Christian Eriksen remains in a stable condition in hospital pending further examinations, the Danish Football Union (DBU) said in an update to the midfielder's condition on Sunday.

The football world has rallied around Eriksen after he collapsed on the pitch during Denmark's Euro 2020 game with Finland on Saturday.

Eriksen fell to the ground with no other player around him during the first half in Copenhagen.

Team-mates and referee Anthony Taylor called for immediate help from medical staff, with the players forming a protective barrier around Eriksen while efforts were made to resuscitate him.

He was subsequently transferred to hospital, with UEFA saying Eriksen had been "stabilised". The DBU added that he was "awake" and set for "further examinations".

Following a lengthy suspension, the match was resumed and Finland went on to win 1-0.

A DBU statement read: "This morning we have spoken to Christian Eriksen, who has sent his greetings to his team-mates. His condition is stable, and he continues to be hospitalised for further examination.

"The team and the staff of the national team has received crisis assistance and will continue to be there for each other following yesterday's incident.

"We would like to thank everyone for the heartfelt greetings to Christian Eriksen from fans, players, the Royal Families from both Denmark and England, international associations, clubs etc.

"We encourage everyone to send their greetings to the Danish FA, where we will make sure they are all passed on to Christian and his family."

One of his Inter team-mates, Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku, showed his support for Eriksen after netting the opening goal in his country's 3-0 victory over Russia.

The striker shouted "I love you Chris" into a television camera having put the Red Devils in front.

And, following his decisive penalty in South Korea's 2-1 victory over Lebanon on Sunday, former Tottenham team-mate Son Heung-min ran to the camera and said "Chris, stay strong, I love you."

Denmark face Belgium in their next Euro 2020 game on Thursday.

It has been a long time since Paraguay last conquered South American football, and they start their 2021 Copa America campaign looking to arrest a slump against Bolivia.

Paraguay are two-time winners of the Copa America, though not since 1979 have La Albirroja hoisted the trophy aloft.

Since then, their best performance has been reaching the 2011 final, which they lost against Uruguay. Paraguay did make it to the 2019 quarter-final, where they were eliminated by eventual champions Brazil on penalties.

There are familiar faces in the squad – captain Gustavo Gomez, Newcastle United's Miguel Almiron and Angel Romero.

Juan Carlos Osorio oversaw Paraguay's run to the last eight two years ago, but former Celta Vigo, Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao boss Eduardo Berizzo is now at the helm as the country dreams big.

But Berizzo finds himself under pressure amid a four-game winless streak following their 2-0 defeat to Brazil in World Cup qualifying prior to the Copa America – the nation's first loss at home to the Selecao since 1985.

"The Copa America will serve to consolidate the concept and the idea," Paraguayan Football Association (APF) vice-president Javier Diaz de Vivar told Radio Monumental 1080 AM following the Brazil loss. "We see a growing Paraguay, we need to be more forceful and perhaps be a little more vertical, but we are doing well, working, we chat every day with Eduardo Berizzo."

Bolivia will be hoping the delayed Copa will help the team – the 1963 champions have not progressed from the group stage since 2015.

An additional advantage could be that most of Bolivia's squad play in the domestic league, which has been suspended due to the COVID-19 situation.

With more time to prepare together, Marcelo Martins and Bolivia – who took part in the 2015 quarter-finals, their first knockout-round appearance since finishing runners-up in 1997 – are looking beyond the group phase.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Paraguay – Julio Enciso

The youngest player at the Copa America, Enciso has already played 24 top-flight matches for Libertad and was briefly the youngest player to score in the Copa Libertadores this century with his goal against Jorge Wilstermann last year when still 16. A good dribbler and not shy to take a shot, Enciso has been used almost everywhere across the front for Libertad and could be an interesting wildcard option for Paraguay.

Bolivia – Marcelo Martins

The heart and soul of a nation? Look no further than Martins. The iconic forward stands alone as Bolivia's record holder for goals (25 in 83 appearances). Of those, 18 have come in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, also making Martins Bolivia's top scorer in that competition. Playing his football for Cruzeiro in Brazil, Martins scored three goals in the two qualifiers immediately prior to the Copa America, helping his side to earn four points. Martins scored in the previous meeting between Paraguay and Bolivia – a 2-2 World Cup qualifying draw in November.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Paraguay are winless in their last 11 games in Copa America (D6 L5), their longest winless run in the competition.

- Bolivia scored in each of their last two games in Copa America: Marcelo Martins and Leonel Justiniano found the net in their defeats against Peru and Venezuela respectively in 2019.

- This is the sixth consecutive Copa America with Paraguay managed by a Argentinian boss, with Gerardo Martino (2007 and 2011), Ramon Díaz (2015 and 2016) and Eduardo Berizzo (2019 and 2021) each taking charge for multiple tournaments.

- Bolivia boss Cesar Farías will manage his second Copa America. In his previous edition, he oversaw an historic fourth-place finish for Venezuela in 2011.

Achraf Hakimi is a player in demand following his first season with Inter.

Hakimi helped Inter to Serie A glory for the first time in 10 years, but his future could be away from San Siro.

Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly determined to beat Chelsea and Bayern Munich to the full-back.

 

TOP STORY – PSG CHASING HAKIMI

Paris Saint-Germain remain interested in signing Inter star Achraf Hakimi, according to Gianluca Di Marzio.

PSG had a €60million (£51m) bid turned down by Serie A champions Inter, who are facing financial problems due to the coronavirus pandemic amid speculation over stars Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez, Alessandro Bastoni and Hakimi.

Ligue 1 giants PSG are still keen on Hakimi as Champions League winners Chelsea hold talks with the Morocco international's agent, while Bayern Munich have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

Bernardo Silva wants to leave Premier League champions Manchester City, reports Duncan Castles. The Portugal international has already been linked with Atletico Madrid and Barcelona after finding himself out of favour under Pep Guardiola.

- Fabrizio Romano claims Gianluigi Buffon is close to re-joining Parma. Buffon will leave Juventus in the off-season and the Italy great is reportedly on track to return to Parma, where the 43-year-old emerged from the youth team in 1995 before eventually moving to Turin in 2001. Parma were relegated from Serie A in 2020-21.

Arsenal have turned their attention to Real Betis attacker Nabil Fekir but Diario AS says the Gunners and LaLiga side remain apart in his transfer valuation.

- Calciomercato claims there are still concerns over Paulo Dybala's future at Juventus. Dybala is out of contract in 2022 and no closer to renewing after struggling for game time. The possible departure of Cristiano Ronaldo – who has been linked with PSG and Manchester United – could solidify Dybala's position in Turin.

Leicester City are the latest team to join the race for Salzburg's Patson Daka, according to the Mirror. Liverpool, Chelsea and RB Leipzig have also been linked.

- The Mirror reports Everton and Leeds United are considering moves for veteran Real Madrid star Marcelo.

Brazil head coach Tite revealed the team asked for the Copa America not to be staged on home soil amid ongoing controversy regarding the showpiece South American tournament.

Defending champions Brazil will host coronavirus-hit Venezuela in the opening game of the Copa America on Sunday following initial concerns the Selecao would boycott the event.

Postponed from 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Copa America had been due to be shared between Colombia and Argentina, though both countries were removed as co-hosts following respective political and coronavirus issues.

Brazil was awarded hosting rights, despite being one of the countries worst hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

Captain Casemiro and the squad have already criticised CONMEBOL's decision to move the tournament to Brazil and those views have been amplified following news that 12 of Venezuela's travelling party tested positive for coronavirus.

With COVID-19 again casting a shadow over the Copa, Tite told reporters on the eve of the curtain-raiser: "I would like these problems not occurring, not only for Venezuela. The organisation is wrong and this is not political, but it is a direct criticism to CONMEBOL and whoever has defined this in the CBF [Brazilian Football Confederation] that the Copa America will be here, I did not ask for this.

"I do not have any political party and I did not have it throughout my career, I always voted for people and never for political parties. Not having political ideas, they politicised this situation, unfortunately. We chose to participate in the Copa America and be loyal, and the players and the coaching staff asked the president of the CBF before the Copa America was defined in Brazil. Before the president of the republic speaks, we told them that we would be loyal, out of respect for everything that is happening and on the one hand sentimental.

"We asked for some time before speaking publicly and the decision was already defined, this is the real thing and what I want to tell you. From that moment on we decided to express ourselves in a joint way and once it was defined we feel pride in our country, pride in representing the Brazilian national team and I am proud to be their coach, we are proud to be here. Please understand that it is not only black or white, there are also greys, there is the Brazilian national team and there is our discernment to choose to express our opinions outside of here.

"So, from the moment our opinions were contrary to the organisation of the Copa America and now we have to play, there are no excuses and we are going to play. We will take care of ourselves in the best possible way and we will adjust to our responsibilities."

Brazil have gone 20 Copa America games without losing when the tournament takes place on home soil (W12 D8). Their previous defeat was a 3-1 loss to Peru in 1975.

Indeed the Selecao have lifted the title on the previous five occasions they have hosted, with an overall record of W26 D12 L2 – the other reverse coming versus Paraguay back in 1949.

Mexico fired a blank as El Tri were held to a 0-0 draw by Honduras ahead of the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Tata Martino's Mexico were taking to the field for the first time since their thrilling 3-2 extra-time defeat to rivals the United States in the inaugural Nations League final last week.

Saturday's international friendly served as preparation for the Gold Cup, which gets underway in the USA on July 10.

Mexico are the defending champions, but they have work to do following their goalless draw with Honduras in front of a huge crowd in Atlanta.

With more than 70,000 fans in attendance at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Mexico had the two best chances of the match.

Carlos Rodriguez rattled the crossbar with a powerful strike in the 30th minute, while Uriel Antuna found himself unmarked in the second minute of stoppage time but saw his header sail wide.

Mexico will face Panama (June 30) and Nigeria (July 3) before opening their Gold Cup campaign on July 10.

El Tri have been drawn in Group A, alongside El Salvador and Curacao, with Mexico also set to face the winner of the preliminary match.

As Brazil eye back-to-back Copa America trophies, Mineiro has been to the summit before.

Mineiro was part of the Selecao side that won the 2007 Copa America, defeating Argentina 3-0 to retain their CONMEBOL crown.

Brazil – led by Dunga – were far from favourites 14 years ago in Venezuela, where Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Adriano were among the absentees.

But a team featuring Robinho, Julio Baptista and Dani Alves upstaged great rivals Argentina, who were boasting Lionel Messi, Javier Zanetti, Carlos Tevez, Juan Roman Riquelme, Juan Sebastian Veron and Javier Mascherano in Maracaibo.

"On that occasion we basically went to the competition with our reserve team," Mineiro – who started every match and went on to earn a move to Hertha Berlin following the Copa America success, before joining Chelsea – told Stats Perform. "As several of the main players could not take part in that edition of the tournament.

"At the beginning, people did not expect much from us, the media was in doubt about our potential. But we managed to grow as a team little by little and we showed our potential. The biggest challenge came in the final match. And we won the Copa America and brought another trophy to Brazil."

"We are a country of over 200 million inhabitants. And it is a big responsibility to wear the yellow shirt," said 24-time international Mineiro. "The pressure is very big. However, it is also an honour, a privilege and a dream come true for every youngster, for every professional player to be able to wear that shirt and represent the country.

"We knew it. We were aware of our limitations. We knew it would be a tough Copa America for us. But we were totally focused and united and that was crucial for us. As I said, we went step by step gaining confidence. We got stronger and found ourselves in the final and managed to win it. For every professional footballer it is an honour to wear Selecao's shirt. Regardless of the pressure you must deal with."

The pressure is on Tite's Brazil to keep their hands on the Copa America trophy this year, as they prepare to open the showpiece South American tournament against Venezuela on Sunday.

Brazil have won five of the last nine editions of the Copa America, including the most recent one in 2019, while the Selecao have a favourable record against seven of the nine other teams at this year's event.

Pressure is nothing new in a country, where football transcends everything else. It is a way of life. It is a special kind of pressure in a country of 200million people, when every boy grows up wanting to play for the Selecao.

Amid the huge weight of expectations, Mineiro said: "Brazil is a country where emotions normally speak higher than reasoning. It is a fact. The here and now normally defines your status, how good you are. In Brazil there is not much patience to wait for a job to be developed. This is the Brazilian style, it is cultural to want immediate results.

"As we are considered...well, at least this is my impression where I go, we are considered one of the best - if not the best - football country in the world. But we must change that mentality and learn to work in different scenarios. With or without pressure. When we wear the Selecao shirt, every fan and the media expect us to win the game and play beautiful football and reach great results."

Brazil will also face Peru – a rematch of the 2019 decider, Colombia and Ecuador in Group B of this year's Copa America.

"Whenever you go onto the pitch, no matter if that is for the national team or for your club, you always think of winning the game," the 45-year-old continued. "But the pressure is obviously higher at Selecao. And when you represent your country, the desire is always to fight and do a great job.

"But it is hard as the opponents are always motivated to get a positive result against Brazil. It has been like that for a long time. Brazil have difficulties to beat some sides, perhaps because of their big motivation when they face Brazil. Anyway, every player will always try to represent the Selecao in the best possible way."

All eyes will be on superstar Neymar, who is carrying the hopes of a football-mad nation.

Neymar has scored 66 goals for Brazil, second only to Pele (77). Since his Brazil debut in August 2010, the Paris Saint-Germain forward has scored 47 more goals than any team-mate (Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho, 18).

In 2020-21, Neymar completed 5.6 dribbles per 90 minutes in Ligue 1 – the best mark of any player in Europe's top-five leagues to play at least 1000 minutes. Since joining PSG in 2017, he ranks third in France's top flight for goals (56) and fourth for assists (31), despite ranking 177th for appearances (70).

For all of Neymar's brilliance, Mineiro believes Brazil must learn not rely on the former Barcelona superstar.

"Neymar is a great player. His quality and potential are undeniable. On several occasions Brazil depend on his performance to show great football. In my opinion, Brazil should have a plan B just in case Neymar is absent for some reason," added Mineiro.

"Brazil must learn to play as a team and make the most of the individual quality of every player. That way we would become a stronger, more competitive side. Then we would surprise other teams who will be prepared to cancel our main players."

Neymar and Everton's Richarlison have formed an impressive relationship in attack for Brazil, though Mineiro has his collective concerns for the South American powerhouse.

"I have been following Richarlison. He is an excellent player with a big potential," said Mineiro. "He is growing and is an important player for Selecao. There is something I am a bit worried about Selecao. We have good players but they do not play together frequently or have enough time to train together as the European national teams do.

"Germany, for instance, a team that I am able to follow closely, they do have more chances to be together either training or playing matches. More than Brazil. They know each other well and have more opportunities to be together either in their clubs or in competitions. That is an advantage for the European national teams. Therefore, as many training sessions or games we can have with our good players can only be good for Selecao."

Belgium full-back Timothy Castagne has been ruled out for the remainder of Euro 2020 after sustaining a double fracture of his right eye socket.

Roberto Martinez's Belgium opened their Euro 2020 campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win over Russia on Saturday but it came at a cost.

Castagne and Russia's Daler Kuzyaev collided in mid-air after 25 minutes and both went down holding their heads.

Belgium's Castagne was substituted immediately and Kuzyaev two minutes later in the Group B clash in St Petersburg.

"Really bad news, really sad news to see Timothy Castagne is going to be out of the tournament," Belgium head coach Martinez said. 

"He's had images taken, he's got a double fracture and now we'll take the necessary treatment."

While Leicester City's Castagne will sit out the rest of the European Championship, the news was better for Jan Vertonghen. 

Veteran defender Vertonghen was withdrawn in the 77th minute due to ankle injury, but Martinez said there were no major concerns regarding his fitness going forward. 

"Vertonghen has got just a typical football injury, an ankle knock that we're probably going to wait 48 hours to see the real extent, but I don't expect it to be too serious," Martinez said. 

Overall, Martinez was satisfied to see his side play the way they did in the opener. 

"The performance is very pleasing," he said. "It's never easy to start a tournament of this magnitude and I think it looked a team very concentrated for 90 minutes, kept a clean sheet in a very good way, and then obviously the win will allow us to grow and to get into the tournament."

Belgium are unbeaten in 10 games in all competitions (W8 D2) and have suffered just one defeat in their last 24 internationals (W20 D3), via a 2-1 loss to England in the Nations League in October 2020.

Russia boss Stanislav Cherchesov will have far more to worry about after an uninspiring performance but expressed optimism his side will bounce back against Finland on Wednesday.

Cherchesov's Russia have lost four of their last six competitive games (W2) after losing just one of their 13 before that (W10 D2).

"We are still in the tournament," Cherchesov told a news conference. "We chose our system, which worked partially but then started to break down. The Belgians scored and then it was difficult to get the ball off them."

"We will get out of the situation. We put ourselves there, so now we must find a way out."

Sporting Kansas City earned a 1-1 draw with Austin as they extended their unbeaten streak to four matches in MLS.

Daniel Salloi cancelled out Cecilio Dominguez's first-half opener to ensure Sporting KC shared the points on Saturday.

Entering the contest, Sporting KC had won four of their last five home games against expansion sides, dating back to 2017 (D1).

Sporting KC had also recorded four come-from-behind victories this season, already matching San Jose Earthquakes' league-leading total of four comeback wins from the entire 2020 season.

While they were unable to complete the comeback for maximum points, Sporting KC avoided defeat thanks to Salloi.

Despite controlling most of the early action, Austin opened the scoring in the 26th minute when Dominguez rolled a shot past Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia.

Salloi, however, equalised with 19 minutes remaining after firing home the rebound.

Sporting KC are second in the Western Conference – just a point behind leaders Seattle Sounders, who have played a game less, while Austin are 10th and nine points adrift.

Christian Eriksen has been in contact with his Inter team-mates as he recovers from a worrying collapse in Denmark's Euro 2020 opener against Finland, the club's CEO Giuseppe Marotta has said.

There were troubling scenes when Eriksen slumped to the ground with no one around him just before half-time of the Group B fixture in Copenhagen, with team-mates forming a protective circle around him as medical personnel rushed to his aid.

UEFA initially confirmed the fixture was suspended but a positive update from the Denmark Football Union later confirmed Eriksen was conscious and receiving further treatment in hospital.

The match would later resume, with Finland securing a 1-0 win in their first ever major tournament match, a result that was understandably overshadowed by the concerning events.

The world of football rallied around in their support of Eriksen, and Marotta offered further good news by revealing the former Tottenham star had messaged Inter's group chat on messaging service WhatsApp.

"We watched the images on TV that suggested something dramatic was happening, which unfortunately we have also seen on Italian pitches before," Marotta told Rai Sport, in quotes translated by Football Italia.

"The players are very close and we all immediately communicated with each other after seeing those images. We didn't want to be invasive and so tried to respect his [recovery] once we had been reassured.

"I can only say that 10 minutes ago Eriksen himself sent a message in our internal chat and this confirms the bond between the players."

Asked if he had an update on Eriksen's condition, Marotta added: "We're optimistic about Christian's condition, Denmark's staff told us that the situation is under control.

"I cannot enter into the merits, the player is under the control of the Danish national team. The best thing I can tell is that Eriksen responded positively, the intervention of [Simon] Kjaer and the doctors was very important."

Denmark team doctor Morten Boesen spoke about the incident with Danish newspaper B.T. saying: "We were called on the pitch when Christian fell over. 

"I did not get to see it, but it soon became clear that he had fallen over. When we got there, he was lying on his side and was breathing.

"We felt the pulse, but pretty quickly the picture changed, and then we started life-saving heart treatment."

Ecuador will be keen for a repeat of their sensational World Cup qualifying win over Colombia as they look to finally beat a South American rival at the Copa America.

La Tri remarkably won 6-1 in Quito in November, the last of three consecutive victories in an encouraging start to Qatar 2022 qualifying following an opening defeat to Argentina.

Led by Gustavo Alfaro, appointed three months prior to that match, Ecuador have waited a long time for a comparable result at the Copa America.

They have not beaten a CONMEBOL opponent at the tournament since 2001, their 4-0 defeat of Venezuela followed by a 13-game winless run in such matches.

Ecuador's only wins in the intervening period were against CONCACAF pair Mexico and Haiti.

The qualifying setback was particularly shocking for Colombia given their strong record against Ecuador, who they have beaten nine times at the Copa America – including the past seven meetings in a row.

La Tri's most recent Copa victory over Colombia was a 4-3 triumph in 1964.

Alfaro said: "We know the team that we are going to face – a team that have recovered their self esteem, their form, their intensity and have become one of the best.

"As they have been in the last two World Cups, they are one of the best in South America. We are in a process of wanting to occupy that place."
 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Colombia – Luis Muriel

Atalanta forward Muriel scored a club goal every 80 minutes this season, the fifth-best rate of any player in Europe's top five leagues with five or more. He finished with 26 goals and 10 assists in all competitions. Muriel will now be determined to make his mark at the Copa America, too, having appeared in only 19 minutes across two previous editions. He was injured 14 minutes into the 2019 opener.

Ecuador – Angel Mena

Colombia will be well aware of the threat of Mena, who scored one and created two more as he was involved in half of Ecuador's six goals in Quito. With a knack for taking up dangerous attacking positions, Mena scored 17 goals for Leon in Liga MX in 2020-21 but could have boosted that tally further still with his chances worth 19.2 expected goals.
 

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Colombia have beaten Ecuador in their past seven meetings at the Copa America, keeping clean sheets in five of them. Ecuador scored only two goals across these matches.
– Colombia are unbeaten in normal time in their past five games at the Copa America, keeping clean sheets in each of them (W4 D1). In the previous tournament, they were eliminated without losing a game. Chile beat Colombia in a penalty shoot-out following a goalless draw.
– Colombia have made it through the group stage in 11 of the past 12 editions, although their sole title came at home in 2001.
– This is the second time Reinaldo Rueda has coached Colombia at the tournament. Previously, they finished fourth in Peru in 2004 (W3 D1 L2). Alfaro is coaching a side at the Copa America for the first time.
– The 2016 tournament was the only one of the past eight editions in which Ecuador advanced beyond the group stage.

Romelu Lukaku dedicated his inspirational performance in Belgium's win over Russia to Christian Eriksen after his Inter team-mate collapsed during Denmark's Euro 2020 game against Finland.

Denmark captain Eriksen required emergency treatment on the field after he fell to the turf late in the first half of the Group B match at Parken Stadium on Saturday.

The midfielder was awake in hospital and undergoing tests following such traumatic scenes in Copenhagen, with his team-mates having formed a protective barrier around him while efforts were made to resuscitate him.

Lukaku shed tears for Eriksen as he watched the game before scoring twice in Belgium's 3-0 win over Russia later in the day.

The striker shouted "I love you Chris" into a television camera after putting the Red Devils in front.

He told beIN SPORTS: "I'm really happy with the win but for me it was difficult to play today because my mind was with my team-mate, Christian.

"I hope that he's healthy and I dedicate this performance to him.

"I cried a lot because I was scared. We lived strong moments together for a year and a half, I spent more time with him than with my family. My thoughts are with him, his girlfriend, his two kids and his family."

Toby Alderweireld had similar thoughts after the match, writing on Twitter about his former Tottenham team-mate to say: "First win of the tournament but tonight was about more than football." 

Tagging Eriksen, he added: "My friend, my thoughts are with you and your family."

Finland beat Denmark 1-0 after the first Group B game resumed with the five remaining minutes of the first half played before a shortened half-time interval.

UEFA said the match was completed "following the request made by players of both teams".

Denmark head coach Kasper Hjulmand paid tribute to his players for their response to Christian Eriksen's distressing collapse during the Euro 2020 defeat to Finland on Saturday. 

The Group B clash in Copenhagen was suspended shortly before half-time after Inter midfielder Eriksen fell to the ground with no one around him.

Team-mates and referee Anthony Taylor called for immediate help from medical staff, with the players forming a protective barrier around Eriksen while efforts were made to resuscitate him.

The 29-year-old was carried from the pitch and positive news followed with the Danish Football Union stating Eriksen was "awake" after being taken to hospital. 

Both sets of players decided to resume the game after more than 100 minutes away from the pitch, with Joel Pohjanpalo sealing victory for Finland in their first ever major tournament game shortly before the hour mark. 

Denmark could have snatched a point with 16 minutes remaining, but Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's penalty was saved by Lukas Hradecky. 

Speaking to the media after the game, an emotional Hjulmand was full of praise for the way his players rallied around Eriksen. 

"It was a tough night," Hjulmand said. "We are all reminded what the most important thing in life is and that is to have valuable relations. 

"We have a group of players I can't praise enough. I couldn't be prouder of these people who take such good care of each other at such a time where one of my very, very dear friends is suffering.

"All of our thoughts and prayers are with Christian and his family right now. Christian is one of our best players and he's an even better person, so all my thoughts and all my positive energy go out to Christian."

The players only agreed to finish the game once they had been assured Eriksen was in a comfortable condition, with Hjulmand revealing they were also given the option of resuming the match on Sunday. 

"There was no pressure from UEFA to play tonight," he explained. "We knew we had two options. The players couldn't imagine not being able to sleep tonight and then having to get on the bus and come in again tomorrow. 

"Honestly, it was best to get it over with. Of course, you can't play a game with such feelings and what we tried to do was incredible."

Finland – who secured the win courtesy of their only effort on goal – have lost only one of their last eight competitive matches, picking up five victories and four clean sheets along the way. 

While pleased to seal an important three points, boss Markku Kanerva acknowledged it was a challenging occasion for his players. 

"It was a very emotional night for us," he said.

"First time in a major tournament and an opening game against Denmark in their home stadium. When we heard the national anthems, it was very emotional for us. And then what happened with Christian – a very dramatic and sad incident.

"And then finally, we get a good result from the game. Of course I am happy for that. Unbelievable. We are going to remember this for a long time for different reasons."

England have left "no doubt" in their reasoning for taking the knee and fans booing the team should "reflect on the message [they] are sending", the Football Association (FA) said on the eve of their Euro 2020 opener.

The Three Lions face Croatia at Wembley on Sunday, but it is anticipated that their pre-match anti-racism demonstration will again be met with opposition.

During pre-tournament friendlies against Austria and Romania in Middlesbrough, England took the knee and were booed by sections of their own supporters.

Opponents to the act have suggested it has links to political organisations, although Gareth Southgate and his team have repeatedly made clear their reasons for taking the knee.

It was a point the FA emphasised again as it prepared for the start of the campaign.

In a social media post, the FA said: "Tomorrow, our England senior men's team will begin their Euro 2020 campaign at our home, Wembley Stadium.

"Major tournaments don't come around often and, when they do, it's an opportunity to unite friends, families and the country. This collective support is what spurs our team on during challenging moments, and it gives them the best chance of succeeding.

"As the team has reiterated many times, they will collectively take the knee ahead of their fixtures during the tournament. They are doing this as a mechanism of peacefully protesting against discrimination, injustice and inequality. This is personally important to the players and the values the team collectively represents.

"This gesture of unity and fighting against inequality can be traced back as far as the 18th century. It is not new, and English football has made it very clear that it does not view this as being aligned to a political organisation or ideology. There can be no doubt as to why the players are taking the knee and what it represents in a footballing context.

"We encourage those that oppose this action to reflect on the message you are sending to the players you are supporting.

"Please respect their wishes and remember that we should all be united in the fight to tackle discrimination. Together.

"They will do their best for you. Please do your best for them."

Widespread concern met the decision for Denmark and Finland to return to the pitch less than two hours after Christian Eriksen had first collapsed in Copenhagen on Saturday.

An alarming incident prompted serious fears for Eriksen's life, fears that were eased but not eradicated by positive updates on the midfielder's condition.

For those watching from afar, the swift restart could not have been anticipated. There was wonder instead for how Belgium and Russia could possibly play later.

The Belgium squad features Eriksen's Inter team-mate Romelu Lukaku and long-term Ajax and Tottenham colleagues Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.

But, sure enough, confirmation was forthcoming of the resumption in Group B's first fixture, set for 20:30 CET, with Belgium's kick-off to follow as scheduled half an hour later.

Understandably, Denmark turned in a distracted display. Lacking the same enthusiasm as earlier, they fell to a 1-0 defeat that would usually have been considered a major upset. Few were thinking about Finland's historic result, minds focused instead on Eriksen.

Indeed, it was a similar story in Saint Petersburg, even if Russia made for accommodating hosts.

Lukaku profited from hapless Andrey Semenov defending and finished ruthlessly after 10 minutes. Rather than revel in his eighth tournament goal – the most of any Belgium player – the forward made for a nearby television camera.

"Chris," he bellowed, reaching the lens. "Chris, stay strong. I love you."

Eriksen occupied Lukaku's thoughts even at a moment of apparent elation, an action that backed up the words of UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.

"At these times, the unity of the football family is so strong and [Eriksen] and his family carry with them the good wishes and prayers of everyone," Ceferin said.

Further tributes will follow and it is difficult to imagine how that agonising Parken Stadium wait for family, friends, team-mates, opponents and fans, eager for any news at all as medical staff worked at length, does not overshadow the entire tournament.

Lukaku will hope there is at least time for some Belgian cheer before the Euros concludes at Wembley next month.

If Eriksen continues to recover, the Red Devils striker can allow his attention to return to the professional task at hand: finally delivering finals glory for his country.

Now or never is the popular verdict. Belgium entered this competition with a squad that boasts the most caps and ranks second oldest, behind only Sweden.

Lukaku is 28 and should play at Qatar 2022 and beyond, but some of his team-mates may not.

While the defence is undoubtedly ageing, the injury issues that are dogging other star names have become increasingly, frustratingly regular.

As Belgium reached the latter stages of Brazil 2014, Euro 2016 and Russia 2018 – only France also figured in the quarter-finals of all three tournaments – no outfield players started more matches than Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Axel Witsel (all 15 – tied with Alderweireld).

In 2020-2021, the trio were restricted to 11, 36 and 18 club starts respectively.

Hazard, having dealt with a series of muscle problems, started from the bench on Saturday. De Bruyne (orbital fracture) and Witsel (torn Achilles tendon) are both still recovering.

"Those are players who have something extra," said Dries Mertens, who took up one of the vacant attacking roles. "To not have three players like that, we're going to feel that, but we have to step up and be ready."

Leander Dendoncker stepped in for Witsel and said: "Axel has such a massive role in the squad, so it's logical we're talking about him. Kevin and Eden aren't here now either, and we're all talking about their absence. It's normal; they've earned it."

But it was Lukaku who ensured that absence was not felt. His clinical opener wrecked Russian dreams and might have been quickly followed by a second had Georgi Dzhikiya not expertly intervened. There were two minutes remaining when he belatedly hit the net again for Belgium's third, celebrated in more traditional fashion.

The Nerazzurri superstar has now been involved in 26 goals (22 goals, four assists) in his 19 games for Belgium since the World Cup.

Of Lukaku's nine finals goals, only one has arrived in the knockout stages, but this early effort was crucial in seizing control of the group. On this form, he will surely also add to that tally.

For all that this was an impressive win as Hazard featured sparingly and two key midfielders not at all, there is an argument – at least from those studying their wallcharts – Belgium might actually be better served finishing second in their pool. That could potentially mean no repeat of 2018, when they landed in the trickier half of the draw and met France in the last four. The same scenario is very possible again from first place.

That was not something for Lukaku to worry about on this occasion, though.

His friend's welfare was of primary concern, and then a talismanic outing to lift spirits just a little at the end of a tough day for football.

Romelu Lukaku sent his support to Christian Eriksen after setting Belgium on their way to a 3-0 victory Russia in their Euro 2020 opener on Saturday.

Lukaku's Inter team-mate Eriksen is awake in hospital and undergoing tests after collapsing during Denmark's encounter with Finland in Copenhagen earlier in a traumatic second day of the tournament.

Red Devils record goalscorer Lukaku said "Chris, I love you" into a television camera following his opening goal in the Group B match at Saint Petersburg Stadium.

Thomas Meunier scored Belgium's second in the first half and the impressive Lukaku added a late third as the top-ranked side in the world moved level on points with Finland, 1-0 winners over Denmark in a game that resumed following encouraging news on Eriksen.

 

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