Goals from John Jensen and Kim Vilfort completed the fairy tale for the last-minute entrants.
Denmark pulled off one of the greatest surprises in international football following their triumph in the 1992 edition of the Euros. The Danes defeated Germany by a 2-0 margin in the final of the tournament, following a stunning performance by legendary goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel. Goals in either half by John Jensen and Kim Vilfort helped the team emerge victorious following a strong start by the opposition.
German attackers Stefan Reuter and Guido Buchwald forced Schmeichel into action early, with the team looking to dominate the opponents as soon as possible. The Manchester United goalkeeper emerged victorious in the duel against the players, holding its own despite the pressure. This fine start seemed to boost the confidence of his teammates as Denmark scored against the run of play. Vilfort passed the ball to Flemming Povlsen after winning a tussle with Andreas Brehme, cutting the ball back for Jensen. The midfielder was certainly not the finest in front of goal, as evident in the semi-final clash against the Netherlands. However, he made no mistake at this stage smashing the ball into the net from the edge of the area. The strength of the shot was such that it managed to defy Stefan Effenberg’s headlong efforts to block. Interestingly, it was only the second goal scored by Jensen in 48 internationals.
The Germans attempted to make a soaring comeback by pushing hard, to get an equaliser. However, Schmeichel continued to reign supreme, denying Jurgen Klinsmann with a fantastic save at full stretch. The Denmark goalkeeper went on to defy Effenberg as Berti Vogts’ side continued to hold on to its lead. The pressure was maintained even in the second half, as Kent Nielsen completed a fine clearance off the line. The clearance was all the more important considering the presence of Karl-Heinz Riedle who was poised to bury Klinsmann’s cross. The Inter Milan striker could well have got a goal under his belt in the coming minutes if not for Schmeichel who completed a fantastic reaction save tipping the header over.
Interestingly, Denmark who were under pressure during the second half went on to score another goal. Vilfort brought the ball under control before moving inside to shoot low in off Bodo Illgner’s left post to settle the contest. The attacker got an opportunity to make amends for a miss in the second half, having failed to take full advantage of Richard Moller Nielsen’s pass.
Denmark managed to hold on to the lead, marking the end of a fairy tale. Vilfort had left the national team’s camp twice, even missing a group stage match to visit his seven-year-old daughter who was suffering from leukaemia.
“I think, beyond anything, it really sank in when we were in Copenhagen in the town hall for the celebrations with the rest of Denmark. That was unbelievable, truly unbelievable. At this point you’re thinking: ‘Christ, we actually did this, it’s not a dream.’ I don’t think we’d had many big results in the times before 1992. We’d had the odd one, but there wasn’t a mentality in sport that you could actually go out and say ‘we want to win this, this is our target’ because people would look at you,” said Schmeichel as quoted by UEFA’s official website.
Denmark coach Richard Moller Nielsen further had an interesting anecdote to share with regard to the triumph.
“I was supposed to fit a new kitchen [in my house] but then we were called away to play in Sweden. The kitchen is finished now. I got a professional decorator to do it,” he said.
Here are the lineups for the game:
Denmark: Schmeichel; Christofte, Kent Nielsen, Piechnik, Lars Olsen (c), Sivebæk (Christiansen 66); Vilfort, Larsen, Jensen; Povlsen, Laudrup. Substitutes: Molby, Elstrup, Frank, Krogh, Peter Nielsen, Bruun. Coach: Richard Moller Nielsen
Germany: Illgner; Brehme (c), Helmer, Buchwald, Kohler, Reuter; Effenberg (Thom 80), Hassler, Sammer (Doll 46); Klinsmann, Riedle. Substitutes: Binz, Moller, Kopke, Frontzeck, Schulz, Worns. Coach: Berti Vogts. Referee: Bruno Galler (Switzerland).
Interestingly, Denmark were late additions to the list of teams for the tournament. They were included as replacements for Yugoslavia. Nielsen was himself not first choice to take charge of the Danes, when he replaced Sepp Piontek in 1990. The manager was not very popular among the players having placed a focus on defence for the national team, much to the dislike of the skilful members of the squad.
“It was a great honour to play under him. He made the right decisions at the right times,” said midfielder John Jensen.
Denmark will soon take on Wales in the round of 16 stage of Euro 2020. It will be interesting to witness the manner in which they cope against a strong opposition, despite the absence of Christian Eriksen. However, they will be expected to put up a fight considering the presence of some of the best footballers in the business.