The footballing world had their hearts in their mouths Saturday afternoon when Christian Eriksen collapsed in the center of play during Denmark’s opening match against Finland. He has since stabilized and is recovering in a hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Just after crossing the 42-minute mark, Eriksen stumbled for a few steps before crashing face-first onto the pitch. Joakim Mehle had just thrown the ball towards Eriksen’s direction and was the first to respond to his teammate’s emergency, while other Danish and Finnish players swiftly began signaling for the medical team to come out to treat the 29-year-old star midfielder.
Referee Anthony Taylor was quick to react to the situation, blowing his whistle to halt play and indicating that there was indeed a medical emergency. A team of two paramedics raced to the far side of the field to immediately treat the Dane and were soon joined by six others, four of which were carrying a stretcher.
Television cameras caught a few moments as medical personnel arrived to help Eriksen, and his eyes appeared glazed over and lifeless. Eriksen received CPR and chest compressions, increasing the tension in the stadium.
Players in Denmark’s squad formed a standing circle around their compatriot to shield him from the millions of eyes that were fixed on him but were visibly distraught.
Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was one of the most affected members on the field— the Leicester City captain took a few glances over his shoulder to check on the status of his teammate and could not help but hunch over and begin to sob after doing so.
A member of Eriksen’s cheering section that is presumed to be his significant other was seen standing on the sidelines a few minutes later, prompting Schmeichel and Danish captain Simon Kjaer to walk over to comfort the woman. Kjaer had helped in treating Eriksen and was responsible for organizing the standing circle, fulfilling his duties as captain admirably.
Players began to walk off the field just before the 53-minute mark, roughly 10 minutes after Eriksen first fell to the ground. Word then broke over the telecast that UEFA had suspended the match out of concerns for the player’s health and the mental stability of everyone in attendance.
Eriksen was the fourth-most capped player in Denmark’s history and is the seventh-leading goal scorer for the European nation. He was also an important cog to Inter Milan’s conquest for the Serie A title this year, the club’s first in 10 years.
Christian Eriksen Update | Breathing and Aware of His Surroundings
The fallen Dane was carried off the field in a stretcher around 13 minutes after his collapse and is said to have raised a hand towards the crowd, though it was unclear over the television broadcast.
Thankfully for Eriksen, members of his family and everyone involved, there is a hospital known as Rigshospitalet 1.2 kilometers away from Telia Parken, where the match was held.
Rigshospitalet is one of the largest hospitals in Denmark and is the most highly specialized in Copenhagen. Having a medical team available on-site and a facility so nearby helped Eriksen’s case significantly, as every second matters during emergencies like this.
Craig Burley and Christian Fuchs delivered the commentary in ESPN’s studio after the match had been postponed and shared that this was one of the scariest incidents they had ever witnessed during a match.
“I couldn’t watch that; I couldn’t watch it,” said Burley. “That’s one of the most worrying sights I’ve ever seen.”
Relief broke when UEFA announced a Christian Eriksen update via Twitter at 1:25 p.m. ET that Eriksen had been transferred to a hospital and his condition had stabilized. Eriksen was able to facetime his team from the hospital and informed them that he was feeling better and encouraged them to go on to play the match, despite their concern.
Denmark and Finland resumed play at 2:30 p.m. and completed the final five minutes of the first half and the entire second half. The Fins won 1-0 behind a 60th-minute goal from Joel Pohjanpalo but made it a point not to celebrate out of respect for Eriksen.
Later in the day, Eriksen’s teammate at Inter, Romelu Lukaku, scored a brace for Belgium in its match against Russia, and ran over to the camera shouting “Chris! Chris! I love you!”
Achraf Hakimi, another player at Inter, also scored for his native Morocco and held up two fingers on one hand and four on the other, representing Eriksen’s jersey number.
Medical officials are yet to reveal what caused Eriksen’s collapse and the timetable for his recovery is unknown, but he has the entire support of the footballing world behind him.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.