Christian Eriksen admits he has not had the impact he had hoped at UEFA EURO 2012 but with impressive Germany next up for Denmark today, he still has the chance to make waves.
The AFC Ajax midfielder is an assured presence. He carries himself with the maturity and confidence of a man with a great deal of success, not to mention 25 caps, behind him. You have to remind yourself he is still only 20, that the 'little brother' nickname he goes by at Denmark's Kolobrzeg base in Poland is a reference to his age rather than his elfin stature.
Yet his slender shoulders carry a significant burden of expectation. His talents have long been appreciated and his performances at last summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championship confirmed his potential as a tournament player. Many envisaged him being at the fulcrum of Denmark's charge here in Poland and Ukraine but he has struggled to really stamp his authority.
"It hasn't gone as I had hoped," he told UEFA.com. "I expected to play better, but we are at least having success as a team, and that's what matters most. I need a bit more freshness, to get involved in the games. It is going OK, though, and in the last game I had the ball more than in the first match. I like to have as much of the ball as possible."
Morten Olsen believes too much is expected of Eriksen, that he is still finding his feet at international level – "his time, and precise role, in the team will come," he cautions. The Denmark coach also points to the thigh problems the youngster carried into the championship, all the more debilitating and difficult to overcome after a taxing 50-match campaign.
"It's true that I've been lacking some energy and freshness," Eriksen said. "
I don't think I've played as I was supposed to. Even if some aspects have gone well, it's just that it feels something is lacking." It has not affected his running – no other Danish player covered as much ground in the victory against the Netherlands and the defeat by Portugal – nor his passing; he simply lacks a bit of force, a little fizz.
His contribution seems sufficient, yet this is Christian Eriksen – he is assessed on a different scale, despite being in only his third year with the national team. "Everything has gone so fast, and suddenly people get expectations of me. That has increased over time but it is an incredibly cool experience. I think it's quite crazy when you think about it: 20 years old and I already have 25 caps."
Cap No26 could be his most significant to date, as Denmark meet Germany in Lviv knowing only victory will confirm progress from Group B. "As a team we hope to cause another sensation [after the Netherlands win], but on a personal level it could be the last chance I get here to show what I can do. We are up against great opponents and will have to play at 100%." If Eriksen hits top gear, Olsen's side have a real opportunity.
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