Joachim Andersen says seeing Denmark teammate Christian Eriksen collapse on the pitch at EURO 2020 last summer gave him a fresh perspective on the fragility of life.
The Crystal Palace center-back was on the sidelines when Eriksen went down off the ball against Finland, suffering from a cardiac arrest as he was about to receive a throw-in. Urgent medical assistance arrived on the scene, and the midfielder received CPR while an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) was used to reset his heart so it could pump blood properly again.
At the time, it was suggested that Eriksen’s playing days could be over, but following a remarkable recovery which included an operation to have an ICD fitted into his chest, he returned to the Premier League action with Brentford during the 2021-22 season and has since played for Denmark again where he is expected to be part of their squad for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this year.
READ MORE: Joachim Andersen makes Crystal Palace ambitions known after strong season with Eagles
“It was awful what happened,” Andersen told Forbes. “I could see from the sideline that it was a strange situation. Luckily he’s had a fantastic recovery, and the way he’s performed in the Premier League has been amazing. Obviously, in the moment, we were really affected by it, the whole squad . We had some psychologists come and help the players who needed that. “
Denmark were made to fulfill their fixture against Finland, which they lost 1-0, on the same evening that Eriksen had collapsed. This sparked outrage from several players and former pros, including goalkeeper and Danish legend Peter Schmeichel who said the team were given no choice but to play the game.
Remarkably, Denmark still managed to qualify from the group stages without their star man Eriksen who continued to lay in a hospital bed recovering. They then went on to knock out Wales in the round of 16 before beating the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals, eventually losing out in the semis to England at Wembley.
“It gave us a little bit of togetherness through the Euros, and we performed really well, so that just shows how strong our team is,” added Andersen. “And with this togetherness, we can achieve some big things. You realize that your life can be gone like that. It’s awful to think about it because he’s so fit, he’s so healthy, and you can never imagine that something like this could happen “So you need to be grateful for every day. You need to enjoy playing football and enjoy life. You never know what’s going to happen.”
The Danes, who recently came from behind to beat the 2018 World Cup champions France 2-1 in Paris in the UEFA Nations League, are now eyeing up Qatar 2022 as a chance to prove themselves as one of the top footballing nations. Andersen, who played the full 90 minutes at the Parc des Princes, is expected to be a part of Kasper Hjulmand’s squad to go to the Middle East for the tournament.
“The World Cup is a dream for every player,” he said. “We think we can go far in the tournament and hopefully show everyone how good a team we think we are. If you believe in it, which we do, big things can happen.”
But before Qatar, Andersen will be focused on starting his third conductive Premier League season strongly. The defender arrived in the English top-flight in 2019 with Fulham but failed to save them from relegation before linking up with former World Cup winner Patrick Vieira at Crystal Palace in south London.
Andersen has cemented his position as one of the first names on the teamsheet, helping the Eagles reach the FA Cup semi-finals and finish 12th in the league during his first season in red and blue. Alongside center-back partner Marc Guehi and other summer recruits like Odsonne Edouard and Michael Olise, the Dane is part of a new crop of young, hungry players eager to push Palace to the next level with Vieira at the helm.
“I thought it would be really interesting to try to build something new [at Crystal Palace] and be a big part of that, “he added.” The second half of the season, I think we matured a lot. I think we grew as a team and also individually. “
“[Vieira] was also one of the reasons I wanted to join Palace. I knew him from Nice when he was manager there, and I played in Lyon, so I knew his playing style and knew he wanted to play possession-based football. I thought it was a good match, and I had some good conversations with him before joining Palace. He’s really a good manager, and I’ve loved working under him. I’ve learned a lot this year already. “