Nick Ames spent time in Doha in the Denmark campand reminds us of the formula of their recent successes.
Eriksen’s addition to a unit that, without his unrivaled flair, has captured so many imaginations, should help tip the numbers in favor. The team looks nicely balanced, with Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Thomas Delaney either side of midfield, while Simon Kjær, praised for his reaction to Eriksen’s collapse, returns from a long-term injury to anchor the defence. Atalanta’s Joakim Mæhle will attack from left-back while Mikkel Damsgaard and Kasper Dolberg remain bright sparks in attack.
Kasper Hjulmand, coach of Denmark, also spoke before this match. He was asked – of course – about Christian Eriksen.
After he came back, it was amazing. The moment he stepped on the pitch for the first time in Amsterdam, against the Netherlands, he just took control of the game and scored, and from then on he got better and better. He is the rhythm, he is the heart of our team, the pulse of our game. He is a great football player.
Coach of Tunisia, Jalel Kadri, spoke before this match. Reminder: Tunisia have never made it past the World Cup group stage.
Our group will not be easy, the draw was not easy. Denmark is among the best national teams in Europe. We know they have high quality in every department. But we will do our best. We have our strengths, but we also know our weaknesses. We are aware that we will be compared with the past national teams of Tunisia.
Tunisia has two players in the Danish league, Anis Ben Slimane in Brondby and Issam Jebali in Odense.
Martin Braithwaite, ex-Denmark Barcelona Now the Espanyol striker, whose name is reminiscent of a boy whose parents ran a grocer, has spoken to Sid Lowe.
Asked if Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest played a role in changing the team, Braithwaite said: “It changed every individual, more than just the group: it was beyond football.” There is a long pause, his tone quiet when he finally starts again. “Life goes by so quickly, you should enjoy every moment. We’ve been through it together, we’ll always share that feeling. It’s kind of a fairy tale now that we’re at the World Cup and Christian is part of the team. No one could have imagined it.”
We Premier League viewers are used to seeing him playing again, but Christian Eriksen’s return to the big tournament stage is certainly a moment. Less than 18 months ago, his collapse and cardiac arrest brought Euro 2020 to a halt, and his return to top-flight football is one of the good news in the game. And he’s a member of a pretty good Danish team, one that has functioned well without him, becoming one of the best in Europe. They won nine of the 10 qualifying games for this tournament, scored 30 and conceded three, and reached the semi-finals of the Nations League.
Eriksen’s supporting cast, which reached the last eight of the Euros without him, is full of quality, from Kasper Schmeichel to Kasper Dolberg. And they are a team that has shown humanitarian sharpness, Hummel has been stripped of his shirt, he is training in black, and it remains to be seen if there is a gesture like the one for which Fifa is threatening sanctions.
Their opponents? Tunisia is in its sixth World Cup final and has ambitions to reach the knockout stages. Since a large number of their players play in Qatar, they should get used to the environment, and they will make it difficult for the Danes with the defensive formation that Jalel Kadri usually chooses for a decent opponent. Youssef Msakni is their key man although Sunderland legend Wahbi Khazri and Manchester United loanee Hannibal Mejbri could feature.
Kick-off is at 1pm UK time at the Education City Stadium