One of the first things Christian Eriksen did after being released from the hospital was to pay a visit to his teammates.
Many of them had formed a wall around the stricken midfielder as he received CPR on the pitch at Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium less than a week before.
Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel described Eriksen’s collapse during the first half of Denmark’s opening Euro 2020 match against Finland, which was later revealed to have been caused by a cardiac arrest, as a “traumatic experience.”
When Schmeichel first returned to the Danish camp, he described the emotion of helping Eriksen’s partner at the side of the pitch.
“I think a couple of the guys hugged him pretty tight,” Schmeichel said, smiling. “But it was just really nice to see him, you know, healthy and in good spirits.
“He came to training and we were out on the pitch — it was a great moment. It was nice to see him. I was lucky enough to be able to visit him in the hospital and to see him there, but for a lot of the boys that was the first time for them seeing him. So, naturally, training stopped straight away and everyone went over to him.”
Denmark’s shell-shocked players fell to a 1-0 defeat when the match was surprisingly restarted later that afternoon — a decision for which UEFA has received criticism from Danish national team members — denting their chances of progressing to the round of 16.
A five-day loss to Belgium seemed to put an end to any remaining hopes Denmark had of reaching the knockout stages.
Denmark knew going into the final group stage game that they needed a big win over Russia and a favorable result between Belgium and Finland to advance.
Eriksen’s visit, which came the day after Denmark’s loss to Belgium, was, according to Schmeichel, the catalyst the team needed.
“I think the most important thing for us was to know that Christian was okay,” he said. “It was great to see him, he came by the camp when he came out of hospital and that helped a lot of the guys, I think, just to see him and to just to erase the last image we had of him on the pitch.”
“To see him in real life and to see that he was OK was really important, and it gave us the space to go and focus on the game because we were under pressure in a football sense, but I think, as you see, we didn’t play like a side under pressure.
“We played with freedom and we played with an identity that was something that we’ve discussed for a long, long time and [I’m] really, really proud of everybody.”