Vintage Vignettes – How the Danes made it to Euro 1992
In a new series, Vintage Vignettes, we trace the antecedents of an event from the past. This special Euro season, we trace back when the Danish Dynamites were called at the last moment to play the Euros, only to win it all.
Denmark’s first appearance in FIFA World Cup was in 1986. However the Danish squad of the decade (1980-1990) was being christened as the ‘Danish Dynamite’ during their Euro 1984 campaign. In both the competitions, they lost out to Spain but they had put on pretty strong performances. Preben Elkjær and Michael Laudrup emerged as one of the most exciting striking pairs of their time. The 1988 Euro was a disaster for them; they were in a difficult group and lost all their matches to Spain, Germany and Italy. Further, the team failed to qualify for the 1988 Olympics and 1990 World Cup. The manager of the national team, Sepp Piontek, decided to step down and his assistant Richard Nielsen took over.
This is just the backdrop of the (sur)real story of Denmark’s finest hour in international football. Denmark started the Euro 1992 qualifiers with a 4-1 home win against Faroe Islands. The following game at Northern Ireland ended in a 1-1 draw. But the worst came next when Yugoslavia beat them 2-0 at home. Things got out of hands when the Laudrup brothers decided not to play for the national team following a tiff with the manager on his defensive tactics. Jan Mølby and Jan Heintze were sacked by Nielsen on disciplinary grounds. With the manager under tremendous pressure, the team bounced back by winning all of the remaining games. However they finished second in their group behind Yugoslavia and failed to qualify for the finals.
How the team finally got a call to go to Sweden to play in Euro 1992 and ended up winning it is the stuff fairytales are made of. Because Denmark was not in the finals, quite a few teams were playing their last friendly games with them before reaching Sweden. It was May 31st, 1992, only 10 days before the Euro was to commence, the Danish team was in Brondby, training for a game they had against the Commonwealth of Independent States. They were having lunch after the morning training sessions when they heard the rumour that Yugoslavia were expelled by UEFA due to international sanctions imposed due to the Yugoslav wars. But after they came back from their second training session, the rumour got confirmed and Denmark entered Euro 1992 as they had finished second in the qualifying group.
In the finals, Denmark was still defensive but thanks to Brian Laudrup’s decision to come back and play for the national side gave them enough creative sparks to get past England, France, Netherlands and Germany and be crowned as the champions of Europe.