Meet the Aussie who helped Eriksen ignite

Christian Eriksen isn’t the only Dane capable of puncturing Australia’s bid to reach the FIFA World Cup knockout stages, according to the Australian who had a huge hand in his switch to the Premier League.

David Magrone, Tottenham Hotspur’s former chief European scout, first recommended the playmaker long before then Spurs coach Andre Villas-Boas finally signed him from Ajax in 2013 for just $20 million.

Magrone, who worked under Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood during his time at White Hart Lane, also urged Spurs to roll the dice on fellow Danish attacking weapons Yussuf Poulsen and Pione Sisto.

Poulsen, the scorer of Denmark’s winner in their Group C opener against Peru, was just 18 at the time and playing in Denmark’s second tier with Lyngby BK. The RB Leipzig star was available for just $1.3 million.

“The thing with Eriksen is that for all his talent, like any number ten, you need good players around you,” Magrone said.

“He grew into the player he is today under Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs with Harry Kane bursting onto the scene along with Dele Alli, and he had Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama providing security behind him.

“He can’t grab the game on his own like a Ronaldo. He needs a support cast.”

Which brings us to Denmark’s wide attacking threats Poulsen and Celta Vigo’s Sisto, also on the market for a pittance when spotted by Magrone at former club FC Midtjylland.

“They’re two players that play around Eriksen in the Danish team - and they link up really well,” Magrone said.

“I really pushed for Spurs to sign both. I'll never forget the first time I saw Poulsen. For me, he was the slightly better of the two because he’s a bit more technical.

“He’s a big threat to Australia because he’s quick and he never stops running in behind.

“Sisto comes in off the left and has loads of pace. He’s on the raw side and you never know what he’s going to do.

“He, too, will cause Australia plenty of problems and could potentially give Josh Risdon a nightmare, if he’s allowed to really get at him.”

While an Eriksen advocate, Magrone contends that his menace can be diminished.

“Look, if Australia can stop Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, as they did for most of the match against France, they can definitely stop Eriksen,” he added.

“But, whatever happens, he’s a huge threat from set-pieces and anywhere around the box.

“He can operate in space the size of a dime to find a pass or a shot.

“He’s from the Ajax school and his receiving skills are top drawer and his football intelligence is superb.”

With his intimate knowledge of three of Denmark’s most potent threats, Magrone fears Australia might approach Thursday’s game in Samara in too cautious a mindset, despite needing three points.

“A lot of people are saying how good we were against France in losing 2-1,” he said. “But I don’t think we will ever play a French team that played as badly as they did.

“We had no threat on goal and I suspect the approach against Denmark will be the same.

“If so, it may not be enough. If I am the manager I am making a few changes and I’m going for the victory.

“In saying that, how do we accomplish that with the personnel that we have available? It’s a dilemma.”

Magrone, who went on to become chief scout at Queens Park Rangers, would unleash Tim Cahill against the Danes.

“I would be inclined to start Tim Cahill, who else is going to score for us?” he queried.

“I know Bert van Marwijk has made us harder to beat but I can’t help thinking if Ange Postecoglou was still there I might be a bit more optimistic.

“I think he’s a coach who will have a go. You might have got thrashed by France but I think you’ve got a better chance of winning because of his style and approach.”

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4 min read
Published 20 June 2018 at 7:49pm
By Dave Lewis