“But during this COVID-19 Pandemic, the mantra has been all about moving on – life has taken a blow, but it never stopped from facing new challenges – rather life has always fought against adversity and stood up smiling and prepared itself for the next challenge. Life must win to keep the hope alive – life must smile so that the world does not stop. At Copenhagen, perhaps, this was the motivation”

 

Mega-events like the FIFA World Cup, Copa America and Euro provide extraordinary moments that become unforgettable. And there are moments that unite the whole football world – when Christian Eriksen collapsed in the middle of the match between Denmark and Finland at Parken Stadium, Copenhagen, and was fighting with the prophets of death; immediately the whole world united to pray for the recovery of the Danish star.

On and off the pitch tears were shed and plenty of emotional expressions made the weather heavy; but at the end of the day, the Danish star fought back and is now alive and kicking. Kudos to the doctors and medical staff, who did a fantastic job in the middle when the whole world was gripped by an uncertain fear and anxiety – the apprehension could not be pressed in just a few words.

The doctors won, Eriksen won and football was back on the pitch.

The ball went out of play for a Denmark throw-in down near the corner flag. Rushing to receive the ball from whoever was taking it, Christian Eriksen collapsed first into the turf as the ball hit his knee.

Eriksen’s wife had made her way onto the pitch and is being consoled by Denmark skipper Simon Kjaer and Kasper Schmeichel. The Finland players, shaken, had retired to the dressing-room. Denmark’s distraught players continue to form a wide circular shield around their stricken teammate.

Two nearby Finnish players, a Dane and referee Anthony Taylor immediately signalled for urgent medical assistance. Soon after that arrived, one of the Danish medical team was seen performing compressions on Eriksen’s chest as his teammates formed a ring around him and the staff treating him.

The game was suspended but it resumed when it was confirmed that Eriksen was stable.

After an hour and 45 minutes later, the players were back.

The sight of Mathias Jensen coming on for Eriksen was hugely poignant – the show must go on and that was the only way a passionate football lover like Eriksen would heal.

The fans greeted the players on the pitch and just an hour ago, fans of Finland and Denmark were chanting the name of Eriksen – a message of unity in a world that is divided by racism and unrest. Sports unite the world – it was proven yet again!

None could imagine what the players were thinking when they decided to move on despite the medical emergency that had shaken them. None could imagine how the players motivate themselves.

But during this COVID-19 Pandemic, the mantra has been all about moving on – life has taken a blow, but it never stopped from facing new challenges – rather life has always fought against adversity and stood up smiling and prepared itself for the next challenge. Life must win to keep the hope alive – life must smile so that the world does not stop. At Copenhagen, perhaps, this was the motivation.

The ending of the first stanza was tepid.

After a five-minute break, the game took on a more normal dynamic, although things were taking to rediscover normality. And then, from nowhere, Finland took the lead, Joel Pohjanpalo heading in Jere Uronen’s left-wing cross.

Jere Urenon crossed from the left and Pukki’s strike partner Joel Pohjanpalo made a run from deep in the box. He headed downwards and Kasper Schmeichel might have expected to keep it out.

The Finnish players’ celebration was restrained in deference to the Danes but their fans could scarcely believe it. That joy was cranked up even further when Højbjerg fluffed his lines from 12 yards.

His penalty was too soft and too close to Hradecky, who made a comfortable save.

In the 42 minutes leading up to the Erikson incident, Denmark attacked the Finnish goal in waves. Eriksen himself had an excellent sight of goal, affording far too much space and time on the edge of the box but his shot was beaten away by Hradecky, who was alert to several decent Danish openings including tipping Højbjerg’s goal-bound header over the bar.

Finland were struggling to get out and when Norwich star Teemu Pukki was at last released, he was well mopped up by Milan defender Simon Kjaer.

Thomas Delaney went close for Denmark, flashing a shot over at the back post and soon after the entire complexion of the game changed with Eriksen’s collapse.

Finland created history and their triumph was the result of the planning and investment on youth and experience over the years despite the repeated disappoints.

“It was a very emotional night for us,” Finland coach Markku Kanerva said.

“First time in a major tournament and an opening game against Denmark in their home stadium. When we heard the national anthems, it was very emotional for us.

“And then what happened with Christian Eriksen – a very dramatic and sad incident.

“And then finally, we get a good result from the game. Of course, I am happy about that. Unbelievable, we are going to remember this for a long time for different reasons.”

Denmark are one of the competent opponents in this tournament and are pitted against the likes of Belgium, Finland and Russia in Group B from where they are expected to advance. They lost the opening match, but their courage to carry on deserves the accolade. They paid respect to the beautiful game and never let the tempo down till the final whistle. That is why we all say that football is a beautiful game, the game of the people and the players and fans carry the legacy like no one else.

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