SARANSK, Russia (Reuters) - Christian Eriksen was underwhelming in Denmark’s World Cup opener against Peru apart from one moment of brilliance that led to the game’s solitary goal, and the Danes need more from their inspirational playmaker to prolong their stay in Russia.
Eriksen was a raw teenager at his first World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and Denmark failed to qualify for the tournament in Brazil four years ago.
He has since developed into a complete midfielder and the Tottenham Hotspur player arrived in Russia on the back of fine campaigns for club and country.
He was joint third-best scorer in European qualifying with 11 goals, behind Robert Lewandowski (16) and Cristiano Ronaldo (15).
Those goals were half the Danes’ total but the 26-year-old was largely ineffective in the first half hour against Peru as the Danes played long balls towards the wings to try to take advantage of their superior height.
Denied space to work with, Eriksen cut a lonely figure at the Mordovia Arena and was whistled every time he touched the ball by the horde of Peru supporters. He snapped tetchily at his team mates a few times.
The Denmark midfield looked all at sea against Peru’s fast and slick short-passing game and they were forced to change tactics.
“We were very tentative in first half. We kicked some long balls but it didn’t work for us really,” Denmark coach Age Hareide told reporters.
“I do think, we were a bit afraid of the atmosphere, the intensity of it and it affected us.”
The change helped Eriksen find more space as the Danes started playing more passes and he showed what he is capable of during a fast counter-attack when he threaded a perfect pass to Yussuf Poulsen, who beat Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese to score.
Eriksen had another chance to grab the limelight in the closing stages after another quick counter-attack but he failed to take it.
With France firm favorites to top the group, the Danes could book their spot for the next round if they beat Australia on Thursday with Peru meeting the French the same day.
But Hareide’s side will need all Eriksen’s two-footed technical excellence against the resilient Australians, who played well in their 2-1 defeat by France on Saturday.
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Ed Osmond