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Slovenia 1 Denmark 1 – Eriksen’s Hollywood moment and why was Sesko frustrated?

It was the kind of moment that feels made for a Hollywood feelgood movie.

Three years since he almost died in a European Championship match in his home country, Christian Eriksen scored Denmark’s opening goal of Euro 2024.

It was not enough to secure victory, but was still one of the most heartwarming sub-plots of this tournament so far. Here, we analyse that, and the other major talking points.

How did Eriksen write his fairy tale?

Sunday marked 1,100 days since Christian Eriksen collapsed at Copenhagen’s Parken stadium during a Euro 2020 game against Finland after suffering a cardiac arrest.

For 13 agonising minutes, Eriksen lay on the turf being attended to by fellow players – Denmark captain Simon Kjaer cleared his airways while teammates put him into the recovery position – and then medics. Team doctor Morten Boesen later explained, “We got him back after one defibrillator. That is quite fast. How close were we? I don’t know.”

Eriksen’s physical recovery is nothing short of a miracle, and the fact that he managed to resume his football career at the top level is a marvel.

He had already played at a World Cup since that traumatic afternoon in the Danish capital, but he did not score in Qatar. Today, against Slovenia, his moment arrived.

In the 17th minute, his Manchester United teammate Rasmus Hojlund won a throw in. A cross from the right fizzed its way into the penalty area. A backheeled flick from Jonas Wind saw the ball meet an onrushing Eriksen, who controlled it with his chest and finished smartly into the bottom corner.

Christian Eriksen fires home against Slovenia (Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images)

It was the 42nd goal Eriksen had scored for his country (he is now tied for fourth in the all time goalscoring records) and surely the most emotional. It certainly prompted ecstatic celebrations among the red wedge of the Stuttgart Arena, and millions watching around the world.

In truth, Eriksen was at the centre of much of Denmark’s best attacking play. He pushed up from midfield to make late entries into the box behind Wind and Hojlund.

Eriksen would continue to give Slovenia a headache for the rest of the game, tormenting them with his passing – he still has an eye for a through ball that few of his countrymen can match – and probably should have had a second before half-time only to sweep a shot over the bar.

Why couldn’t Sesko get in the game?

You’re a 21-year-old striker eliciting the attentions of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United.

You’ve just signed a lucrative new contract with your current club (RB Leipzig). You’re the most promising player on your national team. You’re making your debut at the European Championships…. And, unfortunately, you hardly see anything of the ball.

Benjamin Sesko has definitely had more enjoyable days in recent months than this one against Denmark. By the 65th minute he had touched the ball just 18 times, and had not done so at all within meaningful range of the penalty area.

His two best moments were entirely of his own making. Midway through the first half, he hammered a shot from 25 yards just off target. Then, in the 76th minute, a similar effort from the same kind of range hammered against the right-hand post.

Morten Hjulmand pays close attention to Benjamin Sesko (Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Denmark averaged close to 70 per cent possession throughout the game, and would often have 10 outfielders camped inside Slovenia’s half. Matjaz Kek sets his team up in a compact 4-4-2 and instructs his players to deny any opportunity for opposition teams to pass in between the lines. Yet a lack of pressing meant Denmark, certainly in the first half, found it easy to work the ball out wide and attempt crosses and pull-back passes into the Slovenia penalty area.

In the end, Erik Janza’s deflected strike earned Slovenia their point, but while Kek’s “stay compact and the counter-attack” plan has merit, they will need to find a way to force opposition teams into making more mistakes – and get their best attacker more involved – if they are to progress.

Should England be worried about these sides’ set pieces?

Denmark’s goal was born from a throw-in. Slovenia’s in a corner kick.

This may not have been a European Championship classic but it did underline how both of these teams, who face England over the space over the next week, put a special attacking onus on set-pieces.

Premier League viewers will be used to the sometimes-erratic corner taking deliveries of Eriksen, but Denmark rely on his straightforward deliveries into the six-yard box to manufacture goalscoring chances. Slovenia, too, employed a few routines, often firing the ball into the corridor of uncertainty, trying to unsettle goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

Denmark and Slovenia were both threatening from set-pieces (Damien Meyer/AFP via Getty Images)

There’s more than one way to score a goal, but few more straightforward and effective as sticking it into the mixer for the biggest players to latch onto.

This is a situation where England manager Gareth Southgate will surely miss the aerial ability of Harry Maguire, whose absence has left the defence looking notably shorter.

What did Matjaz Kek say?

We will bring you this after he has spoken at the post-match press conference.

What did Kasper Hjulmand say?

We will bring you this after he has spoken at the post-match press conference.

What next for Slovenia?

Thursday, June 20: Serbia, Group C (Munich), 2pm BST, 9am ET

What next for Denmark?

Thursday, June 20: England, Group C (Frankfurt), 5pm BST, noon ET

Recommended reading

(Top photo: Damien Meyer/AFP via Getty Images)

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