Denmark won Euro 1992 without qualifying for the tournament

Euro 1992 was a dull tournament. With just 32 goals in 15 matches, there was a lack of ‘on the edge of your seat games’, with defensive pragmatism leading the way; nine goals in 12 Group 1 games says that more than anything.

Euro 1992’s only saving grace was Denmark, the side who incidentally didn’t even qualify for the tournament after finishing second in their qualifying group to Yugoslavia. The Danes’ lifeline? A Civil War in the Yugoslav state prohibiting the communists participation.

 

Sweden was the destination for the tournament, and the hosts led the way by not losing a game in the group matches. Who joined them through the group? The Danish contingent who only managed to score in one of the games – a 2-1 victory of the French. To make the fairy tale that little bit more remarkable, former Luton Town player, Lars Elstrup, got the winner against a team containing the likes of Didier Deschamps, Jean-Pierre Papin and Eric Cantona.

The semi-final between Holland and Denmark was the most entertaining game. It says a lot when comparing the goalscorers; the Danish hero being Henrik Larsen who boasted a CV of clubs such as Hellerup, Lyngby, and Pisa (don’t worry, we had to Google them, too). The Dutch goalscorers, Dennis Bergkamp and Frank Rijkaard, perhaps slightly more familiar.

The 2-2 couldn’t be concluded in extra-time, so it was up to new Manchester United ‘keeper, Peter Schmeichel, to be the main man and save a penalty from Marco van Basten. And the Great Dane duly obliged.

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Next task? Beat the world champions Germany in the final. How? Defensive stubbornness, a Nordic togetherness built on ten of the players either playing for – or used to play for – Brondby FC. What typified the camaraderie was basic football in the final. The simplified formation of the Danes playing a flat back four throughout the tournament provided stability, which allowed the likes of Brian Laudrup the freedom up top.

It was a new – yet simple – way of thinking. Where teams such as Germany, played a sweeper system with just three at the back, and two wing-backs; the Danes maintained a compactness and narrowness that only saw them concede four goals all tournament. Simple but effective football saw Denmark overcome the Germans 2-0. Ironic how the German efficiency was delivered by the Nordics.

“We didn’t have the best players, but we had the best team.”

Kim Vilfort, part of Denmark squad at Euro Euro 92, speaking to BBC Sport

The Danish side went into ’92 without fear, without the media attention suffocating any players confidence. It was a remarkable feat how such simplicity, and lack of flair against players way out their league could deliver major silverware.

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