This tournament was one of the most remarkable in living memory. No one remembers the football, which was pitiful at best, but they all remember Denmark. They hadn’t originally qualified for the finals, but thanks to a bit of bother in the Balkans, they were called up and they won the whole thing.
This was the ninth European Championships, and Sweden were the hosts. After the qualification campaign, there were some big political changes which had a major effect on the participants.
A civil war had broken out in Yugoslavia, which would eventually lead to the forming of several new countries. The United Nations had imposed economic and cultural sanctions on the country and so UEFA was duty bound to ban them from taking part in the finals. From a football point of view this was a disappointment as they had put together one of the best sides in their history. But it opened to door for Denmark, who had finished just 1pt behind the Yugoslavs in their qualifying group. What was amazing about this is that UEFA’s decision only came with just 10 days to go before the start of the tournament. The draw for the groups had already been made and now England, France and Sweden had to prepare for different opponents. The other major change involved the break-up of the Soviet Union. Instead of representing USSR as they had in all the previous tournaments, eleven of the fifteen ex-republics formed a team under the banner of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). This team selected players from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Tajikistan.
The eight qualifiers were split into two groups with the top two in each group going through to the Semi-Final stage.
GROUP A: Sweden, England, Denmark, France
GROUP B: Netherlands, Scotland, CIS, Germany
Just four stadiums were used
10 June 1992, Rasunda Stadium, Solna, 29,860
SWEDEN (1) 1 (Eriksson 24)
FRANCE (0) 1 (Papin 58)
Sweden: Ravelli; Nilsson, Eriksson, P Andersson, Bjorklund; Ingesson, Thern, Schwarz, Limpar; Brolin, K Andersson (Dahlin)
France: Martini; Amoros, Blanc, Boli, Casoni; Angloma (Fernandez), Deschamps, Sauzee, Vahirua (Perez); Papin, Cantona
The tournament kicked off in Stockholm with the hosts up against 1984 winners, France. The French, coached by Michel Platini who captained their 1984 triumph, were in a state of transition, and the Swedes believed they had nothing to lose. France had the better of the opening exchanges without registering many shots on target. Then after twenty four minutes the Swedes had a corner on their left and defender Jan Eriksson rose to head, virtually unchallenged, to put the hosts in front. Just before the break the French had a great shout for a penalty turned down when Eriksson wrestled Papin to the ground but the referee obviously decided that sort of contact was fair. A tournament’s popularity often hinges on the hosts success, and Sweden held their lead until just before the hour. Substitute Christian Perez played a lovely diagonal ball from just inside his own half over the Swedish defence for Papin the run onto. The prolific Papin headed it forward and then fired an unstoppable shot past Ravelli to level things up. Instead of pushing on from there, the French failed to really trouble the Swedes and both sides seemed happy to take a point.
11 June 1992, Malmo Stadium, Malmo, 26,385
DENMARK (0) 0
ENGLAND (0) 0
Denmark: Schmeichel; Sivebaek, Nielsen, L Olsen, Andersen; Christofte, Jensen, Vilfort; B Laurdup, Poulsen, Christensen
England: Woods; Curle (Daley), Keown, Walker, Pearce; Steven, Platt, Palmer, Merson (Webb); Lineker, Smith
The 1990 had been notable for the negativity of the football it contained. This tournament would continue in this vein, starting with this match in Malmo. England’s preparation was hampered by late injuries to John Barnes and Gary Stevens. This left Graham Taylor’s plans in tatters as he didn’t have a recognised right-back for the match. To everyone’s surprise he gave the job to Keith Curle. Curle, a central defender at Man City, had only made his debut as a sub against CIS in April and here he was starting a game in a major international tournament, out of position.
Denmark failed to work on a potential weakness, in fact we never discovered if either side had any weaknesses as there were so few attacks. The game ended goalless and the group was all-square after the opening round of matches.
14th June 1992, Malmo Stadion, Malmo, 26,535
FRANCE (0) 0
ENGLAND (0) 0
France: Martini; Amoros, Blanc, Boli, Casoni; Durand, Deschamps, Sauzee (Angloma), Fernandez (Perez); Papin, Cantona
England: Woods; Palmer, Keown, Walker, Pearce; Steven, Batty, Platt, Sinton; Lineker, Shearer
England were again in Malmo for their second game, against the group favourites France. Neither side wanted to make a mistake and the game will probably be remembered for two incidents, both involving Stuart Pearce. The first occurred in England’s penalty area as they cleared the ball, French defender Basil Boli elbowed Pearce in the face. The referee failed to spot it, although the blood dripping from Pearce could hardly hide it. Moments later, Pearce struck one of his famous thunderous free-kicks from about thirty yards out and it rattled the crossbar. That was it, and now both teams would need to win their final matches to progress.
14 June 1992, Rasunda Stadium, Solna, 29,902
SWEDEN (0) 1 (Brolin 58)
DENMARK (0) 0
Sweden: Ravelli; Nilsson, Eriksson, Andersson, Bjorklund; Ingesson, Thern, Schwarz, Limpar (Erlingmark); Brolin, Dahlin (Ekstrom)
Denmark: Schmeichel; Sivebaek, Nielsen, L Olsen, Andersen; Christofte, Jensen (H Larsen), Vilfort; B Laudrup, Poulsen, Christensen (Frank)
In contrast to the dross served up so far, this game was really entertaining. You wouldn’t have thought so by the scoreline, but both teams really went at each other. Sweden had the better attacking options, in Brolin, Andersson and Dahlin and their attacks started to have a real energy about them. The Danes gave as good as they got too, but on fifty eight minutes Brolin finished off another bright move for Sweden and they turned out to be the only goal of the game. The Swedes were now hopeful of winning the group, whereas the Danes had been happy to make up the numbers but could they really beat France to go through?
17 June 1992, Rasunda Stadium, Solna, 30,126
SWEDEN (0) 2 (Eriksson 51, Brolin 82)
ENGLAND (1) 1 (Platt 4)
Sweden: Ravelli; Nilsson, Eriksson, Andersson, Bjorklund; Ingesson, Thern, Schwarz, Limpar (Ekstrom); Brolin, Dahlin
England: Woods; Batty, Keown, Walker, Pearce; Daley, Webb, Palmer, Sinton (Merson); Platt, Lineker (Smith)
In Stockholm, England needed to beat Sweden to be certain of progressing to the Semi-Finals. They could still go through if they drew 2-2 as long as the France v Denmark ended goalless. England had yet to score in the tournament, but just four minutes in David Platt converted a cross from the left and they were off and running. England were still leading at half-time and relatively comfortable. The second half, though, was a completely different experience. Sweden came out all guns blazing and their free-flowing attacking football gradually made the England defence more and more jittery. Jan Eriksson headed in the equaliser just six minutes after the break. Ten minutes later came the moment few England fans will ever forget. With England needing to score again, manager Graham Taylor decided he needed to take off Gary Lineker (80 caps, 48 goals) and replace him with Arsenal’s Alan Smith (13 caps, 2 goals). It was a gamble that backfired, Sweden scored next and neither Lineker or Smith ever played for England again. Graham Taylor never managed England to a major tournament again. With eight minutes to go, Ingesson, Dahlin and Brolin just passed the ball past the English defence and Brolin finished the move to give Sweden another win.
17 June 1992, Malmo Stadion, Malmo, 25,673
FRANCE (0) 1 (Papin 60)
DENMARK (1) 2 (Larsen 8, Elstrup 78)
France: Martini; Amoros, Blanc, Boli, Casoni; Durand, Deschamps, Perez (Cocard), Vahirua (Fernandez); Papin, Cantona
Denmark: Schmeichel; Sivebaek, Nielsen (Piechnik), L Olsen, Andersen; Christofte, Jensen, Larsen; B Laudrup, Frank (Elstrup), Poulsen
The French needed to win this game, although a draw would be enough as long as they scored as many goals as England. As with their opening match against Sweden, France created the most early on yet conceded first. Denmark, possibly playing with the freedom of a side who thought this could be their last game, were first out of the traps when they took the lead in the opening ten minutes through Henrik Larsen. Denmark still lead at the break and still looked on top even though Papin equalised on the hour. Cantona crossed from the right to the far edge of the area, where Fernandez controlled the ball on his chest and instead of playing it back into the box, as he shaped to do, he backhealed it to Papin who curled a beautiful shot past Schmeichel to equalise. At this stage, France were going through with Sweden. With twelve minutes to go, Lars Elstrup banged Denmark back in front and now the French were worried. Denmark didn’t let go of their grip of the game and with the Swedes beating England, the two Scandinavian teams went through. From a side that thought they were getting the summer off, Denmark were now through to the Semis.
12 June 1992, Ullevi, Gothenburg, 35,720
NETHERLANDS (0) 1 (Bergkamp 75)
SCOTLAND (0) 0
Netherlands: van Breukelen; van Aerle, R Koeman, Rijkaard, van Tiggelen; Wouters (Jonk), Roy, Witschge, Gullit; Bergkamp (Winter), van Basten
Scotland: Goram; Gough, Malpas, McPherson, McKimmie; Durie, McStay, McCall, McAllister; McClair (Ferguson), McCoist (Gallecher)
In Gothenburg, Netherlands set about defending their trophy against Scotland. Expected to brush the Scots aside, Netherlands struggled to keep control of the match. Both sides had chances but it was the holders who got the all important goal as Dennis Bergkamp prodded his shot past Andy Goram. The goal came with fifteen minutes to go, and it may have seemed tough on the Scots, who had given a good account of themselves, but it was just what the Dutch wanted.
12 June 1992, Idrottsparken, Norrkoping, 17,410
CIS (0) 1 (Dobrovolski 64 pen)
GERMANY (0) 1 (Hassler 90)
CIS: Kharine; Chernyshov, O Kuznetsov, Tsveiba; Kanchelskis, Shalimov (Onopko), Dobrovolski, Mikhailychenko, Lyutyi (Ivanov); D Kuznetsov, Kolyvanov
Germany: Illgner; Reuter (Klinsmann), Kohler, Binz, Buchwald; Effenberg, Hassler, Doll, Brehme; Voller (Moller), Riedle
In Norrkoping World Champions, Germany, were up against a CIS side who probably weren’t that different from any side representing USSR. In the first half, Rudi Voller broke his arm attempting to foul one of the CIS players, but the half-time score was 0-0. CIS then broke the deadlock as Igor Dobrovolski converted a penalty after he was fouled. CIS looked as if they might pull off a major shock, but a free-kick to Germany in the 90th minute, saw Thomas Hassler equalise to give the Germans a point.
15 June 1992, Idrottsparken, Norrkoping, 17,638
SCOTLAND (0) 0
GERMANY (1) 2 (Riedle 29, Effenberg 47)
Scotland: Goram; Gough, Malpas, McPherson, McKimmie; McStay, McCall, McAllister, McClair; Durie (Nevin), McCoist (Gallacher)
Germany: Illgner; Binz, Sammer, Kohler, Buchwald; Effenberg, Moller, Hassler, Brehme; Klinsmann, Riedle (Reuter) (Schulz)
After their decent performance against the European Champions, Scotland moved onto the World Champions. Germany, managed by Bertie Vogts, took the lead after twenty nine minutes through Karl-Heinz Riedle, who would later play for Fulham and Liverpool. Just into the second half and Stefan Effenberg’s cross hits Malpas and goes in and Germany were now 2-0 up. Scotland couldn’t find a way back into the game and were now preparing to go home.
15 June 1986, Ullevi, Gothenburg, 34,400
NETHERLANDS (0) 0
CIS (0) 0
Netherlands: van Breukelen; van Aerle, R Koeman, Rijkaard, van Tiggelen; Wouters, Roy, Witschge, Gullit (van’t Schip); Bergkamp (Viscaal), van Basten
CIS: Kharine; Cherbyshov, O Kuznetsov, Tsveiba; Kanchelskis, Aleinikov (D Kuznetsov), Mikhailychenko, Onopko; Kolyvanov, Dobrovolski, Yuran (Kiriakov)
In Gothenburg, CIS set their stall out for a draw and got exactly what they were after. It was a dangerous gamble as even victory over the Scots in their final game would not guaranteed their progress. Nethelands had the better of the chances but Dmitri Kharin was in great form in the CIS goal. Netherlands now just needed a draw against Germany to go into the Semis.
18 June 1992, Ullevi, Gothenburg, 37,725
NETHERLANDS (2) 3 (Rijkaard 4, Witschge 15, Bergkamp 72)
GERMANY (0) 1 (Klinsmann 53)
Netherlands: van Breukelen; van Tiggelen, R Koeman, Rijkaard, F de Boer; Wouters, Roy, Witschge, Gullit; Bergkamp, van Basten
Germany: Illgner; Binz (Sammer), Frontczek, Kohler, Helmer; Effenberg, Moller, Hassler, Brehme; Riedle (Doll), Klinsmann
Since meeting in the World Cup Final in 1974, these two had met four times in major tournaments. They met each other in the 1980 and 1988 Euros, winning one each. This time the Dutch were in good form. Frank Rijkaard put them in front after just two minutes. After fifteen minutes, Robert Witschge scored direct from a free-kick and the Dutch were 2-0 up. Klinsmann got a goal back for Germany just into the second half, but the Dutch were rarely troubled and Bergkamp scored their third in the 72nd minute. The Germans now had to rely on CIS not beating Scotland
18 June1992, Idrottsparken, Norrkoping, 14,660
SCOTLAND (2) 3 (McStay 7, McClair 16, McAllister 84 pen)
CIS (0) 0
Scotland: Goram; Gough, Boyd, McPherson, McKimmie; McStay, McCall, McAllister, McClair (McInally); McCoist, Gallacher (Nevin)
CIS: Kharine; Chernyshov, Tskhadadze, O Kuznetsov; Kanchelskis, Aleinikov (Korneev), Mikhailychenko, Onopko; Kiriakov (D Kuznetsov), Dobrovolski, Yuran
The CIS had gambled on being defensive and gaining draws against the Dutch and Germans, relying on their confidence in being able to beat Scotland. The Scots were already out but in this game they provided their finest football. Paul McStay put them in front after seven minutes and then ten minutes later Brian McClair doubled the lead. They rounded the victory off when Gary McAllister scored from the penalty spot and Scotland could, once again, go home from a tournament early but with their heads held high. For CIS this was the last time they played as a unified country.
21 June 1992, Rasunda Stadium, Solna, 28,827
SWEDEN (0) 2 (Brolin 64 pen, Andersson 89)
GERMANY (1) 3 (Hassler 11, Riedle 59, 88)
Sweden: Ravelli; R Nilsson, Eriksson, Bjorklund, Ljung; Ingesson, Andersson, Thern, J Nilsson (Limpar); Brolin, Dahlin (Ekstrom)
Germany: Illgner; Helmer, Reuter, Kohler, Buchwald, Brehme; Effenberg, Sammer, Hassler; Riedle, Klinsmann (Doll)
Sweden were buoyed by the Germans defeat against Netherlands, but soon realised how injuries had weakened them that day. Back to full strength, the Germans put on the style. Thomas Hassler scored another trade-mark free-kick. Riedle then made it 2-0 after 59 minutes and the game seemed to have been won. Brolin converted a penalty for Sweden just five minutes later, but they were still being overrun in midfield. Two minutes from time, Riedle grabbed his second goal of the game and Germany now dreamed of a World Cup/European Championship double as they had achieved in the ‘70’s. Kennet Andersson headed another goal back for the home side, but unfortunately for the Stockholm crowd they couldn’t force extra time. Germany were now in their third major final in the last four competitions and were looking like favourites. For Sweden, they had produced one of their finest tournament performances ever.
22 June 1988, Ullevi, Gothenburg, 37,450
NETHERLANDS (1) 2 (Bergkamp 23, Rijkaard 86)
DENMARK (2) 2 (Larsen 5, 33)
Denmark won 5-4 on penalties
Netherlands: van Breukelen; van Tiggelen, R Koeman, Rijkaard, F de Boer (Kieft); Wouters, Roy (van’t Schip), Witschge, Gullit; van Basten, Bergkamp
Denmark: Schmeichel; Sivebaek, Piechnik, L Olsen,, Andersen (Christiansen); Christofte, Jensen, Vilfort, Larsen; B Laudrup (Elstrup), Poulsen
Netherlands: Koeman, van Basten, Bergkamp, Rijkaard, Witschge
Denmark: Larsen, Poulsen, Elstrup, Vilfort, Christofte
The Dutch were now very confident of retaining their trophy, especially as they were up against Denmark who had, had their bags packed since they lost to Sweden. The Danes shouldn’t have even been there, so they could hardly want to get to the final more than the Dutch, could they?
Brian Laudrup’s cross from the right wing was headed in by Henrik Larsen at the back post and Denmark were in front in the opening five minutes. Bergkamp then equalised almost twenty minutes later. Witschge chipped the ball into the area where Gullit headed it back to Bergkamp on the edge of the area and he fired his shot past Schmeichel. But the Danes came back just ten minutes later when Vilfort crossed from the left to Laudrup who headed back where Ronald Koeman’s poor headed clearance fell straight to Larsen to beat van Breukelen again. Denmark lead at half-time and were largely untroubled during the second half too. With just four minutes to go, Frank Rijkaard finally equalised for Netherlands when the Danes failed to clear a corner to take the game into extra-time. The Dutch were so close to going out, but now they had thirty minutes to try and win the game. They couldn’t make any further inroads, the Danes hung on and we now had the lottery of a shootout.
Ronald Koeman was first up for the Dutch and he scored. Larsen also made no mistake. Up stepped Marco van Basten, top scorer four years earlier but without a goal this time round. His shot was saved by Peter Schmeichel. Poulsen scored for Denmark and they now held the advantage. Bergkamp, Rijkaard and Witschge all scored the Netherlands, as did Elstrup and Vilfort. It then fell to Kim Christofte to put the Danes into the final and he didn’t miss. Against all odds possible, Denmark had reached the European Championship Final. They had deserved their place too, as they certainly weren’t outplayed by the holders and could now continue their amazing fairytale.
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
26 June 1992, Ullevi, Gothenburg, 37,800
DENMARK (1) 2 (Jensen 18, Vilfort 78)
GERMANY (0) 0
Denmark: Schmeichel; Sivebaek (Christiansen), L Olsen, Piechnik, Nielsen; Christofte, Jensen, Vilfort, Larsen; B Laudrup, Poulsen
Germany: Illgner; Reuter, Kohler, Helmer, Buchwald, Brehme; Sammer (Doll), Effenberg (Thom), Hassler; Riedle, Klinsmann
Apocryphal stories had the Danes on the beach at the beginning of June. Whether that’s true or not is not certain, but they cannot have been preparing for what they were now involved in, when their seasons ended in May. Germany were overwhelming favourites. They fully expected to add the European Championship to their World Cup trophy from Italia ’90. Germany created several chances in the opening twenty minutes, but it was Denmark who opened the scoring. John Jensen scored it, only his second ever goal for the national side. 1-0 to Denmark at the break, and people around Europe were starting to contemplate whether it really could happen. The second half just became more and more frustrating for the Germans as you could visibly see them getting desperate and the Danes growing in confidence. The Germans always an aura around them as if they were lucky, and while the gap was only one goal, there was always the prospect of them getting back into it. That hope well and truly faded in the 78th minute when Kim Vilfort shot Denmark into a 2-0 lead and the miracle had happened.
One of the most remarkable stories of international football and the sort of thing only thought possible in books or movies, Denmark had turned up for a party they weren’t originally invited to, and walked off with the ‘best dressed’ prize. They probably had their bags packed after their second match but the fairytale just went on and on. To add to the image of fantasy, Kim Vilfort, who scored the winning goal, had just come back from visiting his daughter who was ill with leukaemia. They also did it without one of the best players in Europe at the time, Michael Laudrup.
Denmark had probably had better, more talented teams during the ‘80’s than this one, but somehow this was just meant to be. It was their time. They were average against a poor England side in their opening game, played well and lost to the Swedes and then it just turned for them. The Germans were stunned, they later admitted to being too complacent about their chances. The Dutch played their best football against Germany, but seemed to freeze against the Danes. The Swedish players did their country proud too, in a group they were not expecting to get out of.
Scotland also can be proud of their efforts, ultimately in vain, and CIS lacked a decent goalscorer as they could’ve at least tried to have a go in their early matches. But it was England and France who had most to regret about their tournament performances which contained almost no high points at all.