If you think that Greece’s 2004 triumph is the most glorious, fairy-tale like win in the European Championship then you probably want to go back in 1992, when Denmark failed to qualify, but win the title in the end. After being given a week to practice, Denmark shocked the entire football world by beating the unified Germany in the final and lifting the trophy for the first time.
In 1992, the format of the game only allows winners of the seven groups to join the hosts in the tournament. That year, Sweden, the host nation got the automatic qualification along with group stage winners. The Danes had missed out on qualification having finished as runners-up to Yugoslavia in Group 4 of the qualification stage.
However, Yugoslavia, in a state of civil war, was banned from participating in the tournament that gave Denmark the chance to qualify into the eight-team tournament and placed in a group featuring hosts Sweden, England and France. “There were those who didn’t believe we would be included, but we were aware of small talk that this could be the situation,” former midfirlederKim Vilfort recalled.
The then underdog Danish team was able to pass these strong nations starting with a goalless draw against England that was followed by defeat by Sweden. Their only chance to make it into the semis is by taking over France. Luckily, coach Richard Moller Nielsen’s men won the match 2-1, with goals from Henrik Larsen and Lars Elstrup. They reached the semis with the Netherlands as their opponent.
In a semi-finals match against the Dutch side, they finished the first 90-minutes with 2-2 score that was followed by a scoreless extra time. During this ear, penalty shootout was already introduced. The 1988 Dutch her Marco van Basten was blocked by Peter Schmeichel and defender Kim Christofte’s goal sealed the finals spot for Denmark. Germany were the opponents in the final.
The Danish side remain the underdog in this final match. However, they dominated the opening quarter of the final with Schmeichel displaying impressive saves from Karl-Heinz Riedle, Stefan Reuter and Guido Buchwald. Denmark took the lead in the nineteenth minute with a John Jensen’s goal. Germany had a couple of chances in the second half but Schmeichel made sure that it won’t turn into a point.
A Claus Christiansen’s header on the halfway line sealed the win in the 78th minute, defeating the unified German side and clinching Denmark’s first European title. Their top-scorer and winner of the Golden Boot award was Henrik Larsen. Chances of success were very low during that year, but things happened and you just have to get on with it and do your best – the Danes proved that.
“We had fantastic spirit. The team wanted to win and that’s a very good thing when you’re at the highest level. When we were under pressure against Germany, it was the spirit that helped us. We didn’t have the best players, but we had the best team,” Vilfort said.