Christian Eriksen will get a defibrillator; Denmark falls in Belgium

UPDATE, June 18: The Danish Football Association said on Friday that Christian Eriksen had undergone successful surgery implant a defibrillator to monitor and correct their heart rate. He was also released from the hospital and, after a brief visit with his teammates, returned home to continue his recovery.

Fans cheered Christian Eriksen on the streets and parks of Copenhagen, and shouted his name from the stands at Parken Stadium. And, in the 10th minute, the Danish and Belgian players even stopped their match to encourage him at their side.

They all cheered loudly enough, at that point, that Eriksen probably could have heard them had he opened his hospital room window less than a mile away. He has been there since Saturday, when he collapsed on the pitch in cardiac arrest during a Euro 2020 soccer match. And while Eriksen’s Danish teammates returned to the pitch on Thursday, s ‘Tipping 2-1 against Belgium, in a moving match, he will stay in the hospital a little longer.

Thursday morning, the Danish team doctor mentionned that Eriksen will have a defibrillator implanted to help prevent future heart episodes.

The device, an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator, or ICD, will be placed under Eriksen’s skin and will monitor his heart rate. A combined pacemaker and defibrillator, the device tracks a person’s heart rate and can send electrical pulses to restore a normal rhythm if needed.

“After Christian had various heart exams it was decided that he should have an ICD (cardiac starter),” doctor Morten Boesen said in a press release issued by the Danish Football Association. “This device is needed after a heart attack due to arrhythmias.”

“Christian accepted the solution,” he added.

The announcement came hours before Denmark entered the pitch to face Belgium at Parken Stadium, the same arena where Eriksen had collapsed in a game against Finland five days earlier.

Eriksen was a constant presence during the match: thousands of fans arrived dressed in his No.10 jersey, a giant replica of which was carried onto the pitch ahead of the match to the cheers of fans from both teams. Eriksen watched from his hospital room, close enough to hear his name chants.

Belgium was also thinking of him. His captain, Jan Vertonghen, one of Eriksen’s former teammates in the Belgium squad, arrived for the pre-match draw with a framed team jersey signed by his players. Vertonghen, who played with Eriksen for several years at Tottenham Hotspur in England, introduced him to his Danish counterpart, Simon Kjaer.

The Danish players formed a tight circle in the moments leading up to kick-off, bracing for what lay ahead. Two minutes into the game, a week of emotions was unleashed when Yussuf Poulsen fired a low shot into the net to give Denmark a 1-0 lead.

In the 10th minute, the Belgian players put the ball out of play to stop the game in tribute to Eriksen, joining the crowd for a standing ovation for nearly a minute. Several Belgian players, including striker Romelu Lukaku, Eriksen’s attacking partner at Italian champions Inter Milan, played alongside Eriksen for European club teams.

“All of Denmark is with you, Christian,” read a long Danish banner that was unfurled in the stands behind a goal.

Medical officials did not address Eriksen’s possible return to sport in their statement about his treatment.

Another Euro player, Dutchman Daley Blind, had a similar device implanted in 2019 after two collapses in the game, although it is not clear how directly his condition compares to that of ‘Eriksen. Blind and Eriksen are friends and former teammates of Dutch central Ajax Amsterdam.

Eriksen, 29, collapsed on the pitch at the end of the first half of a game on Saturday, then received life-saving treatment, including CPR, as his teammates and fans during of the match in Copenhagen – and a global TV audience – watched in shock. After a delay, play resumed, a decision which was heavily criticized in Denmark, including by current and former players on the team and his head coach. Finland won 1-0.

Eriksen posted a message and photo from the hospital on Tuesday thanking fans for their good wishes, saying: “I’m fine, under the circumstances.”

Denmark’s manager Kasper Hjulmand said he expected Eriksen to watch the game from the hospital. After the loss to Finland, the game was essential for Denmark’s hopes to advance in the tournament.

The beginning of the storybook lasted a half before the Belgian talent changed the game. Thorgan Hazard tied in the 55th minute and Kevin De Bruyne added a second 15 minutes later. Like Hazard, he tempered his celebration, likely out of respect for Eriksen, and because his goal led Denmark dangerously close to the tournament exit gate ahead of a visit from Russia in the teams’ final group game on Monday.

“We know anything is still possible,” said forward Martin Braithwaite.

Denmark captain Kjaer was among the first to reach Eriksen when he collapsed on Saturday, and he appeared on the verge of tears as he warmed up for the restart 90 minutes later. Kjaer was substituted in the second half of the game but was sent back to the starting lineup against Belgium.

Ahead of the game, he released a statement to fans in which he said the team “will enter the pitch against Belgium with Christian in our hearts and thoughts”. But he also said the team had work to do.

“It gives us peace of mind, which allows us to focus on football,” he said knowing that Eriksen’s condition had stabilized. “We will play for Christian, and as always for all of Denmark. It is the greatest motivation for all of us.

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