Euro Moments: Danish dynamite defy the odds to lift Euro ’92
Underdogs beat Germany in Sweden to complete an improbably fairytale win
Kim Vilfort of Denmark is mobbed by team-mates after scoring the second and winning goal during the Euro 1992 final against Germany. Photograph: Getty
Euro 1992: Denmark 2 Germany 0
June 26th, 1992
Long before Greece would shock Europe and win Euro 2004, Denmark defied the odds in Sweden despite a number of factors conspiring against them.
A week before the tournament Sepp Piontek’s team weren’t even due to compete. But, after Yugoslavia were denied from entering the competition due to the country being in a state of civil war, the Danes were drafted in as a late addition.
Some context: Denmark had only qualified for one previous major tournament - Euro ’64 - and Danish football had only turned professional 14 years earlier.
With the finals being held just across the water in Sweden and with only eight teams involved it was at least not that unfavourable a position to be thrown into.
As in many European Championships there were certain political undertones running through the tournament, most notably that of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) representing the all of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Tajikistan, while a reunified Germany would also compete in its first major tournament.
In Group One Denmark would finish second to hosts Sweden and advance to the semi-finals. That’s when they really began to shock.
Coming up against pre-tournament favourites Holland the odds were heavily stacked against them. But the ultra-attacking team of Henrik Larsen, Lars Elstrup and Michael Laudrup had other ideas. As the Danish supporters’ song went: they were red, they were white, they were Danish Dynamite.
A brace from Henrik Larsen cancelled out Dutch goals from Dennis Bergkamp and Frank Rijkaard, sending the game to extra time. With both sides beginning to tire and the Danes furious dribbling style waning, the extra period saw no more goals and it was time for penalties.
And that was where the other side of the great Danish team came into play. The attacking flair is what will always be remembered of the men in red and white but what they also had was the added bonus of one of the world’s greatest ever goalkeepers behind their defence.
Peter Schmeichel would prove his worth when he saved Holland’s second of the shootout - that of Marco van Basten - leaving Kim Christofte to fire home the Scandanavian side’s fifth penalty and make the final a reality.
That final would see Piontek’s side come up against the might of a newly reunified German side.
The game was a tight one with Germany creating more opportunities but Schmeichel again proved to be the hero by denying Karl-Heinz Riedle, Stefan Reuter and Guido Buchwald in the early stages.
Then, after 18 minutes, the Danish Dynamite kicked into action thanks to an explosive strike from Brondby midfielder John Jensen.
Flemming Povlsen received the ball on the right, cut into the box and pulled it back to Jensen who sent a beamer straight into the top corner.
Denmark were 1-0 up and the Germans were rocked.
Looking to answer back they launched wave after wave of attack but the Danish defence stood strong.
As the game reached the closing stages the favourites became more and more desperate as they looked to pull back an equaliser. And that was when Denmark would strike again.
With 11 minutes to go midfielder Kim Vilfort made what was now a rare foray into the final third, eluding two challenges before drilling the ball past Bodo Illgner, off the foot of the post and into the net.
The Danish fairytale was complete. Just a month after being outside of the eight teams set to compete in the finals, they had gone and won the final themselves.