When Denmark midfielder Thomas Delaney ordered his teammates to form a circle around Christian Eriksen on the field, he was acting partly on instinct and partly from experience.
Delaney was the player who first initiated the protective circle to shield Eriksen from public view after he collapsed during the game against Finland at the European Championship.
Delaney and forward Yussuf Poulsen addressed the incident Wednesday ahead of Denmark’s game against Belgium on Thursday at Euro 2020.
Delaney, who plays for Borussia Dortmund, said he has seen an opponent collapse during a game before and realized how much attention would be on Eriksen as he was getting treatment.
”I’ve unfortunately experienced this before. I’ve seen it before. And there are a lot of people who are very interested and curious,” Delaney said. ”Yussuf was by my side and we decided to make this shield to protect him. It was not only to protect Christian and the medical staff, but also Christian’s friends and family. It was not a fun situation to be in, but it was the way we could help Christian.”
Eriksen suffered cardiac arrest near the end of the first half against Finland and had to be resuscitated with a defibrillator. He remained in a Copenhagen hospital on Wednesday but was recovering well.
”It all happened very fast. A lot of players reacted very quickly,” Delaney said. ”It was clear to us that Christian wasn’t doing well, when he took two steps and fell. So some things needed to be done very quickly. (Denmark captain) Simon Kjaer arrived very quickly and we called for help.”
Kjaer, who is close friends with Eriksen and his family, has also received a lot of praise for initiating first aid even before the medics arrived and then helping comfort the Inter Milan midfielder’s partner when she came onto the field.
”Simon showed his character. All of the players, the whole team, showed character during those long minutes,” Delaney said. ”(Kjaer) takes a lot of pressure on his shoulders, and he’s done that in these last couple of days as well. But we’ve all been struggling individually in different ways.
"I know it was tough for Simon, it’s been tough for a lot of people. But he has, to round it off, a big personality. We know that, and I think a lot of people see that now. He deserves the praise he gets."
Denmark opted to hold its final training session at its base camp outside Copenhagen on Wednesday instead of at Parken Stadium, where the Finland game was played.
Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand acknowledged that it will be an emotional experience for the players to return to the stadium, but said they would have the option of taking a team bus into Parken on Wednesday evening just to process the surroundings again.
”How we are going to react about getting back, we don’t know,” Poulsen said. "How it’s going to effect us emotionally, and how it’s going to effect us being there. … It was an experience that none of us have been in before at this level, so we’ll see how each individual person will react to it, because it’s going to be different for every one of us.”