Sport Round-Up: Simon Kjær named Guardian Footballer of the Year

National team captain joins Kasper Schmeichel, Joakim Mæhle and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg on newspaper’s list of the top 100 footballers

Simon Kjær has been named the Guardian Footballer of the Year – an award handed out to a player who “has done something remarkable, whether by overcoming adversity, helping others or setting a sporting example by acting with exceptional honesty”.

Previous winners include Manchester United duo Marcus Rashford (2020) and Juan Mata (2017) for their charity efforts.

Laudable actions
Capping a year in which the Danish national team captain placed 18th in the Ballon d’Or ranking, the British newspaper lauded Kjær’s actions at Parken Stadium on June 12 after his team-mate Christian Eriksen collapsed during Denmark’s opening Euro 2020 game with a cardiac arrest. 

Not only did he swiftly put Eriksen in a recovery position, but he started CPR, formed a protective ring around him and then comforted his partner. 

A team effort!
“I appreciate all the positive words and gratitude – I’m honoured,” he said 

“But as I’ve always said, my reaction was impulsive and so was everyone’s. What we did, we did as a team. I would not have been able to keep my shit together if I didn’t have anyone to lean against. It was our friend: not a colleague, a friend. That made it so much more intense, and what we did was instinctive.”

Four in top 100
Kjær was also named the Guardian’s 54th best football player of 2021.

Three other Danes – Kasper Schmeichel (77), Joakim Mæhle (96) and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (100) – were also included.

Two Danish coaches make world’s best 50 list
Two Danish football coaches have been included in a world’s best list compiled by the magazine FourFourTwo. National team coach Kasper Hjulmand was ranked 11th for his efforts at Euro 2020. “Leading Ireland’s eternal playoff opponent Denmark to a European Championship semi-final is no small feat. To do so after the traumatic experience of watching his team’s star player get a cardiac arrest on the pitch in the first match is incredible,” applauded FourFourTwo. “He has subsequently been linked to Everton and Aston Villa. Do not be surprised if he soon lands in the English Premier League.” Already there, another Dane, Thomas Frank, has placed at #40 after a stellar year at Brentford, which he guided to the EPL for the first  time since 1947, where it currently stands a respectable 12th in the standings – making it by far the highest-achieving promoted club. 

Eriksen set for return later this month – agent
Christian Eriksen’s agent Martin Schoots had told media that the player is likely to find a new club later this month after satisfactory tests in December. Speaking to the Daily Mail, Schoots cautioned he would prefer Eriksen to make the announcement. “He will do so very soon,” he confirmed.

Women’s handball team now ranked third in the world
The Danish women’s handball team are now ranked third in the world following their impressive performance at the 2021 World Women’s Handball Championships, which concluded in the Barcelona suburb of Granollers on December 19 with a 35-28 win over Spain to take bronze. Two days earlier, France edged out the Danes 23-22 to advance to the final where they lost to Norway. It was the Danish women’s team’s first medal since 2013 – a relief for keeper Sandra Toft, 32, the only survivor from that era.

Countdown to the Olympics: Men’s curling team squeeze by Czechs
The Danish men’s curling team have qualified for the 2022 Winter Olympics courtesy of victory in an eliminator against the Czech Republic in the Netherlands. Their opponents led 4-1 midway through the match, but the Danes fought back to win 8-5. It was all the more impressive given that Denmark had lost to the Czechs in their opening group game. In total, three places for Beijing were up for grabs via the qualifiers, with Norway and Italy taking the other two spots. The men’s team join the women. Since 2002, only one of the Danish teams have failed to qualify: the men in 2006. The Winter Olympics are scheduled to run from February 4-20. 

Countdown to the Olympics: Danish ice hockey hopes not too badly hit
Amid the calls to boycott the Winter Olympics due to China’s human rights record, or postpone the games due to the rapid escalation of omicron cases, both the men’s and women’s Danish ice hockey teams are nervously counting down the days. The NHL has already confirmed that its players will not be competing – for the second consecutive Olympics – but this will only affect four Danes: Frederik Andersen (Carolina Hurricanes), Nikolaj Ehlers (Winnipeg Jets), Oliver Bjorkstrand (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Lars Eller (Washington Capitals). Several NHL-contracted Danes can compete as they are not on their current first-team roster, including Joachim Blichfeld (San Jose Sharks), Alexander True (Seattle Kraken) and Jonas Røndbjerg (Vegas Golden Knights).

Danish national team achieves highest FIFA ranking in 25 years
It’s difficult to guess why the Danish men’s national football team had such a high FIFA ranking in 1997. They bombed as defending champs at Euro 1996 and weren’t even at the 1994 World Cup, but somehow managed to rise to eighth. And now history has almost repeated itself, as Denmark finds itself bettered by only eight teams on the planet, thanks to a semis spot at the Euros and a stellar World Cup qualifying campaign.

Three Danes left looking for new team after Qhubeka NextHash collapse
Olympic gold medallist Lasse Norman Hansen had already found a new team ahead of the inevitable withdrawal and disbandment of World Tour outfit Team Qhubeka NextHash. He has hooked up with PRT outfit Uno-X. Meanwhile, former team-mate Andreas Stokbro is currently without a team while Emil Vinjebo has had to step down two tiers to join Danish outfit Riwal.