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Denmark clash ‘not the same’ without Eriksen, says Belgium’s Martinez

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Belgium’s Spanish coach Roberto Martinez leads an MD-1 training session at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, on June 16, 2021, on the eve of their UEFA EURO 2020 Group B football match against Denmark. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP)


Roberto Martinez said Wednesday that Belgium’s Euro 2020 match with Denmark won’t be the same without Christian Eriksen on the pitch as he recovers from his dramatic mid-match collapse.

Belgium line up on Thursday at the Parken Stadium where Eriksen had to be revived by medics at the weekend following his sudden fall, and Martinez said he and his players wanted to pay tribute to the Danish playmaker ahead of the Group B match.

“As a team there is a real intention just to show our wishes and thoughts to Christian,” Martinez told reporters, adding that his team would make “some sort of gesture” at the start of the game.

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“Our message is football is not the same if Christian Eriksen is not on the football pitch.

“All we want is a full recovery and to see Christian very, very soon on the Danish team and for Inter Milan and everyone in Belgium is joining into those wishes.”

The fans at the Parken Stadium will stage a minute’s applause in the 10th minute of the game in support of Eriksen.

“We need to celebrate the quick action from the doctors to make it such a speedy reaction,” said Martinez.

“Every player who is going to be on that pitch is going to know the importance (of the game) and what’s at stake and the focus will shift quite quickly. But it should be a celebration from everyone.”

Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku, who scored twice in their 3-0 win over Russia and shouted a message of support to Eriksen into a pitchside camera, said the players would kick the ball out of play for the minute’s applause.

“After 10 minutes of the match we’ll put the ball into touch to applaud,” said Lukaku, a teammate of Eriksen at Inter Milan.

“Several of our players have played with him. But tomorrow we’ll be there to win the game, which promises to be difficult.”

Martinez’s team lead Group B and will be boosted by the return to action of Axel Witsel and Kevin De Bruyne.

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Witsel has recovered from an Achilles tendon injury which had kept him out since January, while De Bruyne is back after surgery on face fractures.

“The programme is very clear for Kevin De Bruyne. He is medically fit, he’s got the green light to play in a match situation,” said Martinez.

“One of the questions is seeing how long Kevin can play and how we can use the two games we have in five days to try to bring him to 90 minutes. I’m really pleased with the progress he’s making.”

Martinez added that the Timothy Castagne has undergone a “very successful operation” on Tuesday after suffering two facial fractures early against Russia.

“Every other player, the 25, are fit and available for selection tomorrow,” said Martinez.

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