World Cup | When Denmark stunned a continent

Around the end of May 1992, eight teams were making last minute preparations to go to Sweden to participate in the European Championships when the tournament was thrown into turmoil.

Yugoslavia were one of the eight teams were kicked out of the tournament, due to the escalation of the Yugoslav wars, which eventually led to the country breaking up.

UEFA, to their credit, acted quickly and decided that their place should be handed to the runners-up in their qualifying group, which meant that Denmark would get a late reprieve and the opportunity to enter the tournament.

Luckily, the Danes hadn’t gone home for the summer, and were instead in a training camp to play a pre-tournament friendly against CIS (CIS were made of former Soviet states), so they were able to accept the invitation and weren’t at a huge disadvantage in terms of fitness.

Denmark’s campaign got off to a slow start when they drew with England in their opener, before losing to Sweden in the next game.

They looked to be on the verge of elimination – and as though they had only been brought in at the last minute to make up the numbers – but suddenly things clicked into gear for them.

In their final group game, they needed to beat France to have a chance of progressing, and  – thanks to goals from Henrik Larsen and Lars Elstrup – they won 2-1 to secure second place in the group behind hosts, Sweden.

henrik-larsen_847edf5

In the other group, the Netherlands and Germany were the two that progressed, and with the Netherlands topping the group, it would be them who would play the Danes in the semi-final.

Denmark continued where they had left off against France and led twice thanks to a Larsen brace, but Dennis Bergkamp and Frank Rijkaard brought the Dutch level, and the game ended up going to penalties.

Denmark scored all five of theirs as Marco Van Basten missed for the Dutch to send Denmark into the final.

Germany would be the opposition for the final in Gothenburg, and the majority of observers from around Europe felt that the Danes had next to no chance of providing another shock, but Denmark weren’t going to be denied.

John Jensen opened the scoring early on, and despite Germany pushing for an equalizer, it would be Kim Vilfort who would score the second goal as Denmark won 2-0.

Denmark’s victory was a remarkable achievement.

Firstly, they weren’t even supposed to be in the tournament until ten days before it started, and when you consider the squad they had at their disposal in comparison to some of their rivals, they performed incredibly well.

The fact Michael Laudrup, who is without doubt Denmark’s best ever player, also wasn’t in the squad (as he had retired after an argument with the manager) only adds to the level of surprise that many felt when the Danes lifted the trophy.

However, regardless of the circumstances, the fact remains that Denmark won the European Championships in 1992.

While it was a surprise and a little fortunate that Yugoslavia were kicked out, they earned it by beating some very good sides, and for as long as football records exist, the Danes will have a place in them as the 1992 European Champions.

 

Gerry Johnston

 

This article originally appeared on gj2018worldcup.wordpress.com, where you can find a definite World Cup guide.