Let’s Look Back at the Euros – Euro ’92 (Sweden)

Between the 1988 and 1992 European Championships the whole of Europe went through some serious changes and had a tentatively awkward group hug. I’m sure many walls went down but the one in Berlin being torn down in late 1989 was the most significant and symbolic. On a personal level I knew it was the exact moment my Dad knew his dream of a socialist utopia was not going to happen.

The Soviet Union collapsed, West and East Germany were one again while numerous Eastern European nations were free of Soviet control. Everything seemed a little bit more liberated and the continent was starting to thaw albeit with some massive growing pains.

On the football side of things Germany (nee West Germany) were the World Champions after a dour and generally forgettable 1990 World Cup in Italy. Spain applied to host the Euros in 1992 but with the Barcelona Olympics imminent UEFA decided to award Sweden with the event with the Scandinavians confident they could host a now very popular tournament with fans. There would be ABBA references and blonde hair everywhere this time around. The format would be the same as the previous two tournaments (Two groups of four, semi finals then final)

The mascot for this tournament was a bit of a rip off of the German one from 1988 to be honest. It was a rabbit in the strip of the country kicking a football around and was called ‘Rabbit’ in an unbelievable example of originality.

THE QUALIFYING

With the Cold War over changes were afoot but there was no changes to the amount of countries competing just yet. The big names like Germany and France qualified along with Scotland with the Tartan Army finally heading to the Euros after topping a group over the Swiss and a strong Romanian side. The Soviet Union was collapsing but their side topped a tough group over a fantastic Italian side still smarting over their near miss at Italia ‘90. Yugoslavia and the Dutch were also through while England topped a tight group featuring Ireland and Poland. The Irish didn’t lose a game but too many draws including a costly one in Poland in the penultimate round cost them they and would be watching from home.

Politics reared its ugly head in the lead up to the tournament. With the collapse of the Soviet Union they were now to be known as the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) much like they would be in the Olympics. This was to be expected but Yugoslavia wasn’t a happy place to be in the early 90s either. The Slovenian War had been joined by the Croatian War for Independence and then it all kicked off in Bosnia which meant that UEFA had to act with Yugoslavia in tatters. It was decided with 11 days left until the tournament begun that Denmark would be allowed to enter the tournament and Yugoslavia were disqualified.

The Danes had finished second in their qualifying group behind Yugoslavia and would have to get everyone off the beaches and out of the bars to head to the tournament. The coach Richard Moller Neilson was even about to begin his kitchen renovations to keep him occupied over the summer when the call came. Their star man and arguably greatest player of all time Michael Laudrup was basking in the glory of winning the 1992 European Cup/Champions League with Barcelona and refused to play not wanting to cut his holiday short. He also claimed that Denmark would lose anyway. Still, the Danes did have his brother Brian who was a prolific striker at Bayern Munich (and later Rangers) plus there was their experienced dour defensive inpregnable back four and a certain 29 year old called Peter Schmeichel in goal. Schmeichel was still a relative unknown outside of Denmark having a so-so season in his first season with Manchester United so had much to prove.

THE GROUP STAGE

In GROUP A Sweden would host a French side coached by Platini with Cantona, Papin, Amoros and a heap of arrogance. The Danes and England made up the group with the latter missing their injured talisman Paul Gascoigne. In the opening game Jan Eriksson opened the scoring but AC Milan’s Papin was one of the best in the world at the time the time and scored to ensure France for a 1-1 draw. In the other opener Denmark and England played a dull 0-0 draw.

In the second lot of games England again bored all and sundry despite the likes of Alan Smith, Gary Lineker and a young Alan Shearer up front. It was another 0-0 with an equally unimpressive France. In the Scadenavian derby the hosts knocked off Denmark 1-0 thanks to their masterful midfielder Thomas Brolin in the second half to take control of the group.

For the final games for the group England could sneak through with a draw but really did need a win for confidence more than anything. They had the perfect start against Sweden in Stockholm going ahead after only four minutes when Lineker’s cross was misshit by David Platt but it still managed to bobble in. In the second half Eriksson scored again heading in from a corner. England were holding on with the other game being played at the same time between Denmark and France currently at 1-1 putting England in second. English coach Graham ‘turnip head’ Taylor for whatever reason took off Lineker hoping the draw would do it. With their star man off in the final 15 minutes it all fell apart for England. The Danes went ahead with Elstrup scoring and then a great run and neat one-two saw Brolin score a wonderful goal late in the match to win it for Sweden 2-1 and send England out in the group stage….again. Denmark held on to win 2-1 and somehow go through with Sweden. to keep their run going The French had also collapsed after being a pre-tournament fancy. ‘Turnip Head’ went home to a unforgivable English press.

In GROUP B a merged German side would be paired with arch rivals and reigning champions Holland along with those plucky Scots and the CIS. Scotland were still coached by Andy Roxburgh who had taken them to Italia ’90 and had just missed out on getting through their World Cup group in Italy conceding a heartbreaking late goal against Brazil. This side featured much of that side including Richard Gough, Celtic legend McStay, Stuart McCall, Leeds star McAllister (with hair), Super Ally McCoist, Big Andy Goram in goal and Davey McPherson who would play in the NSL for Carlton SC some 7 years later. In their opening game they took on the Dutch and were unlucky to go down with a young Dennis Bergkamp scoring late to win it 1-0. In the other opening game Germany were also not that convincing scoring in injury time through a Hassler free kick to force a 1-1 draw with the CIS. Two games not for the purists.

With the second lot of games Scotland were out already after losing 2-0 to Germany. Scotland were the better side for the first half hour before the veteran Riedle beat Goram. Scotland had all the shots keeping German keeper Illgner busy but again were hit with an unlucky sucker punch minutes in to the second half when the bat shit mental Stefan Effenberg scored. In the other match the Dutch again were unconvincing with a 0-0 draw with the CIS.

In the final group games the Dutch took on their bitter rivals Germany. Since their 1988 triumph Holland had endured a horrible 1990 World Cup failing to impress and being eliminated in the second round in a very bitter game against Germany that resulted in red cards and Frank Rijkaard spitting on Rudi Voller. The Dutch won 3-1 in this clash though with two early goals and Bergkamp finishing it off in the second half to top the group and show they weren’t going home without a fight. In the other game the CIS could be through if they beat an already eliminated Scotland but the Scots saved their best for when it didn’t matter once again romping home 3-0 and at least sending their fans back home on the ferry quite happy and no doubt drinking the bar dry. The Dutch and Germans were through.

THE SEMI FINALS

For the first semi final the hosts would take on Germany who had been far from convincing. The press back home with their ridiculously high expectations had been scathing of the side but new coach Berti Vogts blamed injuries, the weather, horoscopes and anything else that could take the heat off him as the replacement for Franz Beckebauer. Beckenbauer hadn’t helped in the lead up the tournament saying the new generation of players pushing through in to this side were ‘unbeatable’. Sweden had their own issues with star midfielder Stefan Schwarz out suspended and his replacement Thern carrying an injury. Germany smelt blood and were ahead after only 11 minutes with Hassler hitting another superb free kick. Sweden were chasing the game for the rest of the 90 minutes. Riedle scored on the hour to make it 2-0 and break Swedish hearts. There was hope though when just five minutes later when a penalty was given and Brolin put it away. The crowd were back in to it, could Sweden get it back to 2-2? Well, no. The Swedes were pushing with minutes to go before losing the ball and Riedle had his second after sharp passing up the field. It seemed to be game over at 3-1 but straight from the kick off Sweden teased those cheering on the underdog scoring another but Germany held out to make yet another final. 3-2 in the end.

In the other semi final an equally suspect Holland would would take on Denmark. The Dutch were favourites on paper and the press back in Holland already had them as winners such was the arrogance after knocking off Germany in the previous game. The Danes knew of this and were more than ready fearing no one. It was Denmark that were on top early with Henrik Larsen (not that one from Celtic) heading in after only five minutes thanks to wonderful lead up work by Brian Laudrup, his cross from the byline pinpoint. This woke up Holland and they worked their way back in to the game and halfway through the first half equalised when Frank Rijkaard was magical setting up Bergkamp who slammed the ball home from the edge of the area for his third goal of the tournament. Denmark got it together and rather than relying on their bullish defence they went on the attack and had another on 33 minutes when Larsen had his second after slamming the ball home similar to Bergkamp after a poor clearance from the Dutch defence. 2-1 at half time.

In the second half the Danes controlled the match, the Dutch unable to find an answer and their stars were floundering. Denmark still kept at it even after left back Henrik Anderson somehow broke his knee cap in half that was seen live worldwide. Yeesh. The minutes melted away ever so slowly for the Danes and far too quickly for their opposition when the Dutch won a corner with five minutes left. The corner deflected off Ruud Gullit’s head and fell the ground. Before a Dane could clear it up the pitch Rijkaard got a toe in to trickle the ball in and tied it up. 2-2 and extra time which saw Schmiechel make a tremendous save but that was the only highlight and it would go to the horror of a penalty shootout.

The Dutch were first to take a shot and both sides converted their first penalties. Next up for Holland was Marco Van Basten. The hero of 1988 had been on and off since for his country due to injury and hadn’t scored in a this tournament despite playing an important role. Surely he’d convert? His shot was brilliantly saved by Schmiechel who guessed the right way. The Dutch never missed another penalty for the rest of the shoot out but neither did the Danes. All the lanky veteran defender Christofte has to do was convert his penalty and the Danes were remarkably in to the final. Christofte looked jittery and nervous constantly looking at the ref to blow his whistle and impatient to rush in and take the spot kick. He took a short two step run up (never a good thing) and sent the keeper the wrong way with his surprisingly powerful shot sending his team through. Extraordinary scenes and an amazing upset throughout a seesawing epic. The champs were out. The underdogs were through.

THE FINAL

Once again the final would be a David V Goliath affair. The World Champions Germany in their third final of the past five Euros against a side that weren’t even supposed to be there if not for tragedy in Balklans. Locals were confused too. Go for the country that knocked you out in the semi finals or go for your arch rivals?

Germany had been in this situation before and settled very quickly in what was a highly paced opening pushing the ball around having a host of chances but Schmeichel was undaunted and a giant in goal making some baffling saves that should have been goals. The Danes had also resorted to their more defensive approach and were almost inviting the opposition to have a crack repelling any attack.

On 18 minutes Schmeichel punted the ball up the field. Calamatous defending saw players collide and the ball come to Povlsen on the right for Denmark. He saw his good friend John Jensen at the edge of the area and knew where he’d make his run. The pass was sublime and the finish from Jensen was one for the ages. A thunderbolt of a shot and it was 1-0 Denmark. Remarkable scenes and only the second goal for Jensen in some 48 appearances for his country. This shocked the Germans and they retreated in their shell leaving Klinsmann marooned up front as Denmark happily chipped the ball around until half time that was scrappy for the most part.

At half time Sammer was subbed for the more attacking Doll as Germany look to try and batter on that Danish back four but it played right in to Denmark’s hands who could take this pressure and happily count down the clock. This is what defensive teams did. Germany were finding nothing but Vogts still didn’t make another sub thinking one of his stars could just make something happened. It almost did halfway through the second half when Klinsmann found a small bit of space and sent in a cross come shot that was cleared desperately off the line by the Danish defence. The time continued to tick away as tension in the air replaced the sounds of air horns and drunken chants. Even the Danish Royal Family in the VIp area look liked they had a case of squeaky bum. Klinsmann again got off the chain rising to head a corner ball with venom at the goal but Schmeichel, again, made a wonderful reflex save.

Then with 12 minutes to go the Germans had a lapse in concentration and a pass back to a defender went straight to the Danish midfielder Kim Volfort who turned and beared down on goal, danced around a defender and shot for goal for his left sneaking past the keeper’s left, hitting the upright and trundling in to the goal. 2-0 and the Danes were pretty much there with a chaotic celebration. Germany’s confidence was destroyed and didn’t have another chance in the final 10 minutes. Vogts finally made another sub but it was all too late. Denmark, somehow, were the champions of Europe! How Michael Laudrup must had felt watching this game in whatever resort or loungeroom he may have been in at the time. The Danish FA would probably have paid for coach Neilson’s kitchen renovations or perhaps he would still be in the doghouse with the wife for running off the Euros.  

The scenes of jubilation following the win were as much of is this really happening as it was satisfaction in getting the job done and believing in themselves. For the Germans language would fail them when in pain. Some of the Danish team had kept training while on their holidays just in case the drama in Yugoslavia escalated hoping they would get the ball. Many of the core players in the side had played together at Brondby in their earlier years so knew each other inside out. The pass that lead the opening goal a prime example of this. For Volfort it was more emotional than it was for anyone. Twice he had left the camp to visit his daughter suffering from Luekemia back in Denmark and even missed a match due to this commitment which the squad allowed and encouraged. She would tragically pass away just after the tournament. For Schmiechel this tournament turned him from an obscure keeper purchased for a song by Sir Alex at United to a revered figure and one of the great keepers of his generation over the next 10 years. Sir Alex would remark years later that he was the buy of the century.

An amazing upset in a tournament that was dyfunctional from the beginning. Denmark. Champions. Who would of thunk it!

 

CHAMPIONS – Denmark (1st Title)

RUNNER UP – Germany

GOLDEN BOOT – Four players shared the boot this time around with 3 goals. Danish semi final hero Henrik Larsen, a then 23 year old Dennis Bergkamp, Tomas Brolin and the erstwhile German veteran Karl-Heinze Reidler.

SACRED COW – Tomas Brolin. A peculiar career from a peculiar man but he was wonderful at Euro 92. The 23 year old had moved to Parma in 1990 and was a wonderful player for Sweden either being involved in or scoring all of the host country’s goals including the winner against England. He would go to a new level at the World Cup in the USA two years later getting his country to third place and being selected in the team of the tournament. After this though his star fell very quickly breaking a foot and then never quite being the same player. A move to Leeds United didn’t return him to top form and then by the time he washed up at Crystal Palace he was more of an interpreter for Italian coach Attillio Lombardo piling on the pounds then an actual player. He gave the game away at the age of 29 and for a while was a vacuum cleaner salesman and opened a bar in Sweden that fined numerous times for underage drinking. He is now mainly seen on the Poker Tour a bloated version of his former self an example of what may have been.

DUNCE HATS – France. Following their non-qualification for the 1990 World Cup coach and football legend Michel Platini was on borrowed time. The first fruits of their new youth academy Clairefontaine were coming through along with hotheads such as Cantona and they had one of the best players in world; Jean Pierre Papin. They qualified easily and were undefeated for 12 games before entering the tournament where they went on to fail to win a game, only scored two goals and were eliminated by Denmark. Platini fell on his sword and they were again in the mire. The qualification for the 1994 World Cup would be another disaster for a side small on team spirit but big on talent and ego.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

Comments

  1. James Grapsas says:

    Terrific article. This series has been most enjoyable. Please keep the articles rolling in.

    Love the picture of Stuart McCall vs Ruud Gullit!

  2. Thanks James it has been a great competition since I first watched in 1992. It’s getting to the good ones now! This tournament did take a long time to find its feet. Always was a fan was McCall for his star turn in the 1989 FA Cup Final.

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