World Cup Ones to Watch: Christian Eriksen, Denmark
The path from the Dutch Eredivisie to the Premier League has been well-trodden in recent years, if not strewn with success. Vincent Janssen, Davy Klaassen and Ricky Van Wolfswinkel (via the Portuguese Primeira Liga) have all flopped badly on these shores. But in this case, Christian Eriksen is the exception that proves the rule.
Eriksen was a part of the scattergun transfer policy that gripped Tottenham in the wake of Gareth Bale's defection to Real Madrid in the summer of 2013. While many of the players bought in that window failed to ignite at the Lane, the £11 million spent on Eriksen now looks like one of the bargains of the Premier League era. Eriksen was one of the highest-rated prospects in Europe at the time, but it was Spurs who succeeded in drawing the Dane's eye. In the years since, that young prodigy has developed into one of the league's finest creators, and a hugely influential figure for both club and country.
Second place is up for grabs in World Cup Group C. If a lavishly-stocked France side will be expected to run away with the group, then Eriksen's Denmark could be best placed to seize the second qualifying spot. Peru, despite only qualifying for their first World Cup since 1982, will be no walkovers, but a poor Australia side should offer little resistance to Eriksen et al.
Denmark qualified for the tournament the hard way, having dropped into the play-offs after finishing behind Poland in qualification Group E. Eriksen's response was emphatic enough to lift Danish spirits ahead of the tournament itself. As the best players often do, Eriksen turned in a supreme performance when it really mattered – scoring a hat-trick in Dublin to dump out an obstinate Republic of Ireland side.
But goals aren't the chief measure of Eriksen's game, and here enters the problem: a creator is only as good as the players he creates for. Ahead of Eriksen, the likes of former Cardiff City flop Andreas Cornelius, Bordeaux's Martin Braithwaite and – can you believe he's still an international? – Niklas Bendtner will hardly strike fear into opponents' hearts. Without wishing to disparage Eriksen's teammates, Denmark are as close to a one-man team as it's possible to get at this level of the game. Any success the Danes achieve in Russia will depend on Spurs' talented midfielder. At just 26 years old, Eriksen shoulders the hopes of a nation.
The dream: Inspire Denmark to second place in the group and a favourable draw in the last 16.
The nightmare: Dragged down by less illustrious teammates for an early flight home.