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Belgium to kick ball out of play as mark of respect to Christian Eriksen

Denmark host the Belgians in Copenhagen on Thursday evening.

Belgium players during a training session in Copenhagen.
Belgium players during a training session in Copenhagen.
Image: Martin Meissner

BELGIUM BOSS ROBERTO Martinez and his players will celebrate Christian Eriksen’s ongoing recovery from a cardiac arrest when they face Denmark – but then they mean business.

The 29-year-old had to be resuscitated on the pitch at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen after slumping to the ground during the first half of his side’s 1-0 Group B defeat by Finland on Saturday evening.

Eriksen’s Inter Milan team-mate Romelu Lukaku has revealed the Belgians plan to kick the ball out of play after 10 minutes – the midfielder wears the number 10 shirt for the Danish national team – in Thursday’s showdown as a mark of respect.

Martinez, who will have midfielders Kevin De Bruyne and Axel Witsel available after injury, told a press conference: “As you can imagine, the uncertainty that we had when the incident happened, that was a really tough moment, a tough moment for any player that was watching the game, a tough moment for players who have been sharing dressing rooms with Christian.

“Then from that point on, once you get the good news that Christian reacted positively, that he was talking, that he was in hospital, now it’s almost a celebration.

“You’re going to have a full capacity crowd – this is about a celebration in football and for Christian. But after that, there’s a game to be played.

“It’s an important game for both national teams and in that way, every single player that is going to be on that pitch will know the importance and what’s at stake, and that focus will shift quite quickly.”

The Danes went on to lose 1-0 to the Finns and head into their clash with Belgium, who beat Russia 3-0 in their opening fixture, desperate to kick-start their tournament.

Head coach Kasper Hjulmand will need to plug the gap left by Eriksen, but also ensure his players are ready to go again after being deeply affected by what they witnessed.

Hjulmand said: “We’re not done with this tournament and we have some very important games ahead of us.”

That said, he is aware that his side will have its work cut out to get the better of FIFA’s top-ranked team, who beat them home and away in the Nations League last year.

He added: “I know we’re the underdogs here. There’s no doubt that we are facing the best team in the world, who we have played many many times.

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“You can look at their statistics and see that they don’t concede many goals and they win a lot of games. They’re very, very good. They’re the only team that reminds me of a club team.

“But there’s always a chance against that kind of team.”

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