Denmark boss Kasper Hjulmand paid tribute to ‘great inspiration’ Christian Eriksen and unveiled a special ring he wore in honour of the midfielder after leading his side into Euro 2020’s last 16.
Just nine days on from Eriksen’s cardiac arrest at Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium, Denmark’s players returned to qualify for the knockout stage of the tournament with an emphatic 4-1 defeat of Russia.
Artem Dzyuba’s 70th-minute penalty had provided a small scare after earlier goals from Denmark’s Mikkel Damsgaard and Yussuf Poulsen but a thunderous long-range effort from Andreas Christensen and Joakim Maehle’s late strike secured victory.
Belgium’s 2-0 win over Finland in Monday’s other Group B game confirmed the Danes progressed to the next round as runners-up and there were emotional scenes as Hjulmand’s players celebrated in front of a rapturous partisan crowd in the capital.
They will take on Group A runners-up Wales for a quarter-final place at Amsterdam’s Johan Cruyff Arena on Saturday evening.
‘I’ve never worn jewellery in my life. This is the first time I’m wearing jewellery. There’s a little football here and it’s Christian who is here with me,’ Hjulmand told Denmark’s TV3+ while pointing to a ring on his finger.
‘I had him with me all the way. I think about him a lot and he is – as I have always said – the heart of our team and we were fighting on for his sake today.
‘He is a great inspiration to us.’
Hjulmand added: ‘I am lost for words when describing the admiration I have for this team. They are so strong.
‘And at the same time, I want to thank the whole of Denmark, the whole population and everyone in the stadium here…
‘All the care and love that the whole of Denmark has shown us has helped us and given the boys strength in their legs out on the pitch.’
Denmark striker Poulsen, who doubled the hosts’ lead on the hour-mark, claimed the arduous and emotional nature of their campaign made qualification all the more ‘euphoric’.
‘It has just been fantastic. It is so rare that you are allowed to experience something like this here at home in front of so many Danes,’ the RB Leipzig forward said.
‘One could not have wished for any better. And with all that we have been through, it just makes the euphoria even greater.
‘I think Eriksen is just as happy as we are right now.
‘He will probably come at see us over the coming days I imagine. He should definitely be part of this celebration.’
Eriksen, who was discharged from hospital at the weekend, applauded his team-mates in a short message on his Instagram page after their triumph.
It’s been confirmed the Inter Milan playmaker, formerly of Tottenham, will be fitted with an ICD heart-starting device following his cardiac arrest.