Christian Eriksen: Fresh start was needed for Denmark

Christian Eriksen. Picture: SNS
Christian Eriksen. Picture: SNS
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Christian Eriksen insists the time was right for a new era in Danish international football but admits it may take time to adjust to their first managerial change for 15 years, writes Stephen Halliday.

Tottenham midfield star Eriksen had previously known nothing but life under revered coach Morten Olsen since breaking into his country’s senior squad.

But Olsen, who had been in charge for 15 years, stepped down after the Danes lost 4-3 to bitter rivals Sweden in the Euro 2016 play-offs last November.

He was replaced by veteran Norwegian coach Age Hareide who began his tenure with a 2-1 home win over Iceland last Thursday night. “To be honest, it seems a bit strange that Morten is no longer here,” said Eriksen as he prepares to win his 59th cap in tonight’s challenge match against Scotland at Hampden.

“When we met up last week and he wasn’t at the lunch table or on the training ground, it was not the same.

“Obviously, the training has been different as well but I believe we needed something new after the disappointment of not reaching Euro 2016.

“We are full of confidence after beating Iceland last week. This is a new start for us, with a new manager and a new style of play. Everyone wanted to show him what we could do and we got the victory and the belief to take into this game. This is an important game for us as we prepare for the World Cup qualifying matches. Unfortunately, we are like Scotland in that we will be sitting on the couch watching the Euros instead of taking part.

“So, for us, this is the beginning of the World Cup qualification process. That starts for us in September and we want to be as ready as we possibly can be – and winning games is the only way to be ready.”

Eriksen scored on his previous visit to Hampden but could not prevent Denmark slipping to a 2-1 defeat against Scotland five years ago.

“That was the rainiest day I’ve ever played in, anywhere in the world,” he recalled. “Scotland will have a lot of changes from that night but it’s a good game for us.”

Hareide, who earlier this season plotted Celtic’s Champions League downfall by guiding Malmo to a 4-3 aggregate play-off round win over Ronny Deila’s side, is encouraged by the initial response of the Danish players to the changes he plans to implement.

“It has been very interesting for me so far,” said Hareide. “The Danish players are all good players. Most of them have been around the squad for a while, so there are not so many new faces. But what I’m asking of them may be a little bit of a different style of play for them. We have only had one game so far against Iceland. We have to take what we can from it and learn from it.

“It is difficult to come in and replace a manager in Morten Olsen who was in the job for 15 years. But we have already managed to change a little bit against Iceland and hopefully we are now going to work on different things against Scotland.

“I know Gordon Strachan well, he has had a wonderful career and he is capable of building a good Scottish team again. The main thing for us is to be prepared for the start of the World Cup qualifying against Armenia in September.

“We have to find out other things about the team before then, both offensively and defensively. We need to find out if we are good enough. After playing Scotland, we have a couple of matches in Japan in June. If we can work together with the same squad and stick together, we will hopefully get it right in the autumn.”