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Dublin: 9°C Monday 8 March 2021

This one moment of class from Christian Eriksen highlights the difference between Peru and Denmark

The Tottenham star produced the assist for the match-winning goal today.

FOR 58 MINUTES of today’s Group C match in Saransk, Peru looked the far superior team and Christian Eriksen was having a quiet game.

However, everything changed in an instant just before the hour mark.

The Tottenham star was rarely afforded any space to exploit — something he does marvelously well as Ireland discovered back in November — but the one chance he got this afternoon, Eriksen made it count.

The 26-year-old broke forward on the counter-attack and played the perfect through ball to Yussuf Poulsen, and the RB Leipzig star made no mistake with the finish.

This is what makes Eriksen such a special player. He is the one individual that Peru will have obsessed over ahead of today’s game. Boss Ricardo Gareca will have warned his team not to give the former Ajax player even a split second on the ball.

And for the most part, the South Americans did a great job of keeping the star on the periphery of the game, yet the one moment they let their guard down, Eriksen delivered.

The attacking midfielder was arguably the one world-class player on show in the game and undoubtedly the difference between the two teams.

What separates him from the average player is his decision-making and composure at key moments.

While Tottenham had a season that was slightly disappointing given the progress they had previously made, Eriksen still deservedly made the PFA Team of the Year.

He had 10 assists and 10 goals in the Premier League in the 2017-18 campaign. Before that, he had the second highest number of assists in the English top flight two seasons on the bounce.

Without the Dane’s contribution, it seems unlikely that Harry Kane would have scored nearly as many goals as he has in recent seasons.

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At international level, Eriksen is similarly influential, as he has been involved in 17 goals in his last 14 appearances for Denmark — 12 scored and five assisted (per the BBC).

And today, he proved his class again, taking the one clear chance he got to open up the opposition defence.

Peru, by contrast, were conspicuously lacking an attacker with the calmness of Eriksen.

They had more possession than Denmark and a higher number of shots on target. They also had better chances, but too often, lacked the composure to capitalise — most noticeably, when Christian Cueva woefully blazed a first-half penalty over the bar.

A closer look at the Peru team perhaps reveals the reason for their shortcomings. Their starting XI consisted of players plying their trade in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, USA, Holland and Denmark — decent leagues but outside of the elite level. Their attack featured a 33-year-old Jefferson Farfán of Lokomotiv Moscow and Andre Carrillo, who has scored a total of one goal in the Premier League for Watford this season, while his performances with the Hornets have drawn criticism in some quarters.

Eriksen, by contrast, has starred in the Premier League for several seasons now, and has plenty of Champions League experience to boot.

Such fine lines are what make the difference at this level — so while Peru may have been the better team today, it was a moment of individual brilliance that proved to be their undoing.

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Paul Fennessy

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