Finland capital

Eriksen scores in Copenhagen return as England, France and Italy win friendlies

PARIS, France, March 30 – Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen scored on Tuesday on his return to the Copenhagen stadium where he suffered a cardiac arrest last year as England and France also won the final round of friendly matches before the World Cup.

The Dane, wearing the captain’s armband, struck in the 57th minute to cap Denmark’s 3-0 friendly win over Serbia at Parken Stadium where he collapsed and nearly died in a Premier League game Europe against Finland last June.

“Coming back to Parken and scoring a goal with the reception I received… is something that gives you goosebumps. It makes me incredibly happy,” Eriksen said.

At Wembley, Ollie Watkins scored on his first start for England as Gareth Southgate’s revamped side beat 10-man Ivory Coast 3-0.

A revamped France also saw Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud target the world champions in a comfortable 5-0 win over South Africa eight months before the World Cup kicked off in Doha.

Olivier Giroud (C) takes second place in France’s all-time goalscoring charts behind Thierry Henry © AFP / FRANCK FIFE

European heavyweights Germany and the Netherlands drew 1-1 in Amsterdam while Italy clawed back a few days of pride after failing to qualify for a second consecutive World Cup, beating the Turkey 3-2 in Konya.

In Copenhagen, on the pitch, Eriksen received the captain’s armband and received a huge round of applause from the home crowd.

“Welcome home Eriksen” and “Welcome home Christian” banners were unfurled by supporters as the players entered the pitch at the capital’s National Stadium.

Joakim Maehle opened the scoring for Denmark after a quarter of an hour and Jesper Lindstrom added a second eight minutes after the break.

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Eriksen, who relaunched his club career with Brentford in the Premier League, scored the third with a shot from outside the box for his 38th goal in 111 appearances.

The 30-year-old was substituted after 80 minutes leaving the pitch to a standing ovation and was later named man of the match.

In London, new home side Southgate were slow to settle in, but first-half strikes from Watkins and captain Raheem Sterling either side of a red card for the visitors gave them full control.

The game ended as a sporting competition as England lost their rhythm but Tyrone Mings slotted in from a stoppage-time corner to add some shine to the Euro 2020 finalists’ scoreline in the final match before the World Cup draw on Friday.

Italy striker Giacomo Raspadori (C) scored a brace against Turkey © AFP / Ozan KOSE

European champions Italy also sounded the changes days after their shock loss to North Macedonia denied them a World Cup spot.

Bryan Cristane’s 35th-minute header and a Giacomo Raspadori brace gave the European champions victory after Cengiz Under gave the hosts a fourth-minute lead.

Serdar Dursun struck one back seven minutes from time but Gianluigi Donnarumma, who had a shaky evening, kept the Fenerbahçe forward from heading for Turkey moments later with a superb save.

“It was the first time they all played together so it wasn’t easy for them,” added Mancini.

“They are all young boys, they need time. It wasn’t easy even though the match itself wasn’t worth much. They were good and that makes me happy for them.

– Dominant France –

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At Lille, Giroud scored either side of a brace from Mbappe for his 48th goal for the Blues to come close to Thierry Henry’s record of 51.

Mbappe scored France’s first goal after 23 minutes from an Antoine Griezmann cross with the Atletico Madrid striker also involved in Giroud’s second.

Mbappe got the third with a quarter of an hour from the penalty spot with Wissam Ben Yedder and Matteo Guendouzi adding two as South Africa played a man after Khuliso Mudau was sent off late.

England defender Tyrone Mings (C) jumps to score his third goal against Ivory Coast at Wembley Stadium © AFP / Adrien DENNIS

In Amsterdam, Tottenham striker Steven Bergwijn came off the bench to equalize for the Netherlands after Thomas Mueller gave the Germans the lead just before the break.

“As we approach Qatar, we have to take advantage of every international game and that was valuable,” said Germany captain Manuel Neuer.

“We’ve been decent for long periods and the main thing is that the team is on a very good path.”