A Danish Fairy Tale at Euro 2020
If you don’t believe in fairy tales, think again. Denmark, the country of Hans Christian Andersen’s iconic stories of the Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid and The Tinderbox, among others, has just created footballing history at the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament played this month (1 year delayed because of Covid).
In their first group game against Finland, the team was hit by a near-tragic incident as their star player, Christian Eriksen, suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed on the field. The players and fans had to endure an emotional and nerve-wracking hour as the medics battled to save his life. To the huge relief of everyone, Eriksen won the battle and he has since received treatment and is making a healthy recovery.
The incident rocked the game and Eriksen’s team-mates were naturally affected by the it, losing 1-0 by the final whistle. After the game, the players spoke about the distressful experience they had been through. At the same time, knowing that Eriksen would be ok, they also vowed to come back stronger, and play in his honour for the rest of the tournament.
And come back stronger they did. In their next group game they went head to head with Belgium, the best ranked team in the world at the time. Despite dominating large parts of the game, Denmark narrowly lost 2-1. Momentum was on their side, however, and belief was growing. In their final group game Denmark thrashed Russia 4-1, and thereby became the first team in European Championship history to lose their first 2 games and still qualify for the knockout round.
Spurred on by their collective spirit, they won their next game 4-0 against Wales, and then beat the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals a few days later. Denmark would ultimately come up short against England in the semi-finals, but put in a brave display, losing narrowly 2-1 after extra time. In the final, Italy in turn beat England and thereby won their first European cup since 1968.
As we reflect on the eventful and unprecedented events of the last month, we are reminded of the fragility of life. Our thoughts are with Eriksen, his family, and the Danish national team, and we are grateful for his positive recovery. Although Denmark did not win the tournament, reaching the semi-final is an achievement that everyone should be proud of.
Fairy tales continue to happen in Denmark!