COPENHAGEN: With their qualification for the 2022 World Cup, Denmark not only showed their remarkable resilience following Christian Eriksen’s near-fatal cardiac arrest, but also warned of their ambitions in Qatar.
A 1-0 win over Austria at a sold-out Parken stadium on Tuesday saw Denmark advance to next year’s finals, a day after Germany became the first country to qualify.
“The almost perfect year for the national team has had an almost perfect end,” wrote the Danish daily Politiken, as Denmark claimed eight out of eight wins in Group F.
Few could have predicted Denmark’s sharp increase four months ago when Eriksen, the team’s playmaker, collapsed on the same Copenhagen pitch as medics rushed to administer life-saving treatment.
The traumatic incident bolstered the resolve of Denmark, a nation united behind its football team which stirred up a wave of emotion until the Euro 2020 semi-finals, losing narrowly to England at Wembley.
“It’s as if Denmark and the national team have fallen in love again”, Andreas Kraul, commentator for the public broadcaster RD, Recount AFP.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen congratulated her on Instagram, posting a photo of herself and the Sports Minister dressed in red and white from inside the stadium.
Danish coach Kasper Hjulmand, who would not have been in charge of Euro 2020 without the delay caused by the pandemic, will have a year to prepare his team for the World Cup.
“One can only dream of things like this,” said midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. “It’s crazy. It’s huge for me, it’s huge for the team, for Danish football and for Denmark.
“With the age and the quality that we have, we will only continue to grow. It’s about staying humble and keeping the spirit in the right place. “
Denmark overcame stubborn resistance from Austria to maintain the only 100% record in European qualifying.
Joakim Maehle’s second-half goal brought the score to 27 unanswered for the Danes in their group, giving them an unassailable seven-point lead over Scotland with two games to go.
“It means a lot,” Maehle told Danish television. “This has been one of the best parking nights in a very long time. It’s incredible. “
The players once again dedicated their victory to Eriksen, whose close friend Simon Kjaer received much praise for his handling of the heartbreaking events of June 12.
For Kraul, “the incident was clearly constitutive for the group, which has become more than just a team”.
“It made them grow up,” he added.
A contested penalty put an end to Denmark’s Euro dreams, but rather than dwell on what could have been, the team are aiming for a deep run in Qatar.
“The last time, we were in the semi-final (at the Euro). I want more, we want more. Now we are going to play at the World Cup and we want more, ”said Denmark captain Kjaer, among the 30 nominees for the Golden ball.
Denmark’s 42 goals this year shattered the previous national record of 32 set in 1962. That number is likely to increase with home games against the Faroe Islands and away in Scotland next month.
That the team could thrive in Eriksen’s absence, overcome the horror of seeing a teammate almost die on the pitch, seemed unlikely – as did their chances of reaching the knockout stages at Euro after starting the tournament with consecutive losses.
“They play football which is enjoyed in Denmark and abroad, and which is more fun to watch,” Kraul said.
Germany every day picture Even named them “team of the year”, but Hjulmand is not the type to get carried away.
“It’s worth the pinch … There are so many people who have contributed to this success,” Hjulmand said. – AFP