,” Lukaku said, explaining that he will contact Eriksen again after their teams have met.
In simple football terms, Denmark cannot afford to lose as their three Group B rivals have victories to their name. Belgium beat them twice in the Nations League last year and Denmark will face Russia and Finland to progress if they cannot reverse that recent trend.
Despite the undoubted sincerity of his goodwill, Martinez’s approach will be serious; Another win would put them in the round of 16 and is an opportunity to give minutes to Kevin De Bruyne, who has traveled after an improvement in his recovery from a fractured eye socket.
But Belgium is not just up against a football team, their tactics, their structure, the things they can hatch and plan. “We’re not just going to play for Christian,” Hjulmand said. “We are going to play for who we are, our identity and all of Denmark that lived through what happened to us. We are not done with this tournament. “
If Denmark can master intangibles, they may not be. Even if that’s a step too far, the roar reaching Eriksen’s ears from a few hundred meters away will be joyous enough.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism