Christian Eriksen does the impossible yet again in surreal full-circle moment at Euro 2024

Slovenia 1-1 Denmark: Three years after collapsing in his nation’s opening Euros game, the midfielder scored to earn the Danes a point in Group C

Alex Pattle
Sunday 16 June 2024 18:57
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You have to wonder what sort of thoughts were swirling around Christian Eriksen’s head, as the Denmark talisman waited for the first whistle to sound. It would be understandable if some of them were dark, frightening, or even traumatic. For the last time he began a European Championship campaign, three summers ago, Eriksen died for five minutes.

That day in Copenhagen, as Denmark faced Finland, Eriksen was not brought back from the brink – he had passed it. He was brought back from the beyond.

Naturally, after being resuscitated from his cardiac arrest, he could not leave the pitch under his own power. Instead, he was carefully lifted off the turf and carried off the field, as his wife and teammates tearfully feared the worst and hoped for the best – whatever that could possibly mean.

That moment, of course, could have marked the end of Eriksen’s career. Frankly, it could have marked the end. Full stop. Yet on a spring Sunday in Stuttgart, 1,100 days later, here he stood.

Here he stood, here he ran, here he orchestrated and here he struck against Slovenia. Drifting between their central defenders, the 32-year-old latched onto an aerial, back-heeled pass from teammate Jonas Wind, chesting down the ball and poking into the bottom corner.

He slid on his knees, lowering himself that bit closer to the turf – but this time, he was fully in control. Just metres away, a wall of red undulated in the stands, as his compatriots celebrated their hero in synchronised ecstasy.

It was lift-off for Denmark at Euro 2024, inside 17 minutes, and the first 16 minutes had already exhibited Eriksen’s renowned vision and passing ability. The Manchester United midfielder’s goal, which resulted from a quick throw-in, simply and swiftly punctuated his performance in those early phases.

Eriksen celebrates opening the scoring for Denmark at Euro 2024
Eriksen celebrates opening the scoring for Denmark at Euro 2024 (Getty Images)

And he continued to influence and impress, nearly forcing an own goal with a searing, drilled half-volley of a cross just before the half-hour mark. Slovenia striker Benjamin Sesko, not the ideal defender, tried to clear the rapidly incoming ball but cannoned it off his nearest teammate, with the spinning orb then ricocheting narrowly wide of the post.

Throughout the rest of the half, Eriksen remained involved in much of what Kasper Hjulmand’s side did well. And as half-time approached, he fancied his chances of a second goal.

On 43 minutes against Finland three years ago, Eriksen collapsed to the ground. On 43 minutes against Slovenia here, he was still very much alive and very much kicking. But in a moment of the most minor inconvenience, all things considered, he swiped his shot well over Jan Oblak’s goal.

Exasperated, Eriksen glanced up to the heavens, which looked much further away on this afternoon than on 12 June 2021.

In the second half, he nearly assisted a second goal for Denmark with a wicked long-range free kick, only for Slovenia to escape by conceding a corner. Several times, he was the nucleus of mesmeric passages of one-touch passing among Danish players. More than once, he drove forward, content to carry the ball and his team by himself if needed.

Eriksen’s goal was the latest in a long line of surreal moments since his collapse at Euro 2021
Eriksen’s goal was the latest in a long line of surreal moments since his collapse at Euro 2021 (Getty Images)

Ultimately, it was not enough for victory. Slovenia secured a point in Group C courtesy of Erik Janza, who – with just over 10 minutes remaining – smashed a half-volley goalwards, the ball glancing off Morten Hjulmand and past goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

So, it was not the perfect moment for Eriksen and Denmark, but it was a surreal one nonetheless. In truth, Eriksen has had many a stupefying moment since surviving his severe scare at Euro 2021. The first was his survival itself, then came his remarkable return to football with Brentford, his first assist back, his first goal back, his return to the international game, his first match at the stadium where he suffered his cardiac arrest. One could go on.

In that sense, his presence at Euro 2024 was just the latest in a long line of glorious checkpoints in his second life. Yet Sunday’s might have been the one that felt most like a full-circle moment. And for Eriksen to mark it with a goal for his nation? No one would dare to write that. You’d do well to even dream it.

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