Tuesday night’s friendly in Brondby was an experiment for Joachim Löw’s Germany team. But 25 years on from Denmark’s most famous victory, the contest was a reminder of Danish glory and pride.
With a well-earned 1-0 lead against Germany at halftime, the red-and-white-clad players walked off the field to thunderous applause. Yet the clapping quickly grew to roaring cheers as a group of middle-aged men briefly replaced them on the pitch. They are living Danish legends.
25 years ago, these same men won Denmark’s first and only major title: the 1992 European Championships in Sweden. Tuesday’s friendly commemorated the tournament’s final in which the Danish team shocked the world by beating the World Cup holders, Germany, 2-0.
“The whole tournament was surreal, nobody expected anything from Denmark, it was a miracle,” said Patrick Hansen, a schoolteacher attending the game with a group of young students.
Indeed, Denmark were lucky to be at the tournament at all after initially failing to qualify. But after Yugoslavia were excluded due to the ongoing conflict in the Balkans, Denmark, who had finished second in their qualifying group, took their place.
Back then, Patrick was just 12 years old, the same age as most of his students today, as his country’s team went from failed qualifiers to European champions in the space of a few weeks. But his students have not been so lucky – Denmark have never progressed further than a quarter-final and have failed to qualify for five major tournaments.
Patrick and his class traveled about 500 kilometers on a field trip to Copenhagen. The schoolteacher then asked his students if they wanted to see “a bit of culture” and brought them to the match.
“A lot of them know the story and obviously they’re not old enough to have experienced it themselves but they wanted to come and celebrate with us,” said Patrick.
Lucky number 18?
In the 1992 European Championship final, the Danes took the lead during the 18th minute after an unstoppable right-footed striker by John “Faxe” Jensen. In a similar fashion on Tuesday night, Christian Eriksen put Denmark in front. Coincidentally, his goal also came in the 18th minute.
The goal, along with the hosts’ commemorative shirts with chevrons on the shoulders in the style of those Euro ’92 kits, reminded the fans of past glory and the nostalgia inspired continuous chants.
The number 18 has played a major role in for the Scandinavians. Even for schoolteacher Patrick, 18 was the number of the night as he needed 18 tickets at the last minute to take all of his students to the game. But he took a more proactive approach than just trying his luck.
“I contacted the Danish Football Association on Twitter to see if there were any tickets available and they got straight back to me in about five minutes,” he explained. “It was the perfect solution for us.”
Still reminiscing about the 1992 victory, Patrick and many fans at the Bronby stadium, as well as football romantics, hoped for a 2-0 win against an inexperienced German side – a repeat of the legendary final.
However a late equalizer from Joshua Kimmich brought those dreams to an end. Still, a draw was enough for Patrick this time around.
“I think it’s important that the Danish Football Association has tried to do something to raise team spirit surrounding the national team,” he said.
The most important part was celebrating the time the Danish national team made him truly happy and passing that happiness along to the newer generation.