Denmark shocked the world when they became champions of Europe in 1992.
Last Sunday marked exactly 30 years since the Danes pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of international football, going all the way in a European Championship they weren’t even meant to be attending.
Having only been summoned to the tournament due to the disqualification of Yugoslavia, the Scandinavian nation – without even star player Michael Laudrup – conquered the continent in remarkable style.
Denmark win Euro 1992
Opening up with a 0-0 draw against England and 1-0 defeat to hosts Sweden, the Danes snook through to the knockout rounds courtesy of an unexpected 2-1 win over France.
Then, they made it all the way to the final by defeating the reigning champions, the Netherlands, who boasted a star-studded team including Marco van Basten, Ronaldo Koeman, Dennis Bergkamp and Frank Rijkaard in the final four.
On that occasion, Peter Schmeichel was the hero in the penalty shootout and the legendary Manchester United shot-stopper proved to be just as crucial during the final itself against Germany.
Denmark exploit back-pass regulations
That’s because Schmeichel, along with his Danish comrades, leant into the lack of the back-pass rule to help secure a historic 2-0 victory in which John Jensen and Kim Vilfort scored either side of half-time.
This was a time where goalkeepers were indeed allowed to pick up the ball when receiving a pass from their teammates and that allowed Denmark to make the final an incredibly cagey affair.
While, of course, there was much, much more to Denmark’s victory than playing back-passes, footage from the final certainly goes to show that it helped them to suck the life out of Germany’s hopes of winning.
In clips that frankly look crazy through the eyes of a modern football fan, you can see the morale-destroying tactics that Denmark used in their most historic of wins, so be sure to check them out down below:
The backpass law is the best thing to ever happen to football.— GoalScorer Challenge ⚽️ (@GoalscorerC) November 23, 2020
Here’s a compilation of Denmark taking the piss in the last competitive game before the new law came into effect. Look how stupid football was in 1992.
Credit to @FootballCliches for uploading this originally. pic.twitter.com/3BJLgkOcBF
Never forget that one of the reasons why Denmark won the European Championship in 1992 was because they abused the back pass rule over and over again 😂 pic.twitter.com/EkQzTFLoFu— Sport Social (@TheSportSocial) December 27, 2019
Imagine playing against that. It’s enough to make you want to pull your hair out.
No wonder the rules changed…
Nevertheless, you’ve got to tip your hat to the Danes because they were ultimately playing within the rules and can be forgiven for resorting to cheeky tactics considering they were massive underdogs.
And they might as well have made the most of legal back-passing because it was actually widely banned across the sport later that very year as a direct response to some of the dire football at the 1990 World Cup.
It’s one of the most sensible rule changes that has ever been in made in football, too, with goalkeepers now required to be much more adept with their feet and ultra-defensive play made much tougher to execute.
The law change even gave way to a hilarious transitionary period where some of the – how shall we say? – less fleet-footed shot-stoppers in the business produced plenty of clangers as they figured things out.
"Why has nobody ever made an entire podcast about the effect of the introduction of the backpass law on modern football?"— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) October 16, 2019
They have now! Here's a very special episode of @99piorg: https://t.co/drzSF7cdgipic.twitter.com/WQa2YPdqKJ
I guess Denmark found the perfect time to strike their greatest ever footballing achievement, then.