Eriksen bearer of great expectations

23 May 2012 03:16

Christian Eriksen is regarded as one of the brightest young stars in football and he will hope that he can justify the tag of being Denmark's successor to Michael Laudrup at Euro 2012.

At just 20 years of age, the playmaker will be appearing at his second major championships, after being part of the side that bowed out in the group stage of the 2010 World Cup.

A lot will revolve around the Ajax star, as the Danes look to progress beyond the so-called "Group of Death".

Eriksen, who already has two Dutch league title winners medals, will be a marked man when Denmark step out to meet Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal, who the Danes edged in their qualifying group.

Unlike Michael Laudrup and his brother Brian, Eriksen -- scorer of two goals in 21 international appearances -- does not have other top class creative players around him in a side that relies on hard work and team spirit to beat classier opponents.

But the youngster has shown in qualifying and in a friendly against England that he is an exceptional talent, with a maturity also reflected in his decision to choose Ajax as his first step on the professional ladder.

While European giants such as Chelsea and AC Milan came knocking on his door in 2008 when he was just 16 and playing for Odense, Eriksen refused to be swept off his feet and opted for a side that has a tradition in allowing young talent to flourish.

"My first step should not be too big. I knew that playing in the Netherlands would be very good for my development," said Eriksen, who first started playing football before he was three.

"Then Ajax arrived and that was a fantastic option."

His choice has paid off for both him and the club and earned him praise from as harsh a critic as Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, who is not given to delivering praise freely.

"He's a player I really like with all my heart," said Cruyff when Eriksen was awarded the Dutch talent of the year in 2011. "This prize is just the beginning, a stimulus to get the maximum out of his career.

"The talent is there, the recognition also; now it is up to the player himself. He is a typical product of the Danish school. You can compare him with Brian and Michael Laudrup. Only time will tell if Eriksen can reach the same level as them."

This European championship in Poland and Ukraine will test whether Eriksen has it in him to go on and become one of Europe's finest talents, as the Laudrups did in the 1980s and 1990s.

Source: AFP