This kit has a link with #3 in the series, as it was also worn by Dortmund’s Flemming Povlsen, one of my favourite players and a key member of Denmark’s heroic Euro ’92 triumph. So it makes sense to follow on with this fine example from quintessential Danish sportswear giants Hummel. The shorts (the perfect combination of length and bagginess) and socks were lovely, but like a lot of foreiegn kits you could never find them anywhere. Looking back, the whole red, white and navy blue ensemble was, in my opinion, one of the best kits in the competition.
I was 13 when Povlsen and co took the footballing world by surprise when they pitched up in Sweden at the last minute, ruffled a few feathers, spoiled their fellow scandinavian host’s Euro ’92 party and earned their place among the international footballing elite by winning a major tournament they didn’t even qualify for! They were only there in place of the group winners, Yugoslavia, who were ejected at the last minute by UEFA with their country in the throes of civil war. Dave Farrar does far more justice to Denmark’s incredible triumph in his insightful and compelling in-depth account in Issue One of The Blizzard, but for me at such an impressionable age, it was what football was all about.; the ultimate underdog story. I replayed every moment of Denmark’s victory up the park and in the street outside my house, that red and white shirt (with the smart, almost oversized badge) getting put through it’s paces, hoping my Mum had it washed and dried nearly as fast as Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel could race from his line to thwart an attack. Forget Denmark’s most recent exports, the superbly gripping TV thrillers shown on BBC Three – Borgen, The Bridge, and The Killing – this was real life drama, and for that summer I was hooked on the excitement generated by an unassuming group of players in a really cool kit.
Michael Laudrup had been a favourite of mine ever since he showed up on my radar during the Danes’ daring exploits at Mexico ’86. But five years later, their best player had walked away from International football because of disagreements with manager Richard Møller Nielsen’s style of play. Now I was his younger sibling, Brian, twisting and turning in a game of ‘World Cup doubles’ up Boots’ park (the bowling green of a pitch we weren’t meant to be on behind the factory where my Mum worked) which had been imaginatively re-named ‘Euro Championship doubles’. It blows my mind that six years later I would share the same pitch, battling against him and his star-studded Rangers team, attempting to nullify the same skills I once tried to recreate.
This was a tournament where I was utterly engrossed and not just because Scotland had managed to qualify. I remember watching almost every game as well as taping highlights shows onto a long play VHS tape so that I had every goal from the tournament. 90 minutes magazine even gave away a cut out video sleeve for the final which I expertly glued to the cardboard case to make my own unofficial extended highlights reel with the final between Denmark and Germany shown in full at the end.
John Jensen’s opener in that game typified the way Denmark had played over the course of the tournament which was with a combination of skill and determination in equal amounts. I think it was Kim Vilfort who latched onto Povlsen’s header down the right hand side and he cleverly back heeled it back into the Dortmund player’s path. Povlsen, who I revered as much for his never say die attitude as his swashbuckling style, got nailed by a well-timed crunching tackle by no-nonsense centre back, Jürgen Kohler, who then passed to another of my favourite players from that time, Andy Brehme. Brehme turned into the sliding Vilfort who took ball and man with an equally bone shuddering challenge to set up Polvsen to attack the German box. A disguise cut-back to the usually off target Jensen was dispatched from the edge of the box with power and pace past a diving Bodo Ilgner, steering the Danes on the path to victory and sealing a move to Arsenal for the hard working Danish midfielder when the tournament ended.
It was fitting that Vilfort scored the second. The Danish utility man, who had an outstanding tournament, had spent his time between matches flying back and forth to Denmark to visit his daughter who had Leukaemia. I don’t know how he did it, but his strength of character must have been an inspiration for his team mates.
The shock that reverbarated around the footballing world following Denmark’s incredible victory may have died down relatively quickly outside of the winning nation, but for a good few months after, I was still wearing that red shirt with pride. No longer was I Maradonna or Matthaus or any of the more glamorous players I admired. Up Boots’ park, when the game was back to ‘World Cuppy’, I was Lars Elstrup, Kim Vilfort, Brian Laudrup, Flemming Povlsen and John Jensen – the heroes of Euro’92.
Highlights of the final from YouTube: Denmark 2 Germany 0