Denmark’s players expressed dissatisfaction at the position they were put in after teammate Christian Eriksen’s collapse during their Euro 2020 opener on Saturday, having to decide whether to finish the match that evening or the next morning.
UEFA offered the players, who gathered in the dressing room after they witnessed Eriksen being treated on the pitch following a cardiac arrest, the choice of resuming the match on Saturday night or beginning again on Sunday at noon local time (11 a.m. BST, 6 a.m. ET).
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“We were put in a position which I personally don’t think we should have been put in,” Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel told reporters on Monday.
“It probably required that someone above us had said that it was not the time to make a decision and maybe should wait for the next day,” he added.
Midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg also said Eriksen delivered a message via video link from the hospital to say that he is doing OK and that Denmark should try to focus on playing their next game, against Belgium on Thursday in Copenhagen.
UEFA officials were not immediately available for comment. But European football’s governing body wrote on Twitter on Saturday that the match would be restarted “following the request made by players of both teams.”
“We had two options. None of the options were good. We took the least bad one. There were a lot of players that weren’t able to play the match. They were elsewhere [mentally],” Danish striker Martin Braithwaite said Monday.
“You could have wished for a third option in this situation,” he added.
Eriksen collapsed just before half-time and was taken to hospital after receiving CPR on the pitch. After a long suspension, the game resumed at 8:30 p.m. CET, and Finland went on to win 1-0.
The comments echoed criticism from former Danish internationals Peter Schmeichel and Michael Laudrup on Sunday.
“Something terrible like that happens and UEFA gives the players an option to go out and play the game or come back at 1200 on Sunday. What kind of option is that?” Peter Schmeichel, the father of Kasper, told the BBC on Sunday.
UEFA said it had dealt with the matter as carefully as it could at the time, however.
“UEFA is sure it treated the matter with utmost respect for the sensitive situation and for the players,” a statement said. “It was decided to restart the match only after the two teams requested to finish the game on the same evening.
“The players’ need for 48 hours’ rest between matches eliminated other options.”
Jonas Baer-Hoffman, general secretary of international players’ union FIFPRO, said the decision should not have been made in the immediate aftermath of the incident.
“It would have been better to cancel the game in that evening. Take a bit of time, take a breath, look at it with a bit more distance, look at what are the options to carry on with the game or not, and if the game can’t be replayed then I think also that would not be very important in comparison to what happened there to Christian,” he told Reuters.
“The players were probably not given a real option in terms of taking a good decision that was in that moment in balance with where they were mentally,” he added. “There’s a lot of lessons that need to be drawn from this,” he said, adding that they would be conducting a review with UEFA.
Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand also said on Sunday that he did not think the players should have been back on the pitch.
The Danish Football Association said on Monday that the 29-year-old Eriksen remained in stable condition in a nearby hospital.