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Saturday 14 December 2019

Christian looks to reclaim his crown as Danish king

ROUGH PATCH: Christian Eriksen during a Denmark press conference at the Aviva Stadium yesterday. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
ROUGH PATCH: Christian Eriksen during a Denmark press conference at the Aviva Stadium yesterday. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

They don't have a king in Denmark right now. The reign of Queen Margrethe II makes sure of that.

For a long time, Christian Eriksen was the closest thing to the king of Denmark, elevated status due to his achievements on foreign fields and also in the red and white shirt of the national team.

Still in his 20s and playing from midfield, only six players have scored more goals for the national team than him, a national treasure.

But 2019 has seen the crown lie heavy on the head of Eriksen. He came to Dublin two years ago full of pomp, vigour and talent and he tore Ireland apart, inspiring the 5-1 win which still pains any of the Ireland team involved that night.

Things are tougher now for the Tottenham man. No longer guaranteed a place in the Spurs starting XI, he has cut a disconsolate figure. Some in Denmark reckon that his powers have ebbed away since the summer transfer window closed while he remained a Spurs player, links with Real Madrid and other suitors remaining unconsummated.

Every performance is poked at, every pass examined. He found his private life enter the world of not just the scandal-hungry Danish tabloids but the world media, Eriksen forced to deny, on social media, a claim that his partner was having an affair with Spurs team-mate Jan Vertonghen.

A talented player losing his touch, a family man in the gossip columns: even last week's qualifier at home to minnows Gibraltar suggested there were two sides to Eriksen, as he was relatively quiet in the first half (the Danes were 'only' 1-0 up against Gibraltar) but rampant in the second period (he scored two in a 6-0 win).

He was the architect of their 5-1 win in Dublin in 2017 and he could also be the mastermind tonight, if he's allowed, as even Eriksen admits he's unlikely to get as much space as as shapeless Irish midfield allowed him two years ago.

"I think it will be a completely different game than back then," he said in Dublin last night, looking back to that 5-1 victory.

"Of course we got a very good result. The game changed at half-time because they changed a few players for the second half which created even more options for us in midfield, so it was a more open game.

"But I think tonight will be less open than that game was. But again, it depends on the result and we know Ireland need to win, but we also want to win so, hopefully, there will be a few chances."

Eriksen is a key part of the Danish side but they are not a one-man band. Comrades Yussuf Poulsen and Andreas Cornelius were rested for Friday's big win over Gibraltar but they should return tonight.

Pressure has eased on the Danes as they only need a draw in Dublin to qualify, but manager Age Hareide says they won't change their way of playing.

"We will play the game as normal. I don't think we could go out and play for a draw," said Hareide, who finishes his stint as Danish boss when their Euro 2020 campaign is over.

"We did it once in the last three years, that was against France at the World Cup. We played for a point and France played for a point, and it was a boring game. But we won't get that tomorrow because Ireland will probably come forward and want to win the game, and then we'll have to just operate as we have done in every game."

Denmark (probable): Schmeichel (Leicester); Dalsgaard (Brentford), Christensen (Chelsea), Kjaer (Atalanta), Larsen (Udinese); Delaney (Borussia Dortmund), Hojbjerg (Southampton); Poulsen (RB Leipzig), Eriksen (Spurs), Braithwaite (Leganes); Cornelius (Parma)

EURO 2020 qualifier

Ireland v Denmark

Live RTE 2/Sky (KO 7.45)

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