Ullevi, Göteborg, 26.06.1992
– / Jensen 18., Vilfort 78.
Berti Vogts’ German side would take the field in the final of the 1992 European Championship against Denmark, a team that when the draw for the tournament was made had never expected the be there. The Danes had been beaten in their qualifying group by Yugoslavia, but events took a dramatic turn when the Yugoslavs were disqualified from the tournament by UEFA following the country being placed under saction by the United Nations. Any summer holiday plans made by the Danish players had to be quickly cancelled, and the team started training for a tournament that they thought had ended the previous year.
Coming into into the final tournament as the unexpected guest, Denmark were drawn in a group containing France, England and hosts Sweden, and having drawn against England and lost by a single goal to the Swedes, nobody gave them much a hope of progressing any further. A 2-1 win in their final game against the French however would see them through to the semi-finals, where they met reigning champions and tournament favourites the Netherlands.
In making the last four the Danes had clearly surpassed all expectations, and nobody gave them a chance of defeating a Dutch side that had looked sharp right from the start of the tournament. Richard Møller-Nielsen’s gave as good as they got however, and twice led the much-fêted Dutch before the Oranje took the game into extra time at 2-2. That way the score remained, resulting in a dramatic penalty shoot-out that saw Marco van Basten’s effort saved by Peter Schmeichel before Kim Christofte’s final kick sent the Danish supporters who had made the short trip across the Øresund strait into raptures. Hans-Christian Andersen himself couldn’t have written a more dramatic fairytale script as the unfancied Danes reached their first major tournament final.
There would be no such drama with the German team in terms of selection prior to the final. For the first time in the tournament, Nationaltrainer Berti Vogts would be able to name an unchanged eleven, though the starting formation would be a slightly more conservative 1-4-3-2. The formation was clearly intended to be flexible, with the two wingbacks Stefan Reuter and skipper Andy Brehme able to switch upfield to create the more offensive 1-2-5-2 that had been so successful against both Scotland and Sweden.
Sweden had been experiencing its best summer weather in sixty years, and the two teams entered the field on what was a very pleasant evening in Göteborg’s Ullevi Stadium, the home of two times UEFA Cup winners IFK. A crowd of just under 38,000 were there to greet them, and both sets of supporters maintained a dignified silence as the national anthems were played. When the formalities were over Swiss referee Bruno Galler got things underway, with the Nationalelf playing in their familiar colours and the Danes in their just as recognisable ensemble of red and white.
Andreas Brehme leads out the German team on what would be a frustrating evening in Göteborg
The game started off quietly as both side attempted to get a good early sighting of the other, but it was Berti Vogts’ side that soon atsrted to make the early running. Thomas Häßler was once again quick to establish command in the middle of the pitch, and striker Jürgen Klinsmann had already started to make a nuisance of himself among the Danish defenders.
With seven minutes on the clock the first real chance of the match presented itself, as the ever-improving Matthias Sammer picked the ball up just inside the Danish half and played a perfectly timed pass to the roving Stefan Reuter to his right. Reuter made his way into the penalty area and attempted to lift the ball over the advancing Peter Schmeichel, but the Danish ‘keeper had been quick to spot the danger and just about managed to deflect it behind.
With some eighteen minutes gone, a Danish thrust down the right flank was foiled by Jürgen Kohler, and the fullback found played a short pass forward to Andy Brehme. A pair of white-shorted legs then appeared to go straight through the German skipper, but the referee allowed play to continue as the ball found Kim Vilfort who then worked his way inside to the edge of the German penalty area some eight yards from the byline. With the sharpest of cutbacks Vilfort found the advancing John Jensen in space just inside the box, and the man with the big mop of frizzy hair hit an amazing right-footed shot that flew like a tracer bullet past Illgner, beating the German ‘keeper at his near post.
The Mannschaft had been the better side for most of the opening period, but had been undone by the biggest of sucker punches. In all of his previous matches Jensen had taken at least a dozen shots on goal and had looked the least likely candidate to hit a barn door from ten yards, yet here in the final he had managed to pull something magical out of nowhere. The early German pressure had come to naught: the men in the red and white Punch and Judy outfit were in front.
Denmark’s John Jensen celebrates his stunning opening goal. This was a man who up to that point hadn’t been able to hit a barn door from five yards
Berti Vogts’ side had been sent reeling by Jensen’s strike, but quickly recovered their composure as they sought a quick equaliser. A Stefan Effenberg run and pass picked out Klinsmann just outside the Danish penalty area, and the striker burst forward before sending a well-struck shot that was heading to the bottom left-hand corner of the net. But then there was Schmeichel, who flung himself to his right to deflect the ball around the post. Effenberg then sent in a shot from the resulting corner, only to see his effort hit the legs of an unsuspecting defender. If just to compound the ongoing catalogue of German misery, both Effenberg and Häßler then found their way into Herr Galler’s notebook for fouls that at best could have been described as innocuous.
Despite not getting the rub of the green the Mannschaft continued to press. Schmeichel was called into action once again as he almost nonchalantly palmed away another Effenberg effort just before half-time, and as the teams headed into the tunnel many might have started to believe that the gods of fortune were shining down on the Danes. Someone, somewhere, wanted to see that fairytale ending.
The German coach had made one rather surprising change at the start of the second half, with Matthias Sammer being replaced by his fellow former GDR international Thomas Doll. Sammer had been one of the better players during the first half, and one could only have assumed that Vogts wanted to add extra power to the left flank with Andy Brehme assuming a more orthodox defensive role.
The second half started somewhat cagily, with Denmark happy to sit back as the Germany attemped to build an attacking platform. The first ten minutes passed with little incident, save for the yellow card dished out to Stefan Reuter for a soft challenge on Henrik Larsen. Although the Germans continued to press the invention they had shown in patches during the first half seemed to have ebbed away; passes were going astray, crosses were being badly overhit, and the Danes were finding it far easier to blunt each attack as it came in.
The Danes came close to adding to their lead when Vilfort scuffed his shot across the face of the German goal with only Illgner to beat, but the bulk of the pressure continued to be applied by the men in white. In the 73rd minute Reuter picked the ball up in his own half and having advanced some thirty yards picked out Klinsmann to his right inside the Danish penalty area. Klinsmann twisted and turned past his marker brilliantly before chipping in a left-footed ball towards Riedle at the far post, but as the Lazio man seemed poised to strike Kent Nielsen beat him to it with a spectacular clearance.
With the Danes unable to retain possession Brehme swung in a teasing cross into the box from the left. Klinsmann leapt to meet the ball brilliantly, but was once again foiled by Schmeichel who pulled off his third outstanding save of the evening. The Danish ‘keeper was simply having one of those days, as moments later he almost nonchalantly plucked the dangerous high ball out of the air one-handed.
This frustratingly frenetic five minute spell would ultimately determine the destiny of the trophy. When the German defence failed to clear the ball it immediately came back in to Vilfort, who somehow managed to retain control before rounding Thomas Helmer and beating Illgner with a low skidding left-footed shot that ricocheted into the back of the net off the right-hand upright. As with the first goal, a clear offence had escaped the lazy eyes of the officials: Vilfort had clearly handled the ball in order to gain control of it.
With the score now standing at 2-0 and with just over ten minutes left, there was little Berti Vogts could do but throw caution to the wind. A third striker in Andreas Thom came on for Effenberg, and the substitute’s first action was a firm shot that flew narrowly wide of the target; Thomas Doll then became the fourth German player to make the referee’s notebook as Jensen took a leap that bordered on the acrobatic, and as things wound down to their inevitable conclusion Jensen took advantage of a clumsy Klinsmann challenge to once again throw himself to the ground, allowing the referee to take the number of German yellow cards to five.
Try as they might, Berti Vogts’ side wouldn’t get a break. Here, Guido Buchwald is beaten for pace by the sprightly Brian Laudrup
The full-time whistle led to wild celebrations among the boisterous Danish supporters; the fairytale was complete. The nature of the defeat would have no doubt grated with a number of German supporters, but there would be at least one saving grace: at least it wasn’t the Dutch. The team took the defeat well: they knew it had not been their night. Two key decisions that might on another day have gone the other way had led to the two Danish goals, and in Peter Schmeichel they had encountered an inspired goalkeeper who was never going to be beaten.
The two sides would meet not even three months later in a friendly in Copenhagen which the Germans would win 2-1; in what was perhaps an ironic twist the winner came just two minutes from the end, a Stefan Effenberg free-kick from well over thirty yards out that bounced off the post and back into the net off Peter Schmeichel, the man who in Gothenburg had been an immovable object.
Germany: Illgner – Helmer – Reuter, Kohler, Buchwald, Brehme (c) – Häßler, Effenberg (80. Thom), Sammer (46. Doll) – Klinsmann, Riedle
Denmark: Schmeichel – L. Olsen – Piechnik, K. Nielsen – Sivebæk (67. C. Christiansen), Vilfort, J. Jensen, H. Larsen, Christofte – Povlsen, B. Laudrup
Referee: Bruno Galler (Switzerland)
Assistants: Zivanko Popović (Switzerland), Paul Wyttenbach (Switzerland)
Fourth Official: Kurt Röthlisberger (Switzerland)
Yellow Cards: Effenberg, Häßler, Reuter, Doll, Klinsmann / Piechnik
Red Cards: – / –