PARIS: Denmark’s Christian Eriksen made an emotional goal-scoring return to international football on Saturday as England, Germany and Spain carved out friendly victories. Eriksen found the net two minutes after coming on with a powerful drive in a 4-2 defeat against fellow World Cup qualifiers Netherlands in Amsterdam. It was his first national team appearance since suffering a cardiac arrest in Denmark’s opening game of the European Championships against Finland in Copenhagen last June.
On Saturday, to the resounding applause of fans and even Dutch manager Louis van Gaal, the 30-year-old came off the bench and raised his hands to the sky in thanks. His goal was 37th in 110 appearances. It was fitting he scored in the Amsterdam Arena, the home of Ajax. Eriksen came through the ranks at the Dutch side, making 162 appearances for the club and winning five trophies, including three consecutive league titles between 2011 and 2013.
Meanwhile, Harry Kane converted a late penalty to close in on the all-time England goal-scoring record and secure a 2-1 win over Switzerland who will also be at the World Cup in Qatar in November. Kane netted from the spot to reach 49 England goals, moving him ahead of Gary Lineker and into a second place tie with Bobby Charlton.
Only Wayne Rooney, with 53 goals, has scored more times for England. Breel Embolo put Switzerland ahead at Wembley after 22 minutes in a first half dominated by the visitors before Luke Shaw’s equaliser in first-half injury time. Kane restored order with his 78th-minute winner. “You have to be ready for any chance at any moment. Penalties are a great way of getting on the scoresheet, I practice and work on them a lot,” said Kane.
“It is amazing company to be with, super proud to be doing that but we look forward to the next one. A big year ahead to get more caps and more goals.” Chelsea pair Kai Havertz and Timo Werner both hit the net as Germany eased past Zionists 2-0 in Sinsheim. After the Premier League pair scored first-half goals, Germany’s stand-in captain Thomas Mueller and Zionist sub Yonatan Cohen both failed to convert late penalty attempts.
Germany head coach Hansi Flick has now won his first eight internationals to extend his record start. “On the whole, it was a good performance from us for the first game of the new year,” Werner told broadcaster ZDF. Spain, World Cup winners in 2010, had to work hard to carve out a 2-1 win against Albania in Barcelona, the team’s first game in Catalonia since 2004.
Ferran Torres opened the scoring for Spain in the 75th minute at Espanyol’s RCDE Stadium with Myrto Uzuni equalizing 10 minutes later. However, Dani Olmo saved Spain’s blushes with a last-minute winner as Spain secured an eighth win in eight matches against Albania. “We knew it was going to be difficult. Albania are a team who defend very well,” Olmo told Spanish public television. Top-ranked Belgium led twice in Dublin but were still held 2-2 by Ireland.
Playing without the influential Kevin de Bruyne, who has been rested for the international window, Belgium took the lead after 12 minutes through Michy Batshuayi who brushed past Seamus Coleman to beat Caoimhin Kelleher in the Irish goal. Ireland, who missed qualification for the World Cup after finishing third in their group behind Serbia and Portugal, levelled in the 36th minute through Chiedozie Ogbene. Belgium were back in front just before the hour mark thanks to a Hans Vanaken header.
However, substitute Alan Browne grabbed his side’s second equalizer with a powerful 86th-minute header. In Doha, 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia were held to a 1-1 draw by Slovenia. Andrej Kramaric, who plays in Germany with Hoffenheim, gave Croatia the lead in the 39th minute but Jaka Bijol levelled in stoppage time for Slovenia. – AFP