Perhaps it dawned as a consternation, a treachery, but it did nothing to detract from its brutality. Perhaps it was its unforeseen delivery, its abrupt and sudden nature, further enriching its cause.
The European Champions 2016 qualifier at the Parken Stadium, between Denmark and Portugal, had been a tight and cagey affair, settled majestically by Cristiano Ronaldo deep into stoppage time. The opportunity to seize top spot in their qualifying group had ruefully eluded Morten Olsen’s side. Perhaps a preach of patience awaited the Danish media, an allocution pledging Denmark would certify for France 2016, one galvanising disheartened Danes. Anything but.
Perhaps it should have dawned as such an awe. Christian Eriksen had languished under the umbrage of a nation’s expectation, a nation’s fidelity. The midfielder had mustered a solitary shot and none on target. Of his 57 touches, not one was remotely decisive and relevant. With seven minutes of normal time remaining, Eriksen had departed to a chorus of derision.
His manager, Olsen, was making a name for himself as an outspoken individual, one dividing opinion. The Denmark manager, a mere four months earlier, had questioned the philosophy applied by Jose Mourinho, alledging the Chelsea manager of “killing football”. He was equally brash here, scrutinising Eriksen’s progress since his £11.5 million departure from Ajax and declaring Eriksen solely culpable for Denmark’s sore defeat.
Perhaps, though, the talented 22 year-old is also responsible for Tottenham’s sharp ascent of late in the Premier League, their encouraging form reviving the club’s previously faded Champions League ambitions. If such a luminous purpose is to be satisfied, Eriksen’s role will have to be instrumental.
The Dane is settling into his element at Spurs, thriving upon the unerring faith of his manager Mauricio Pochettino. The midfielder is aware of the luminous achievements of those his age, 22, the likes of World Cup winner Mario Gotze, and knows the potential card can be played no more. He has grown under Pochettino’s tutelage, developing a consistency which had eluded him last season.
Perhaps Eriksen will vindicate the faith and fortitude of the Tottenham hierarchy. Acquired from the impressive production belt that is Ajax, for a player lavished with praise and extolled for his mercurial technique, his mesmerising low centre of gravity and his propensity to indulge audiences with moments of sheer skill, his maiden season in England was an under-whelming introduction to the unique adversities posed by the Premier League.
In 23 starts and 1984 minutes of football in the Premier League, Eriksen had managed a mere seven goals and eight assists. It is telling that, by the week 20, the Dane has already equalled his goal tally from the entirety of last season.
The 22 year-old has excelled with a verve and confidence which previously eluded him. His free-kick winner at Leicester City on Boxing Day should have been embossed with “PERFECTION”, hardly the fluke some claimed it to be. The flight of the ball was adjudged perfectly, bewildering Leicester goalkeeper Ben Hamer into impotency. It was his seventh goal of the season, adding to strikes of similar calibre to his belated winning strike at Hull City and, more recently, Swansea City.
Perhaps it is why Louis Van Gaal, the Manchester United manager, jumped onto his defence, branding criticism of the 22 year-old “rubbish”. Eriksen did not impose the full entirety of his talent against the Dutchman’s side on Sunday but there were apparent moments of genius, glimpses to suggest there is more to come from the promising Dane.
It supports the general sense at Tottenham, the belief that Eriksen will develop into an incredible prospect. There have been moments at Spurs where Eriksen has excelled into his element but perhaps, now better than ever, the Dane is settling into his zone under Pochettino’s tutelage, glowing with the vengeance of a man with something to prove.Published 30 Dec 2014, 00:29 IST