Wales ‘in for a tough one’: what Christian Eriksen told Ben Davies

Defender has been in touch with his former Spurs teammate and says pressure is off Wales against Denmark in last 16

Before Wales’ training session on a scorching hot morning at the Giulio Onesti complex in Rome, Ben Davies pulls up a pew guarded by the shade and talks through the minutes that felt like hours – when he learned of his close friend and former Tottenham teammate Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest.

“It was pretty horrific,” he says. “He is a good friend and I just didn’t know what was happening. I was on the phone to quite a lot of our mutual friends – it was a bit of a worry and a panicked stage at the time. Thank God everything seems to be OK and that is he is healthy and happy.”

Eriksen was discharged from Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen last week following a successful operation to fit a defibrillator implant. The Internazionale midfielder spent seven years at Tottenham, six of them alongside Davies. Until news of Eriksen returning home after visiting the Denmark squad at their training base filtered back, uncertainty lingered.

“I’ve spoken to him a few times since,” Davies says. “He seems to be in good spirits. I don’t know what happens with him from here on out but it’s best we just let him have his privacy, let him spend time with his family and the most important thing is he’s still alive.”

On Saturday, Wales and Denmark go head to head in the last 16 of the European Championship at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam, home of Ajax, Eriksen’s first professional club and whom he left for Spurs in 2013. Davies, meanwhile, lived in Denmark as a boy after his father, Alun, went there for work and spent two years in Viborg. “We had some great times out there as a family,” the defender says.

There are a few familiar faces in the Denmark squad – Pierre-Emile Højbjerg is another Spurs teammate of Davies – but Eriksen’s absence is a reminder of the bigger picture at play. “The football side of it, once that happened [in Copenhagen] it became completely irrelevant. The only thing that matters is he that he is alive and he will be there for his family.”

Ben Davies with former Spurs teammate Christian Eriksen in November 2019.
Ben Davies with former Spurs teammate Christian Eriksen in November 2019. Photograph: Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Davies acknowledges the spirit Denmark have displayed in getting to this point given the distressing scenes in Copenhagen. “It must be incredibly tough for them,” he says. “To play on the way they did after the way the incident happened, and to carry on, it’s definitely going to spur you on. They deserve a lot of credit for standing up and performing the way they have.”

Wales fly to Amsterdam from Rome on Thursday after deciding against returning to Cardiff, as originally planned before the tournament. In the knockout stages for the second time in five years after squeezing out of Group A on goal difference, the possibility of matching their success at Euro 2016, when they reached the semi-finals, suddenly does not feel quite so insurmountable.

“Getting out of that group was a big challenge,” says Davies of Switzerland, Turkey and Italy, whom they lost to on Sunday. “A lot of people wrote us off and to finish second and show the resilience we did, it has not really sunk in how big an achievement that was yet. For us now, we have to start relishing it. This is where we enjoy it.

“We built that expectation – we expected ourselves to get out of the group, we built that pressure on ourselves to get out of the group first and now the pressure is off. Now it is about seeing how far we can go and we really believe we can go on and create something special.”

The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.

On Monday afternoon, the Wales squad enjoyed an open-top bus tour of Rome, but all focus is on beating Denmark. Davies, for one, has been warned. “I spoke to him [Eriksen] last night after the [Denmark-Russia] game and he said that we’ll be in for a tough one,” he says, grinning.


Ben Fisher in Rome

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
‘I’m only 29 years old’: what Christian Eriksen said after his life was saved
German doctor tells of how he dashed from the stands to help footballer after cardiac arrest

Kate Connolly in Berlin

17, Jun, 2021 @11:40 AM

Article image
Denmark to make loud and clear their love for stricken Christian Eriksen
Play will stop in the 10th minute of Thursday’s game against Belgium and there will follow acclaim for the midfielder

Nick Ames in Copenhagen

16, Jun, 2021 @8:55 PM

Article image
Denmark determined to deliver where it all began for Christian Eriksen
Denmark take on Wales for a place in the Euro 2020 quarter-finals in Amsterdam, where their stricken midfielder Christian Eriksen began his career

Andy Hunter

25, Jun, 2021 @5:56 PM

Article image
‘We feared the worst’: Finland’s Tim Sparv on seeing Eriksen collapse
The Finland captain on what it was like on the pitch when the Denmark midfielder fell during their Euro 2020 match

Exclusive by Will Unwin

13, Jun, 2021 @1:42 PM

Article image
‘It was damn nice to see him smile’: Schmeichel cheered by visiting Eriksen
Denmark’s players have said they will play their coming games at the European Championship finals in honour of Christian Eriksen

Marcus Christenson

14, Jun, 2021 @12:03 PM

Article image
View from Denmark: Eriksen is one of us and that’s why it hurt so much
Denmark has witnessed Christian Eriksen grow into one of Europe’s greatest players and his cardiac arrest has shocked us – but brought the nation closer together

Troels Henriksen in Copenhagen

13, Jun, 2021 @7:47 PM

Article image
Denmark’s Christian Eriksen stabilised in hospital after collapse
Midfielder, 29, required urgent CPR on the pitch during match against Finland but is now stable

David Connett and Jonathan Wilson

13, Jun, 2021 @7:37 AM

Article image
Christian Eriksen sends greetings to Denmark teammates from hospital
The Danish football association has provided an update on Christian Eriksen’s condition, saying he is in a stable condition and will stay in hospital for further tests

Marcus Christenson

13, Jun, 2021 @9:29 AM

Article image
‘He was gone’: Christian Eriksen had cardiac arrest, Denmark doctor says
Christian Eriksen is smiling in hospital, Denmark’s coach has said, as it was confirmed the midfielder had a cardiac arrest

Marcus Christenson

13, Jun, 2021 @2:26 PM

Article image
Christian Eriksen collapsed and the stadium fell silent in horror
The events brought to mind Fabrice Muamba and Marc-Vivien Foé – but with the player in hospital, Denmark v Finland restarted

Jonathan Wilson

12, Jun, 2021 @7:26 PM