SPORTING IMAGES / Those memorable moments that lit up the world of sport in 1992: Football: The Danes' great day of joy in Gothenburg

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The Independent Online
GAZZA'S England comeback touched the hardest heart, but football had one magic moment in 1992 which is destined to linger even longer in the memory. Little Denmark winning the European Championship was the stuff of romantic legend - more Hans Christian Andersen than Richard Moller Nielsen, writes Joe Lovejoy.

To recap, the Danes had failed to qualify for the tournament, creeping in via the back door when Yugoslavia disintegrated on the eve of the finals.

In the words of their manager, Moller Nielsen, who can make Cloughie sound mundane, Denmark's players arrived straight from the beach, less than thrilled about the intrusion on their holidays, and keen to get back to the Med after the first phase.

What happened was 'absolutely unbelievable,' as Brian Laudrup put it.

A desultory, goalless bore with England first time out was celebrated as if Denmark had won the final. A useful rehearsal, as it proved, but a reaction which demonstrated their minimal expectations.

Unaspiring to a fault, they were wait-listed for the first flight home after losing 1-0 to Sweden in Stockholm. And then it started. France had gone two years unbeaten, and were among the favourites for the title, but goals from Henrik Larsen and Lars Elstrup sent them packing, in the literal sense.

Still the understudies refused to take themselves seriously, still it was open house at their training camp, with the world and his wife allowed to see how the Danes and theirs thrived on Carlsberg and cuddles.

All pleasantly diverting, but the Dutch would be too good for them in the semis. Rijkaard, Witschge and Bergkamp had just put three past the Germans. There could be only one winner.

After a penalty shoot-out, there was. Denmark. Van Basten, of all people, missed for the defending champions, and the also-rans summoned to make up the numbers were through to their first major final.

As in all their other games, they were the underdogs, Moller Nielsen defusing the tension by rambling on about his mother's corsets and his love of boiled salmon.

Pick the bones out of that? The Germans weren't laughing, Berti Vogts accusing his opposite number of not being 'a serious person' - a criminal offence back in the Fatherland, of course.

True, the Danish supporters were anything but serious, their painted faces turning Gothenburg ruby red. They partied all the way to the stadium, behind a marching band which would have done New Orleans proud, hoping for the best but resigned to finding Deutschland again uber alles.

They should have known, and not worried. It was fairytale time. John Jensen, a defence-orientated midfield player who had scored once in 47 internationals, thumped home a goal fit to grace any final, and the red and white conga prancing on the terraces found the perfect phrase. Auf Wiedersehen it was.

The magic moment when we all knew the game was up for Goliath came 12 minutes from the end, when Kim Vilfort, who had been torn between playing and returning home to be at his sick son's bedside, supplied the second.

The Ullevi stadium erupted, fireworks screaming into the midsummer sky to salute the greatest upset in the history of international championships. There was no sleep in Gothenburg that night, nor in Copenhagen, where the party was the biggest since the 1945 liberation from you-know-who.

Jensen joined Arsenal, Piechnik joined Liverpool, Laudrup joined Fiorentina. The rest of us joined the fan club of the champion country with the population no bigger than Scotland's. Magic, indeed.

(Photograph omitted)

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