A Danish team overcomes adversity and captures hearts on the road to the glory of European football.
It happened in 1992 when Denmark unexpectedly won the European Football Championship despite only being entered in the tournament at the last minute. Twenty-nine years later, after the trauma of seeing his star player Christian Eriksen suffer one cardiac arrest in the opening game, could it happen again for the Scandinavian nation?
“What happened to Eriksen will become part of our national narrative. In Denmark, everyone says this is another 92, “said Lykke Friis, a former government minister who was on his way to Baku in Azerbaijan to watch Saturday’s quarter-final against the Czech Republic.” fairytale summer is on everyone’s mind. ”
The image of Danish players surrounding the sloping Eriksen as he received electric shocks and CPR on the pitch in Copenhagen will be one of the defining moments of Euro 2020. Friis called it a “galvanizing event” , something that caused a nation and even neutral supporters to fall in love with the team.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, the Danish midfielder, described the tournament as “a roller coaster”. When they returned to the field against Finland after Eriksen fell “we played with our hearts and tried to do everything to make ourselves and the country proud,” he said.
The 1992 victory remains the watermark for Danish football. The team failed to qualify, but were called up just a week before the tournament began to replace Yugoslavia, who were ruled out due to the Balkan war. Denmark defeated Germany in the final, an event that Friis called “an Hans Christian Andersen adventure” for the nation of 5.8 million people.
Nikoline, a bartender at Copenhagen’s Hop House bar, was just two years old when Denmark won, and said her parents would often tell her she would never know how much she felt. “Now it could happen,” he said, describing the current atmosphere as a “national party.”
After Eriksen’s near-death experience (now recovering) no one had any expectations for the team, he said: “People felt like they had gone well, as long as everyone was happy.”
But since the initial loss in Finland, the team’s performance has always been better. They defeated Belgium by scoring first, before finally losing to one of the favorites for the title.
The last group match against Russia was tense, before Denmark found their team to seal an emphatic 4-1 victory. They also scored four unanswered matches against Wales to reach the quarter-finals. “You can really feel the building of patriotism,” Nikoline said.
A group of three men at the Copenhagen bar – watching neighboring Sweden emerge out of competition this week – showed how much Denmark’s success has unfolded. Frederik, a 31-year-old sports journalist, is a fan who has already earned a ticket to the semi-finals because of his belief that “this team is the real deal”. He asked his friends to buy replica Danish football jerseys for months.
Soren, a 31-year-old engineering student, said the parties had helped him and that others felt proud of the red and white Danish flag after years of being co-opted by the nationalist right. Beers colleague Anders, a 32-year-old IT worker, wanted to listen to Frederik and buy a shirt, now sold in most stores.
The sense of “unity” behind Eriksen’s heartbreak and the “intense” feeling that Denmark could go all the way attracted him. Frederik wrote: “You don’t see a team that wants her as much and fights for her as we do.”
Hojbjerg insists Denmark “haven’t even done anything” and must always beat the Czechs and either England or Ukraine to reach the final.
But he acknowledged that there were similarities between today’s team and that in 1992. They both have a Schmeichel in mind – father Peter 29 years ago, his son Kasper today – as well as solid defenders and exciting strikers like Brian Laudrup in 1992 and Mikkel Damsgaard now.
Hojbjerg added: “There is [also] unity, values of “one for all and all for one,” this pride to play for your country. “
The Czechs are likely to prove Wales ’toughest opponents, and have one of the attackers in the form of the tournament in Patrick Schick. And after three matches in Copenhagen, and one in Amsterdam that seemed to be an honorary part of Denmark for the match due to a preponderance of Danish fans, the atmosphere is likely to be different in Azerbaijan.
However, the intense sense of unity on the team and at home leads many Danes to be optimistic. Hojbjerg himself described the “extraordinary” feelings of the past few weeks, especially coming after more than a year of life with Covid-19 locks and empty stadiums.
“He can really be able to feel love, it reminds us all because we started playing football in terms of joy and passion,” he said. “Football has to be enjoyed together – we have to hear it. That’s what’s happening here in Denmark.”