Have Denmark ever won the Euro finals?

Danes had not even qualified for the 1992 tournament in Sweden

Denmark are just one win away from reaching the final of Euro 2020 and capping a fairytale tournament that started with a nightmare.

They take on England at Wembley Stadium for a chance to play Italy in Sunday's final. That scenario felt impossible after their first match, where they not only lost their Group B opener to Finland but also lost their best player after Christian Eriksen collapsed on the field after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Thankfully, Eriksen is making good progress in his recovery, and has been invited to Sunday's final as a special guest. Hopefully for him, he will be watching his teammates contest the championship match.

It will not be the first time the Danes have reached a final of the European Championship, however. In 1992 they pulled off the biggest shock in international football by winning a tournament they hadn't even qualified for.

Euro 92, Yugoslavia expelled

Denmark had not even qualified for the 1992 tournament, held in neighbouring Sweden, after finishing runner-up to Yugoslavia in their qualifying group.

However, Yugoslavia were disqualified as a result of the breakup of the country and the ensuing warfare there, as Denmark were named the eighth and final team.

A popular tale is that the Danish squad were all sunbathing on the beach when they learned of their late call up, a legend former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel was happy to dispel.

"You know, myths are myths," says Schmeichel, whose son, Kasper, also a goalkeeper, is in the Euro 2020 Denmark squad. "The reality was that we'd finished our seasons, the players who played abroad at the time, and the players who played in Denmark were still in their season when we got told that we were in. But we've come back from playing our seasons and all we were thinking about was holiday

"We still had this one game against the CIS [successor to the Soviet Union], in their last preparation game before they went to Sweden. Every day we were driving up for a training session at Brondby – and it was at Brondby that we got told. The thing was, we were not quite on our holidays but I think every single one of us had already switched off – just get this game out of the way and we would get our free time. But physically we were there, so we had a lot of mental work to do to get to the point where we could start competing in a championship of that calibre. So holidays upstairs, but physically still working."

Group phase

Denmark were placed in Group A alongside hosts Sweden, France and England. Little was expected of them, but they held group favourites England to a 0-0 draw in Malmo.

Far from being happy with a point, Schmeichel says the mood in the dressing room was "like a funeral".

"We could not believe we hadn't won that game. We'd obviously come straight into the tournament, no real preparation, not as much as England, but we felt we were much better prepared – physically we were stronger, we felt we had played better and created more chances, and still we didn't win. We couldn't believe it."

A defeat to Sweden was followed up with a 2-1 victory over France, leaving Denmark on three points (this was the last Euros when teams were awarded two points for a win) behind Sweden.

VEDBAEK, DENMARK: Goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel of Denmark resting during af training session in Vedbaek, Denmark. (Photo by Lars Ronbog / FrontZoneSport via Getty Images)

Upsetting Van Basten, Gullit and Co

The Danes were drawn against title-holders the Netherlands in the semi-finals where they were huge underdogs.

The Dutch boasted the world's greatest striker in Marco van Basten, as well as several key members of the victorious Euro '88 side including Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard, Jan Wouters and Ronald Koeman.

A brace from Henrik Larsen (no, not that one) cancelled out strikes from Dennis Bergkamp and Rijkaard, while the Danes overcame an horrific knee injury to Henrik Andersen to take the game to extra time and penalties.

Denmark were perfect from their five spot kicks while Van Basten, who had lit up the Euros four years earlier in West Germany, saw his effort saved by Schmeichel.

The final and that John Jensen goal

Having overcome one giant obstacle the unheralded Richard Møller Nielsen had an even bigger one to conquer in preparing his Denmark players to face world champions West Germany in the final.

Few gave a Danish team high on work ethic but low on stardust much of a chance against a team containing bags of it in Andreas Brehme, Steffen Effenberg and Jurgen Klinsmann.

But Denmark had pretty much ripped up the script and written a new one in bold font size 90 since arriving in Sweden and were in no mood to bow to their opponents.

John Jensen opened the scoring with a thunderbolt that set the Danes on their way and the midfielder on a move to Arsenal, though it would take him 98 games to produce a goal of similar ilk for the Gunners.

Kim Vilfort, whose tournament involved two journeys back home to be with his seven-year-old daughter battling leukemia, scored in the second half to make it 2-0 to cap a fairytale tournament for a team that shouldn't have even been there.

Updated: July 8th 2021, 3:12 AM
EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS