The story of Euro '92: the Great Danes

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With Euro 2012 now just days away GMF takes a look back at the history of the tournament, starting with one of the greatest upsets in football history – Denmark’s success at Euro 1992.

Euro '92 bought with it one of the greatest football turnarounds of all time as Denmark upset the odds to claim the only major international triumph in their history.



The drama wasn't consigned to just the Danes however as both England and France endured tumultuous campaigns while reigning champions the Netherlands looked in supreme form to defend their crown.


What was going on in the world

While Spain had been passed up as hosts of Euro 92 they did have the 1992 Summer Olympics, held in Barcelona, to fall back on.

Elsewhere Bill Clinton became US president, Princess Diana and Prince Charles separated and South Africans voted for political reforms to end apartheid.

The hosts

Sweden were chosen to host Euro 1992, with four venues in total staging 15 games.

Gothenburg, Solna, Malmo and Norrköping all hosted games with Gothenburg hosting the final between Germany and Denmark.

The story

While Denmark were preparing firstly to go on holiday and then to shock the world, outside off football world events would soon come to have an impact on the football field.

The break up of Yugoslavia and their subsequent disqualification having been one of the original eight teams to have secured their place at the ‘92 tournament meant a spot opened up and Denmark, who had finished as runners-up to Yugoslavia, stepped up with just over a weeks notice.

While Yugoslavia were absent the recent fall of the Soviet Union meant they played under the name ‘Commonwealth of Independent States’.

In the last Euros to award two points for a win, Sweden and Denmark emerged from Group A, leaving heavyweights France and England to pack their bags while unsurprisingly in Group B, reigning champions the Netherlands qualified for the knockout stages along with Germany as Scotland, and the Commonwealth of Independent States were sent home.

Both semi-finals offered up their fair share of drama, with world champions Germany securing their place in the final after a thrilling victory over the in-form Sweden.

The Germans took the lead through Thomas Häßler after just 11 minutes with a pearl of a free-kick before Karl-Heinz-Riedle doubled his side’s lead just before the hour mark.

Thomas Brolin reduced the deficit from the penalty spot before Riedle made the game safe with two minutes of normal time to go, although Kennet Anderssons 89th minute effort set up a tense finish.

In the other semi-final, Denmark took on the reigning champions and won in the most dramatic fashion possible – by penalty shoot-out.

After a 2-2 draw in Gothenburg where a Henrik Larsen double was cancelled out by Dennis Bergkamp and Frank Rijkaard, both side’s demonstrated their remarkable ability from the penalty spot.

Every single penalty kick taker scored when Marco Van Basten, the heartbeat of the Dutch side and leading scorer in their successful ‘88 campaign, saw his effort saved by Peter Schmeichel. Kim Christofte scored the decisive penalty to secure a special victory for his side.

A similarly dramatic final ensued but this time there was no need for penalties as the Danes secured their place in the history books of the game by securing a 2-0 win over Germany against the run of play, with strikes from John Jensen and Kim Vilfort ensuring a historic victory.

Moment of the tournament

Having gone from spectators to the heart of the tournament, it could have all been so different for Denmark going into their final group game against France.

Denmark failed to score a goal in their first two games – a 0-0 draw with England and a 1-0 defeat against Sweden - meaning they had to defeat France and hope England lost to ensure progress to the semi-finals, something they did thanks to Lars Elstrup’s 78th minute winner.

That set up a thrilling semi-final against the Netherlands, who were looking to become the first ever team to defend their European crown. Led by the likes of Marco Van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp and Ruud Gullit, the Dutch were flying high after their convincing 3-1 group stage win against Germany but seemed under-par against their less-fancied opponents.

After Denmark went ahead twice in normal time only to be pegged back, a goalless extra-time period meant penalties. Step forward the man who provided the moment of the tournament, Peter Schmeichel.

A fine extra-time save from Bryan Roy kept Denmark in with a shout and his superb low save from Van Basten, followed by Kim Christofte's converted penalty, meant that Denmark had secured their place in the final at the expense of one of the pre-tournament favourites.

Goal of the tournament

While their can be little argument that Denmark deserve all the plaudits for their remarkable achievement, perhaps the most memorable goalof the tournament came courtesy of their Scandinavian cousins.

Sweden, drawn in Group A alongside England , France and Denmark went into their final group game of the tournament with a draw against France and a victory against the eventual champions Denmark to their name.

Needing victory to ensure top spot in Group a, Brolin rounded off a flowing one-touch move to ensure victory for Sweden and to consign England to a crushing defeat that knocked them out of the tournament. The game was also Gary Linekar’s last in an England shirt.

Quote of the tournament

Kim Vilfort, Denmark: "We had fantastic spirit. The team wanted to win and that's a very good thing when you're at the highest level. When we were under pressure against Germany, it was the spirit that helped us. We didn't have the best players, but we had the best team."

Team of the tournament

Denmark’s unbelievable story means there is no other choice for team of the tournament. From not even qualifying to the brink of an early exit to eventually winning their first ever major tournament, Richard Møller Nielsen, who took control after the Danes failed to qualify for the 1990 World Cup, guided his side to one of the most remarkable triumphs in football’s history.

Player of the tournament

Peter Schmeichel – Hugely impressive in the run to the final, Schmeichel rubber-stamped his position as one of the finest ‘keepers on the planet with no less than three world class stops in the final to help his side complete the most unlikely of victories.

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