Mathias Jensen leans back and throws his arms above his head.
‘I knew something was wrong,’ the midfielder begins. ‘Suddenly blood was coming out of my boot.’ His hands draw a rather gruesome diagram. Like a ‘fountain,’ he says.
Someone trod on Jensen’s foot, a stud went through his boot and opened up a nasty gash that ended Jensen’s Euro 2020.
Denmark’s Mathias Jensen has opened up on the traumatic events of this summer’s Euro 2020
Jensen (above) has spoken to Sportsmail in his first interview since this summer’s competition
Barely 15 minutes after coming on in Denmark’s semi-final against England, he was whisked towards a hidden corner of Wembley.
‘I just saw the final minutes on my phone,’ Jensen says. A few feet away doctors sewed his skin back together.
That wound has healed now. Alas, scars remain from the tournament — from another substitute appearance, another few minutes spent watching on, helpless. That day, the drama unfolded in rather sharper focus.
If Jensen slipped off without much of Wembley noticing, the final moments of Christian Eriksen’s Euro 2020 will linger with everyone. Not least the man who replaced him.
‘It was an out-of-body experience,’ Jensen tells Sportsmail in his first interview since. ‘I can’t even remember that second half. Normally you remember situations in the game, what you could have done better… but I don’t remember anything.’
Just 41 minutes into Denmark’s opening game against Finland, Eriksen had collapsed on to the Parken pitch.
‘You could see when he received the ball that it wasn’t a normal touch for Christian,’ Jensen, 25, recalls. ‘You just knew straightaway that something was wrong. I was told to go to warm up. So the first couple of minutes I didn’t really see too much.’
As well as experiencing team-mate Christian Eriksen collapse on the pitch (top image), Jensen himself was substituted off in the semi-final loss against England with a gruesome foot injury
Only the rush of paramedics slowed his shuttle runs along the touchline. Suddenly Jensen was one of thousands in Copenhagen left to wonder. And hope.
‘We didn’t really know for the first 10 minutes if he was breathing,’ he explains. ‘Those 10 minutes felt so long… we were close but you felt like we were so far (away).’
News eventually filtered across the pitch that doctors had brought Eriksen back from the brink. As the midfielder was rushed to Rigshospitalet following his cardiac arrest, the players returned to the home changing room.
‘It was very silent,’ Jensen recalls. Shock swept through the squad; manager Kasper Hjulmand tried to shine a torch into the fog of what came next.
‘We agreed quite quickly that we would never carry on unless we were told from Christian himself that he was OK.’
Eventually came the grim choice: finish the game or return to Parken the following day. ‘It was very weird,’ Jensen says. ‘None of us were ready, mentally, to play.’
But the alternative? ‘None of us would ever be able to get into the stadium again the next morning,’ he admits. ‘It’s easier just to play… no matter what the result would be. And then get back home.’ Finland won 1-0. Few inside Parken or out cared.
Midfielder Jensen (centre) admitted the tournament provided a real rollercoaster of emotions
‘I haven’t ever experienced something traumatic like that,’ Jensen says. ‘You don’t really know how to act.’
All the more incredible, then, that Simon Kjaer and his players had shown the compassion and clarity of thought to form a human shield around Eriksen. To comfort his partner Sabrina as she emerged, sobbing, on to the pitch. Not until the team returned to their training base could wounds begin to heal.
‘We had something to eat and then psychologists came to our camp straight away,’ Jensen says. ‘We spoke to them as a group and you could do it individually as well… we didn’t hold anything back.’
Hjulmand and Kjaer have knitted together a tight group. Eventually, though, every player had to shoulder the weight of solitude. Jensen pauses briefly. ‘Yeah, it wasn’t easy to sleep that night,’ he says.
‘I also found it very difficult straight after the game, when I saw my family in the stands. The only thing I wanted to do was go out to them and hug them. But I couldn’t, really, because of the Covid rules.’ They had the chance to speak to loved ones the following day. ‘That was what people needed.’
From there, Jensen says, ‘I felt much better. I was ready to move on.’ Many team-mates felt the same. Then, when Eriksen left hospital, he visited the Denmark squad.
‘When things are just going on in daily life – you’re training and playing – football feels the most important thing,’ Jensen says. ‘But that really (put) a lot of perspective on what’s the most important thing in life.’
Jensen was adjudged to have fouled Raheem Sterling in the area, leading to the winning goal
Without their talisman, Denmark rode the waves of emotion to reach a first European semi-final since 1992. At 1-1, with 88 minutes gone, Wembley teetered on a knife edge when Jensen replaced Thomas Delaney.
Shortly before half-time in extra-time, Raheem Sterling collided with Joakim Maehle, then Jensen, and tumbled inside the area.
‘I didn’t actually know, when it happened, if the ref thought it was me making the foul,’ the midfielder says. ‘I wasn’t even running to the ref because I knew there was VAR so I was thinking: ‘This can never be a penalty’.’
‘Even though I saw (Sterling) had a slight touch… I don’t think it’s enough.’ The sort of decision referees would not give this season. Jensen agrees.
‘That was also, I think, part of why we were so frustrated. Because we never think it was a penalty,’ he smiles. ‘You never know if you’re going to reach that final in a tournament again. So those small details decide maybe that we could have reached the final and maybe won everything.’
Not that the 25-year-old would have faced Italy. Not after the hole was gouged in his foot. ‘It wasn’t really painful, it was just quite a big wound which was totally open,’ Jensen recalls. ‘It wasn’t a pretty look when I took off my sock… they had to clean it and make sure there was nothing from the pitch that was inside my foot.’
He recalls the chat with Denmark’s doctor: ‘When he said he had to stitch it straight away. I actually didn’t know I couldn’t play on – I thought it was something you did quickly and then I could probably put my boot on again.’
Jensen has helped Brentford acclimatise to the Premier League and thinks they will stay up
But his night was done. Denmark, who had already made six changes, were left with 10 men.
‘It was horrible,’ Jensen says. ‘Because of the whole of Denmark and my team-mates… you never want to get injured, but especially not in maybe the only semi-final in the Euros you’ll ever play.
‘The whole Euros was a weird rollercoaster of emotions. We went from so low to so high and then for me personally it ended very low again. There was pride, at least, at what we’d done for the country.’
Wembley had, of course, been a source of drunken joy a few months earlier, when Jensen helped Brentford reach the Premier League. Part of their Scandinavian core, his poise was crucial as Thomas Frank’s side made consecutive play-off finals.
The midfielder missed the early weeks of this campaign as his foot healed over. Earlier this month he tested positive for Covid. Both with and without him, however, Brentford have been a thrilling addition to the top flight. Even if four straight defeats have stunted their climb.
‘We’ve proven that we are good enough to be in the Premier League,’ Jensen says. ‘We’ve always thought that we could do well.’
He adds: ‘Of course we’ll have difficult spells as well throughout the season. But the way this club is driven and the willingness the team has to run, fight and work for each other really will take us far… we have so much belief in ourselves.’