Denmark football history - Part 3 - Euro 92 Failure To Finest Hour

Tue, Oct 09 2018

Like father - like son. Kasper Schmeichel has followed in his father Peter's footsteps to become the Denmark international goalkeeper Credit: Eoin Smith (ETPhotos)

Diarmuid Kearney has been looking back through the Danish football records to bring you a series tracing the country’s football team’s history, starting with the early amateur days of the game in Denmark.

Part 1 - Early Amatuer Days

Part 2 - Signing with Carlsberg and the Danish Dynamite

Part 3 - Euro 92 Failure To Finest Hour

Another period of transition had now set in, unlike the previous transitional period Denmark were now struggling with form and as Denmark failed to qualify for the 1990 World Cup. Sepp Piontek resigned as head coach of the national team in April 1990, where he was replaced by his assistant, Richard Møller Nielsen.

Møller Nielsen goal as manager of the Danish national side was to help return the side to winning ways and plot a route to the Euro 92 finals in Sweden. Denmark began qualification with a 4-1 home against the Faroe Islands. 

This was followed by a 1-1 away draw against Northern Ireland and a 2–0 home loss against Yugoslavia.

Due to the poor start, as well as a strong disagreement with the coach about the new defensive team tactics, the two best Danish footballers at the time, Michael Laudrup and Brian Laudrup, opted to quit the national team in November 1990.

When Nielsen decided to dismiss Jan Mølby and Jan Heintze from the squad, due to disciplinary problems, several newspapers began demanding that Nielsen step down as head coach as the team seemed to be falling apart under his influence.

Despite this strong criticism, Denmark won the rest of their five matches in the qualification group, including a 2–1 away win against Yugoslavia.

However, their late strong comeback was not enough to qualify for the tournament, as Denmark could only manage second place in the group behind Yugoslavia.

With just ten days to go until the tournament began UEFA announced that Yugoslavia would be removed from the competition due to international sanctions resulting from the Yugoslav wars in the Balkans and their place would be given to Denmark who finished behind them in the qualification group. 

Despite being told with short notice they were about to feature in Euro 92, the didn’t quite have to come off the beach as the majority of Denmark players were already assembled to play a friendly match against the CIS (Russia) when Denmark officially received Yugoslavia's spot.

The Danes were relying heavily on goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel and his defence, as well as one of the countries best ever players Brian Laudrup, who decided to make a comeback for the national team in April 1992.

The Danish team created one of the biggest surprises and upsets in the tournaments history, as they went on to win the European Championship trophy under head coach Nielsen's defensive playing style which was deemed a failure earlier on in qualifying.

Advancing from the group stage ahead of England and France, Denmark defeated the Netherlands the defending Euro 1988 champions on penalties in the semi-final.

Then, in the final, Denmark won 2–0 win against reigning World Cup champions Germany, as Denmark recorded their first ever tournament win which became their greatest achievement to date.

Next up – Part 4: The Fall from Grace