Denmark playmaker Christian Eriksen said his recovery from a heart attack on the field some 18 months ago had made him appreciate being alive and enjoying his young family but also made a World Cup return special.
Eriksen’s collapse on the field at the start of the European Championship in June last year was a distressing event that shocked the watching world, as he lay receiving life-saving treatment, but it provided Denmark with an emotive momentum that catapulted them to the semi-finals without their best player.
Eriksen’s career looked to be over but, after being fitted with a device to regulate his heart, he returned to play within six months and is again leading Denmark’s hopes at a major tournament.
He said the cardiac arrest had altered his priorities.
“I think it gave me… let’s say the appreciation of being alive and being with my family. And I think everything else is just moved to the side. To have the possibility to go back and be who I was before was really the aim. My first aim was always to be a boyfriend and a dad,” he told a news conference on Saturday.
But being able to participate at the World Cup for a third time was also special, he added.
“From the first interview I did from when I came back, I said I wanted to be back playing. That was the aim from day one when I had the possibility to go back. So really the focus had changed a lot on the way to the World Cup,” he said of his return at Brentford, then the Danish national side in March and then signing for Manchester United at the start of the new season.
“But again, it’s still very special to be at the World Cup. The national team is something I’m just very happy to be part of again.”
Eriksen, 30, feels Denmark are stronger now, helped in no small measure by the way the players all united after the trauma of their team mate collapsing on the field,
“I think the national team has always been strong but I do think that the belief in the squad is bigger. Obviously the quality has always been there; I think it’s the belief that’s changed a bit in the national team in general,” added Eriksen.