COPENHAGEN (AP) — As Christian Eriksen lay unconscious on the field, his pulse slipping away, Denmark team doctor Morten Boesen quickly realized there wasn’t a second to lose.
“He was breathing, and I could feel his pulse. But suddenly that changed,” Boesen said Saturday. “And as everyone saw, we started giving him CPR.”
The next 10 minutes were among the scariest to ever unfold during a match at soccer’s European Championship. Several medics worked frenetically to give Eriksen chest compressions while his teammates choked away tears and formed a circle around the midfielder to shield the scene from public view.
And finally, the eerie silence that had descended around Parken Stadium was replaced with massive cheers.
“We managed to get Christian back,” Boesen said. “And he spoke to me before he was taken to the hospital.”
Eriksen was awake and in stable condition Saturday night after being taken to a Copenhagen hospital, the Danish soccer federation said.
His collapse, which came in the 43rd minute of the match against Finland, led to the game being suspended for about 90 minutes before both teams made the decision to play on. Finland went on to win 1-0 after Joel Pohjanpalo scored in the 60th minute and goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky later saved a penalty.
But in the end, the result seemed merely an afterthought.
“Of course you can’t play a game with such feelings,” Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand said. “What we tried to do was incredible. It’s incredible that the players managed to go out and try to play the second half.”
UEFA said both teams had held an emergency meeting before deciding to continue playing. The players came back out onto the field to a huge ovation as they started warming up for a second time.
Hjulmand said the teams were given the option of finishing the game on Saturday or resuming on Sunday.
“The players couldn’t imagine not being able to sleep tonight and then having to get in tomorrow, get on the bus and play a game,” Hjulmand said. “Honestly, it was best to get it over with.”
Eriksen had just played a short pass when he fell face-forward onto the ground. His teammates immediately gestured for help and medics rushed onto the field.
Eriksen’s partner, Sabrina Kvist Jensen, went onto the field and was comforted by Denmark captain Simon Kjaer and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
The Finland players huddled by their bench and eventually walked off the field while the Inter Milan midfielder was still getting treatment, as did the referees.
Eriksen was eventually carried off to a loud ovation, with his teammates walking next to the stretcher.
Inter Milan team physician Piero Volpi told The Associated Press that the Italian club was in contact with the Danish soccer federation.
“We’re in contact with the Danish federation, the team manager, the team physician. But we still don’t know anything yet,” Volpi said. “We heard what UEFA said and we’re all happy that he’s been stabilized. But that’s all we know.”
Volpi added that Eriksen never contracted COVID-19, has no medical conditions that he’s aware of and has passed every medical exam without problem since joining Inter in January 2020 from Tottenham.
“But we’ll talk about that when the time is right,” Volpi added of Eriksen’s medical history. “Right now, the important thing is that he recovers.”
Eriksen is one of Denmark’s biggest stars and the incident brought an instant sense of shock to the Parken Stadium, where about 15,000 fans fell into hushed silence. Some supporters could be seen crying and hugging in the stands.
The game was broadcast widely, including on ESPN in the United States, which later responded to online criticism that its telecast lingered too long on the scene before cutting away. ESPN said it didn’t have its cameras on the scene and was using a worldwide feed supplied by the Union of European Football Associations.
“Once it was clear the world feed was going to take a more aggressive approach to covering the situation, we should have moved quicker to a static wide shot of the stadium or returned to the studio,” ESPN said in a statement.
As the fans in the stadium were waiting for updates, Finland supporters started chanting “Christian! Christian,” which was then answered by the Danish fans shouting “Eriksen! Eriksen!”
A huge roar then went up from all supporters when the stadium announcer said Eriksen was “stable and awake.”
The incident brought back memories of other soccer players who have collapsed on the field, including Marc-Vivien Foe and Fabrice Muamba. Foe died while playing for Cameroon during the 2003 Confederations Cup in France, while Muamba needed CPR in 2012 when he collapsed in a match between Bolton and Tottenham at White Hart Lane in north London.
Muamba, who fully recovered, wrote ”Please God” on Twitter as Eriksen was taken to the hospital.