‘It is a MIRACLE’: Ex-Denmark and Man United defender John Sivebaek hails Christian Eriksen’s ‘fairytale’ return after suffering cardiac arrest at Euro 2020… as he looks to guide in-form Danes to World Cup glory just 17 MONTHS after collapse
- Danish star Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest in Euro 2020 last year
- Eriksen will star for Denmark at the World Cup just 17 months after his collapse
- Kasper Hjulmand’s side kick off their tournament against Tunisia on Tuesday
- Former Denmark defender John Sivebaek labelled his recovery was a ‘miracle’
- World Cup 2022 news LIVE: Follow all the latest from Qatar as it happens HERE
When Christian Eriksen takes to the field at Education City Stadium for Denmark’s Group D opener with Tunisia on Tuesday, for those of us in this country at least, there will be a normality to it. We have become used to seeing him play again. In his homeland, it will not feel so ordinary.
‘It is a miracle, we all think that way,’ says John Sivebaek, the former Denmark and Manchester United defender.
Eriksen’s collapse and cardiac arrest in June of last year, during Denmark’s opening match of Euro 2020 versus Finland, shocked the watching world.
Christian Eriksen (L) will star for Denmark at the World Cup after his shocking collapse in 2021
But, in time, like Eriksen, we recovered, the comfort of his return to the Premier League with Brentford last season, and brilliance for Manchester United this, having aided the healing process.
In Denmark, however, the emotional scars of that day remain not far from the surface. It is why the sight of their national hero at this World Cup, as Sivebaek says, will be a wondrous one.
‘Everyone here remembers where they were when it happened,’ the 61-year-old tells Sportsmail. ‘I was at a summer house with all of my family. We did not know what was wrong – was it a heart attack? Was it something else?’
Unlike in England, the TV coverage from Parken Stadium in Copenhagen cut away from the scenes of Eriksen receiving CPR.
The Danish midfielder’s unexpected cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 shocked the football world
‘There was just shock among all of us,’ says Sivebaek. ‘We were sitting and waiting. And waiting. We could not think about anything else. I was thinking about his family (Eriksen has two young children). There was concern for his life.
‘Only later was there positivity, relief, when the news came through that he was in hospital and was OK. But we were not the same afterwards. It was a sad day.’
Sportsmail visited Copenhagen not long after and found supporters still haunted by the trauma of that sunny afternoon when the darkest of thoughts had plagued their soul. What struck were the stories of men crying, being comforted by their partners.
As one father said: ‘I was mentally preparing how to tell my kids that Christian had died. How can I inform them what has happened to their hero? How can I tell them what they witnessed had the worst possible outcome?’
Denmark kick off their World Cup campaign against Tunisia in Group D at 1pm GMT on Tuesday
Thankfully, that fate was avoided. As fans of both Denmark and Finland sang Eriksen’s name in unison inside what had been a silent, fearful and confused Parken, a message appeared on screen – he was alive and stable in the nearby Rigshospitalet.
Within nine months, Eriksen was back in a Denmark shirt, scoring with his first touch when coming on as a substitute against Holland in Amsterdam. A few days later, in his first match back at Parken, he scored again.
‘There was a fairytale feel to it, and there still is,’ says Sivebaek, who knows a thing or two about such stories given he was part of Denmark’s 1992 European Championship winning side and also scored the first goal of the Sir Alex Ferguson era at Old Trafford.
The 30-year-old’s shocking cardiac arrest continues to scar the Danish supporters emotionally
‘You could not write it better. What Christian has been through and what we have seen since, it is unbelievable.’
But do not be blinded by the romance – Denmark can play. They won their first nine qualifiers for Qatar with an aggregate score of 30-1. Since then, they have beaten France in Paris, a match in which Eriksen starred. The 30-year-old then signed for United in the summer and, during the first part of the season, has been their best player.
‘I doubted he would play again,’ says Sivebaek. ‘It must have been a difficult decision to take. But I watch him now and he looks more relaxed. He looks like he’s really in good shape, in a good place.
‘Denmark did very well without him, but they are better for having Christian back. We need him. One thing is that opponents centre on him, it helps the rest of the team. And I think they are very strong, they can make the semi-finals again (like Euro 2020), why not?
The ex-Spurs and Inter star joined Brentford just seven months after collapsing at Euro 2020
‘Christian was already hugely popular in Denmark, but now… we are all just so glad to see him where he is, and playing so well.’
Eriksen returned in February of this year for Brentford. But, for him, this next month was always the goal.
‘One of the first conversations I had with the doctor in Amsterdam, who participated in all the testing, was about it being my goal to play in the World Cup, if everything went well,’ he said.
‘But things went as they did (back playing in February), I never expected that. Playing again was wonderful. My target from the beginning was to return to the national team, to be part of it again on normal terms, and that has happened. This was my dream at the time.’
On reflection, we should never use the word ‘normal’ when it comes to Christian Eriksen ever again
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