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October 17, 2021

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Denmark’s amazing run to World Cup

WITH their qualification for the 2022 World Cup, Denmark not only showed their remarkable resilience in the wake of Christian Eriksen’s near-fatal cardiac arrest, but also served warning of their ambitions in Qatar.

A 1-0 win over Austria at a sold out Parken Stadium on Tuesday clinched Denmark’s place at next year’s World Cup, 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 Danish daily Politiken, as Denmark won eight out of eight matches in Group F.

Few could have predicted Denmark’s sharp rise four months ago when Eriksen, the team’s playmaker, collapsed on the same Copenhagen pitch, with medics rushing to administer life-saving treatment.

The traumatic incident strengthened Denmark’s resolve, a nation united behind its football team that rode a wave of emotion to the semi-finals of Euro 2020, narrowly losing to England at Wembley Stadium.

“It’s as if Denmark and the national team have fallen in love again,” said Andreas Kraul, commentator for public broadcaster DR.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen offered her congratulations on Instagram, posting a photo of herself and the sports minister dressed in red and white from inside the stadium.

Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand, who would not have been in charge at Euro 2020 if not for the delay caused by the pandemic, will have a year to prepare his team for the World Cup.

“You can only dream about things like this,” said midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. “It’s crazy. This is huge for me, it’s huge for the team, for Danish football and for Denmark. With the age and quality we have, we will only keep growing. It’s about staying humble and keeping our minds in the right place.”

Denmark overcame stubborn resistance from Austria to maintain the only 100 percent record in European qualifying.

Joakim Maehle’s second-half goal made it 27 without reply for the Danes in their group, giving them an unassailable seven-point lead over Scotland with two games to play.

“It means a lot,” Maehle told Danish television. “It’s one of the best nights in Parken in a very long time. It’s amazing.”

Players again dedicated their victory to Eriksen, whose close friend Simon Kjaer received widespread praise for his handling of the harrowing events on 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.


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