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Dismal Denmark out with whimper on Eriksen's major tournament return

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Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen reacts after Australia won their Qatar 2022 World Cup Group D match at the Al-Janoub Stadium in Al-Wakrah on November 30. AFP

Dismal Denmark out with whimper on Eriksen's major tournament return

Christian Eriksen's Denmark came to the World Cup tipped as dark horses after reaching the semi-finals of last year's European Championship but have exited with barely a whimper after a 1-0 defeat to Australia.

Eriksen's return to the World Cup had been highly anticipated after a good spell for both club and country following a dramatic comeback from a cardiac arrest.

The playmaker collapsed on the pitch against Finland in June 2021 during the delayed Euro 2020 tournament and had to be resuscitated in front of a stunned Copenhagen crowd and a television audience of millions.

On the way to hospital he told his wife Sabrina that he would probably never play football again, but he fought his way back to fitness.

The 30-year-old had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator fitted, which meant he had to quit Inter Milan due to rules in Italy.

But he signed for Brentford in the Premier League and also resumed his international career, subsequently joining Manchester United.

Denmark were favourites to qualify from Group D alongside world champions France, who they beat home and away in the Nations League.

Before their opening goalless draw with Tunisia, assistant coach Morten Wieghorst said Eriksen was "even better than he was before the accident".

But he was underwhelming in a team that lacked the spark that carried them to the semi-finals at last year's Euros.

'Superhero'

"Christian is a superhero but he performs with the team," said Denmark captain Simon Kjaer.

"He is an amazing footballer but we have to look to each other and see that as a team we didn't perform.

"We made one goal, got one point, couldn't beat Australia at the end of the group and OK we go home."

Eriksen was wearing the captain's armband on Wednesday in place of the injured Kjaer but he failed to sparkle at Al Janoub Stadium, unable to inspire his strangely lacklustre teammates.

Demark were toothless after Mathew Leckie's twisting run and low finish gave Australia a 60th-minute lead, which ultimately gave them the win they needed to qualify from the group, second behind France.

A strangely subdued display from Eriksen was summed up in stoppage time when he miscontrolled a pass even though he had a chance to shoot in the penalty area and then bounced off Australia defender Harry Souttar onto the grass.

Coach Kasper Hjulmand wondered aloud why his team had played with such a "lack of enthusiasm and coherence" in a match they had to win.

Kjaer pinned the blame on the squad as a whole rather than the man who was supposed to show why he is rated as one of Europe's best playmakers.

"Every team has a player that they count on, and we count on Christian," said Kjaer.

"This is not on Christian, this is on the team, because if we managed to put him in the right situations, Christian will make the difference. We win and lose as a team."

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