Ahead of their crunch clash with a high-flying England football team in the semi-final of UEFA Euro 2020 at the Wembley Stadium on July 8, Thursday, Denmark will look to draw inspiration from their 1992 Euro campaign when they had overcome similar challenges to lift the coveted European Championship.
The similarities are, in fact, quite stark. Denmark were written off from the 1992 Euros after they had just one point from their first two group stage matches, while in Euro 2020 the Danes found themselves sitting at the bottom of their group after losses to Finland and Belgium.
On both occasions, the Danes needed to win big in the last group match to qualify for the knockouts. While the 1992 title-winning team had beaten France 2-1 to advance from second spot, the 2020 side thwarted Russia 4-1 to progress as the best third-placed side.
Interestingly, while Denmark have to do without their superstar Christian Eriksen this time, the 1992 squad didn’t have the services of the iconic Michael Laudrup either, after the midfielder had fallen out with the management.
Moreover, if Denmark had to upset footballing giants Netherlands and Germany in the semi-final and the final in 1992, the Danes have a star-studded English side and Italy or Spain waiting in the semis and the final respectively, this time.
Eriksen’s absence inspiring Denmark to scale new heights
Despite being an underdog, Denmark came to Euro 2020 with many talented players at their disposal, most of whom ply their trade in A-list clubs like Chelsea, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and more.
However, quality itself isn’t sufficient to win a major international trophy; neither was it the case in 1992 and nor is it today. And interestingly, both the Denmark teams - in 1992 and 2021 - received extra motivation or a calling of sorts to perform exceptionally at just the right moment.
In 1992, it was the expulsion of Yugoslavia 10 days before the Euros, owing to the war between the United States and the Balkan nations. Yugoslavia’s disqualification paved the way for Denmark’s automatic qualification into the finals and with nothing to lose, the Danes went all the way. In 2021, it is the heart ailment of Eriksen during Denmark’s clash with Finland that seems to have galvanised the Danish dressing room and has them playing with verve and tenacity.
Can Denmark go all the way?
While the current crop of Danish players aren’t household names, as is the case with France, Belgium and England, the Scandinavian nation has been putting on solid displays and have momentum on their side at the moment.
The Denmark football team has lost only four of their last 32 matches and three of them have been against the number one ranked FIFA team Belgium. Their 1-0 loss against Finland, which was completed shortly after Eriksen was stretchered off, had seen Denmark taking 22 shots on goal to Finland’s one.
Denmark’s 2-1 loss to Belgium in the second group match had the team leading Belgium 21-6 in shots taken. Hence, the fact that Denmark have scored 10 goals in their last three Euro 2020 matches isn’t a coincidence.
That said, the final two hurdles in Denmark’s path to the UEFA Euro 2020 title will be the most challenging yet. Some would argue that they’ve already done the impossible by making it this far in the tournament despite the absence of their main playmaker, Eriksen, following traumatic circumstances.
A lesser side could have just waved the white flag then and would have been forgiven for doing so considering the range of emotions they must have experienced in their opening match. But Denmark’s unyielding team spirit meant that they used that incident as motivation to achieve something greater and be a part of something bigger as the Danish FA’s motto states.
Granted that they may not have the best team on paper but in terms of team spirit the Danes are second to none, which is something the remaining sides in the tournament will do well to take note of, lest we forget football is a team game, after all.
Written by: Subhayan Dutta
Feature Image: AFP/ Darko Vojinovic