Christian Eriksen protested to the referee after the final whistle. 17 months after suffering cardiac arrest at Euro 2021, the star of the Danish national team made his comeback at a major tournament on Tuesday. But the secret favorite Denmark had imagined the start of the World Cup in Qatar very differently.

The European semi-finalists in Al-Rajjan struggled to draw 0-0 against the loudly supported outsider Tunisia. And in stoppage time there was no longer a hand penalty for the Danes, which Eriksen would have liked to see so much. The referee Cesar Arturo Ramos Palazuelos from Mexico even watched the scene again on his screen at the edge of the field.

Loud support for Tunisia

“We’re not at our top level yet, but we have to build on that,” said Denmark defender Joachim Andersen. “Christian gives us a lot of energy and creativity. We need him to perform at the highest level.”

The Tunisians also paid no heed to Eriksen’s emotional return. Midfielder Aissa Laidouni tackled the Manchester United playmaker on the touchline in the first minute and celebrated the action with a cheering gesture towards the crowd.

Tens of thousands of Tunisian fans sat there – well over half of the 42,925 spectators in Education City Stadium loudly supported the North Africans. Teams from the Arab world like Tunisia or Morocco have a big advantage at this World Cup. Their followers flew from their homeland to Qatar or are already living there as guest workers.

“You heard what was going on here,” said Freiburg-born Tunisian Mohamed Dräger from FC Luzern. “It was a great atmosphere, we showed a good face.”

In fact, this away atmosphere intimidated the Danes noticeably, although their goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel had said the day before: “We know something like that. It’s not a problem for us.”

On the pitch, however, the clearly favored Danes preferred to play the safety pass when, with a little more risk, significantly larger spaces would have opened up. And they kept getting stuck in the attacking third because their game lacked any pace. Coach Kasper Hjulmand reacted to this sluggish presentation by changing tactics twice in the first 65 minutes alone.

Despite chances, a goalless draw

For at least half of the time, Tunisia was much more grippy, purposeful – and more dangerous. A goal from centre-forward Issam Jebali was disallowed for offside in the 23rd minute. 20 minutes later, the attacker from Danish club Odense BK was saved by goalkeeper Schmeichel (43′).

The Danes increased their pressure in the second half and made it difficult for their opponents to defend themselves. A goal by Andreas Skov Olsen in the 55th minute was also ruled out for offside. In addition, Eriksen failed with a long-range shot by Tunisia goalkeeper Aymen Dahmen (69th). And Andreas Cornelius, who had just come on as a substitute, only headed against the post from close range (70′).

And so this World Cup started with a disappointment for the Danes, also from a sporting point of view. Like all other European colleagues, captain Simon Kjaer did not wear a captain’s armband, which is intended to promote tolerance and diversity. Even the training shirts with the inscription “Human rights for all” had been banned by FIFA before they arrived in Qatar. The only expression of protest was an almost monochromatic jersey, on which the logos of the association and the manufacturer can hardly be seen. The Danish outfitter wants to be “unseen” at this World Cup.