SAMARA, Russia (Reuters) - If Australia are to have any hope of beating Denmark in their World Cup clash on Thursday they will have to shackle Christian Eriksen, who acts as their architect and executioner.
The Tottenham Hotspur playmaker has become so pivotal for Denmark that his moments of game-changing brilliance have become almost routine.
He has had a hand in 17 goals in his last 14 appearances for his country, finding the net himself 12 times.
That would be an impressive haul for a striker, let alone a midfielder whose eye for a pass is as acute as his predatory instinct in the box.
Denmark beat Peru 1-0 in their opening Group C game and while Eriksen spent much of the encounter on the periphery, he still managed to conjure a solitary moment of brilliance that led to the only goal.
If Australia have a plan in place to deal with Eriksen, who joined Tottenham from Ajax Amsterdam in 2013, then their coach Bert van Marwijk was not letting on in his news conference on Wednesday.
“You can ask me those questions 100 times – I know Eriksen because I already saw him a lot in Holland, and I saw him also a lot of times in Tottenham,” was all the Dutchman had to say when pressed on his intentions to deal with Denmark’s chief threat.
Australia’s Aziz Behich, however, was more forthcoming and said they had no plans in place for any individuals and were focusing on themselves.
That could prove a risky tactic against a player who was joint third-top scorer in European qualifying with 11 goals, behind established forwards Robert Lewandowski (16) and Cristiano Ronaldo (15).
Denmark, on the other hand, are fully aware that Eriksen is the jewel in their crown, and will look to get him on the ball whenever they can, knowing victory will send them into the last 16 if Peru fail to beat France in the other Group C game.
“He is a very important player for us, no doubt about that. He is a player who can change the match for us and so we try and get him involved as much as we can,” Denmark coach Age Hareide told reporters.
“The opponents are going to be very cautious about him. He is used to that in the Premier League and... we have seen he can succeed nevertheless.”
Reporting by Toby Davis; Editing by Ken Ferris