Nine months after Denmark star midfielder Christian Eriksen collapsed on the field when his heart stopped during a Euro 2020 game, he returned to the pitch on which he was revived, captaining the Danish team in a 3-0 win over Serbia in a Tuesday friendly.
“I think it’s something you can’t prepare for,” Eriksen, who was named the team’s captain, told reporters Monday. “The reception in Holland was very big and my expectation is it is going to be even bigger here. This is the place where it happened and people will see it. Afterward, people will be talking about it, like everything is back to normal. They are going to have a new memory. It’s going to be special and I’m looking forward to it.”
Eriksen received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, a device that detects and restores regular heart rhythm with a jolt of electricity, after the cardiac event. He attempted to return to his club team, Inter Milan, but could not do so because the Italian league does not allow athletes with ICDs to play. He resumed training in Denmark and signed with Brentford of the English Premier League, making three appearances.
He hoped playing in Parken would be the last step in a return to normalcy.
“It will definitely be very special because I have not been to Parken since it happened,” Eriksen said. “Now I am incredibly looking forward to being back on the field here in the Park and being a football player because that’s what it’s about for me. But I also look forward to the fact that after the match we can put it behind us.”
The goal for the 30-year-old star is to play in the World Cup in November in Qatar. Denmark has secured a spot by winning nine of 10 games in its qualifying group.
“I’m sure I can come back because I don’t feel any different. Physically, I’m back in top shape,” Eriksen told Denmark’s DR 1 in January. “That’s been my goal and it’s still some time away, so until then I’m just going to play football and prove that I’m back at the same level.”
A year ago, onlookers in Parken watched with fear and trepidation as Eriksen collapsed and was carted off the field. Come Tuesday, the fans that filled the stadium were treated to a more celebratory experience — and accounted for its largest attendance figures for an international friendly in 17 years, according to the ESPN broadcast.
They stood, cheered and held signs welcoming back the Danish star as he led the team onto the pitch, where he was a presence throughout the match, floating around the field and creating chances before he blasted a 57th-minute shot past the goalkeeper to put the game out of reach.
When Eriksen exited the pitch during a 79th-minute substitution, he received a kiss on the crown of his head from teammate Kasper Schmeichel as he handed over the captain’s armband. In a decidedly different scene from a year ago, he left the field under his own power to a lengthy standing ovation.
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