Tuesday, 27 September 2016

So Far, Sehr Gut

We’re only six matches into Jurgen Klopp’s first full season in charge at Anfield and already there’s a buzz, a murmur, a fever, an expectation around the place.  We’ve been here before, of course.  For those of us who were there at start of Paisley’s reign it’s easy to forget there is a whole generation of Liverpool fans who have only known cup success, albeit as many trophies as Arsenal since 1990.

Klopp arrived at Liverpool on a metaphorical donkey with many keen to hand him their bread and fish in the hope he could work a miracle.  After the initial euphoria of wins at Chelsea and Man City came the pathetic Sunday lunchtime fare served up at Vicarage Road.  That game was a huge slap in the face of reality as we all struggled to resign ourselves to the fact this squad just wasn’t good enough.  We were in tenth place when he joined and only managed to move up two places by the end of the season.  There were two cup finals to look back on, but still no silverware.  After forty-five minutes in Basel, Liverpool were 1-0 up and well in control against Sevilla.  Twenty-five minutes later and the dream was over. 

At the end of the season there was great expectation the new campaign would bring more hope.  Personally I was a little disappointed with the transfer window.  I had doubts about Mane and Wijnaldum and wasn’t convinced we’d moved enough players on.  It has taken just a few games for those fears to be completely allayed.  .

The transformation has been huge.  Already we’re playing some of the most exciting football this side of Beardsley, Barnes and Aldridge. 

The mention of those three is what has prompted me to write this.  I have wonderful memories of the Dalglish’s 86-91 team with the years between 87-89 seeing us play some of the best football I’ve ever seen.  Paisley’s late 70’s side was the most efficient and fully deserved the title “the red machine”.  Effective, efficient and almost impossible to stop.  But that late 80’s side played the more exciting football, in my opinion.  Not better or worse, just different.

Watching some of those matches again you can be forgiven for forgetting what a complete force they were in attack.  Not a wave, more a tsunami.  There were players attacking from everywhere.  Because of the attacking instincts of the midfield Rush and Aldridge played a different role.  Unlike every other striker around then they would drop off and create space for Houghton, Whelan and McMahon to burst into.  Added to that there was Barnes and Beardsley who also attacked from deep.

Watching Liverpool so far this season reminds me of this team.  We attack from all areas.  Henderson, Wijnaldum and Coutinho along with Lallana, Firmino, Sturridge and Mane.  Add to that Clyne and Milner attacking down the flanks and you get the feeling opposition teams must struggle to work out where the next attack is coming from.  Joel Matip also appears to want to bomb forward in a way Alan Hansen used to.  Chelsea discovered how all-consuming this is and how difficult it is to repel. 

They hunt in packs, they press with ferocious authority and they pass the ball with an alacrity which makes you wish the ability to pause live football was not just for those watching tv. 

Henderson’s wonder strike at Stamford Bridge has also added a further facet.  If you defend deep in the hope of smothering the attacks then this will leave space for someone like Henderson or Coutinho to fire one from long range.

To make up for the lack of big signings Jurgen Klopp has improved a number of players to give us the effect of new introductions.  Milner has been moved to left-back to solve the problem of the madness that is Alberto Moreno.  He has been immense this season.  Always a hard worker, Milner can cross a ball as well as anyone and his ability to understand midfield play has enabled him to support that part of the play with more intelligence than most full-backs.  Clyne on the other flank also offers a great attacking threat which is currently more potent than any other full-back in the country.  The difference between him and Kyle Walker is his willingness to take players on.  This was fully evident to all except the England manager in the summer, it seems.  The current national boss would do well to consider both Liverpool full-backs for his qualification campaign too.

Time could well serve to consider Klopp’s conversion of Milner into a left-back as incisive and forward thinking as Paisley’s conversion of Ray Kennedy from attack to midfield.  Kennedy became one of the most revered players of his generation throughout Europe.  Whether Milner will reach those heights remains to be seen but his value to this team already this season is almost impossible to calculate.

Mane has really impressed me.  Always busy, quick feet and constantly scurrying in a manner Suarez used to.  He doesn’t have the skill and nous of the Uruguayan but this team seems more suited to his style than where he moved from.  The same can be said for Wijnaldum.  He seemed lost at Newcastle and lacking the stomach for the fight, but under Klopp he now has a purpose, a role and is flourishing under it.

Another improvement Klopp has brought is to bring competition for the goalkeeping position.  He bought Loris Karius from his old club, Mainz, but he unfortunately picked up an injury during pre-season.  We were then back to Mignolet for the start of the season.  He can be categorised as ‘decent’ rather than ‘outstanding’.  More a shot-stopper than a modern day keeper and although we’ve had shot stoppers before such as Clemence, Grobbelaar and Reina, Mignolet just doesn’t command his area in the way those three did.  We have also missed Reina’s ability to put us on the attack as soon as he picked up the ball.  But Mignolet now knows he has to fight for his place and that can only be healthy for the team.  The same for Emre Can who increasingly looks as if he could be as important to the team as a Gerrard, a Molby or a Souness.  But injury has seen him have to fight for his way back in and with standards already being set incoming players soon know what level of play is expected of them.

Jordan Henderson is another player who is really flourishing under Klopp.  Now club captain his role in the middle of the park seems to really suit him.  His passing is improving and he isn’t afraid to have a shot, as Chelsea found out, and he also seems to be benefiting from the players around him.  Watching him this season I can’t help but still feel a tinge of regret that Steven Gerrard wasn’t a few years younger.  He’d love playing in this team and he’d definitely love playing under this manager.  But there you are.

It is early days but the performance against Hull City this weekend certainly soothed some people’s fears we can often perform well against the big clubs but come unstuck against sides we really should be putting away with ease.  There’s an enjoyment in the football the players are exhibiting and they seem to have completely have bought into it, in a way mirrored at Man City.

I thought Klopp’s reaction to the Hull game was very poignant.  He could be seen on eighty minutes clearly reminding the players there were ten minutes still to go and he was visibly frustrated the performance had dropped.  He confirmed his frustration after the match and I was taken by the intensity and attention to detail from our boss.

If Man City continue in their current form, along with one or two other clubs, then goal difference could well be a factor come May.  Far better to go into the final game of the season knowing a win could secure the title rather than find three points is not enough as we’d need to win by seven or eight goals to stand a chance.

I realise Liverpool fans won’t want Ferguson’s name mentioned in an article such as this, but it was something he was intently aware of during United’s title years, as he would often lambast the players during the season to keep going and try and get that extra goal.  In 2012 they lost out on goal difference to City by eight goals.  Surely they could’ve found an extra eight goals from their thirty-eight matches?

You get the impression Klopp will never let his players rest on their laurels.  That is one of the major factors which makes him a perfect fit for this club.  It has all the hallmarks of the belief system so strongly instilled in the club by Shankly, Paisley, Fagan, Moran, Evans and Dalglish.

For now, things feel good. In a way similar to the heady days of 2013-14 we now look forward to every match in the belief of being entertained in a way we all feel football should do.  Clearly nothing has been achieved yet and we are barely into the new season but what is sport if you cannot dream?

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Malcolm MacDonald Scores Five Goals - Ee-ay, ee-ay-oh

“I don’t want you here. I wouldn’t have picked you, but the media has made it impossible so here you are.  If you don’t score in this match I won’t be picking you again”

Malcolm MacDonald, for some, was the archetypal English centre-forward.  Big, strong, and good in the air.  Unlike other “big number nines” he was extremely quick on the ground as viewers of the iconic 1970’s Superstars series will confirm.
He first began his career at Fulham, the club he was born just down the road from.  He was one of the kids who used to hang around the ground looking for autographs from players such as Bobby Robson.  It was Robson who signed him at Craven Cottage.  He moved to Luton Town in 1969 and then onto Newastle United in the summer of 1971.  That season he scored twenty-three goals as Newcastle finished mid-table.  He endeared himself to the home supporters by scoring a hat-trick against Liverpool on his home debut.

January 1972 saw him win England honours for the first time as he was picked for the under-23 side which took on Wales at Swindon.  He lined up alongside Mick Channon, Phil Parkes, Colin Todd, Ray Kennedy and Tony Currie.  He opened the scoring too, in a 2-0 victory.  Two further appearances against Scotland and East Germany were enough to persuade Alf Ramsey to add him to the full squad for the British Home International Championships.  The now defunct competition was between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and took place during May at the end of every season.  Each team played each other once to determine the British champions, with England versus Scotland always being the final fixture.  
Ramsey put MacDonald straight into the starting line-up as England took on Wales at Ninian Park, Cardiff.  England had just been knocked out of the European Championships losing the two-legged Quarter-Final to the eventual winners, West Germany.  MacDonald lined up alongside players such as Gordon Banks, Bobby Moore, Colin Bell, Emlyn Hughes, Norman Hunter and Rodney Marsh.  Hughes, Marsh and Bell scored in a 3-0 win.  A surprise defeat at Wembley to Northern Ireland when future Arsenal manager, and the man who would sign MacDonald to the club, Terry Neill scored the only goal of the game, was then forgotten about when Alan Ball did likewise in a 1-0 win at Hampden against Scotland.
MacDonald seemed to have done enough to impress England’s World Cup winning manager and when he scored a hat-trick against Wales for the under-23’s in November.  But England had plenty of strikers to choose from then with Allan Clarke, Martin Chivers, Mick Channon and Joe Royle being selected ahead of Supermac.  MaDonald didn’t put on another England shirt until he lined up in Moscow for a friendly against Soviet Union where Bobby Moore equalled Bobby Charlton’s appearances world record.  England had just lost a crucial World Cup qualifier in Poland just four days before and were pleased to bounce back with a 2-1 win.
That June appearance was his only cap in 1973 but the summer of 1974 saw him have another run in the team.  England had just suffered the ignominy of failing to qualify for the 1974 World Cup and then lost at home to Italy when Fabio Capello scored.  In April MacDonald was selected for the friendly in Lisbon against Portugal.  Playing up front alongside Mick Channon he was unable to get his first full international goal as the game ended 0-0.  Soon after that Alf Ramsey was sacked.
Ramsey had been a fan of MacDonald and had spoken to him encouraging him to remain patient but assuring him he had a place at this level.
Joe Mercer was the stop-gap caretaker manager for the Home Internationals and ignored MacDonald for the wins over Wales and Northern Ireland but brought him on as a sub for Frank Worthington at Hampden Park where England lost 0-2.  A month later MacDonald was again a replacement for Worthington and goals from Keegan and Channon helped England to a 2-2 draw in Yugoslavia.  Then Don Revie was named as new England manager.
MacDonald never knew why Revie didn’t like him but wondered if it was because he often scored against Leeds when Revie was in charge.
He wasn’t called up for the first two games of Revie’s reign but got the call when World Champions West Germany were to visit Wembley.  MacDonald was in the middle of another twenty-goal season but when he reported for duty he was greeted by the England manager with a terse
“I don’t want you here. I wouldn’t have picked you, but the media has made it impossible so here you are.  If you don’t score in this match I won’t be picking you again”
Not known for his Shanklyesque powers of motivation so MacDonald had every reason to believe Revie was serious.  Lining up alongside Channon and Keegan, MacDonald finally broke his duck midway through the second half. Mick Channon took a quick free-kick on the right wing to Alan Ball and his accurate cross to the far post saw MacDonald head the ball home for his first ever England goal in his eighth appearance.  A 2-0 win had everyone smiling.  But in the dressing room afterwards, if Supermac was to imagine his manager’s sullen exterior was to be relaxed, he was disappointed.  Revie came in and shook all the players by the hand but when he came to MacDonald he completely blanked him and walked out.
A month later and Cyprus came to Wembley for the European Championship qualifiers.  When MacDonald met up with the squad again he was greeted with the same ‘welcome’ from his manager.
“I don’t want you here. I wouldn’t have picked you, but again the media has made it impossible so here you are.  If you don’t score in this match I won’t be picking you again”.
During the build up to the game Revie was similarly cold towards the Newcastle striker who was convinced he was like this rather than Revie trying some reverse psychology on him.  The day before the match MacDonald was so bothered by this treatment he spoke to the captain, Alan Ball and explained how things were.  Initially Bally dismissed it but when MacDonald told him about Revie’s behaviour in the dressing room afterwards he decided this was not on.  So Ball gathered Colin Bell, Alan Hudson and Kevin Keegan and explained how they were going to make sure MacDonald scored.  Ball said the record number of goals scored in one match for England was five, with Willie Hall in 1938 being the last player to do it.  But no player had done it in a competitive match.  So the plan was to make sure Malcolm beat the record and scored six goals.  MacDonald was stunned at the camaraderie but excited at what the team might be able to create for him.
Just two minutes into the game and Kevin Keegan was brought down on the left wing.  Alan Hudson took the free-kick and MacDonald got his head to the ball just ahead of Dave Watson and England were 1-0 up.  One.   

During the celebration Ball came up to MacDonald and reminded him that was goal number one and five more to go.  Ten minutes before half-time and Colin Bell burst forward to the right edge of the area but his ball into the box missed everyone.  Keegan picked it up on the left, turned a defender and pulled it back from the bye-line where MacDonald scuffed his shot but with enough power to beat the keeper.  Two
Just before the break MacDonald hit a shot against the post and could easily have a first half hat-trick.  2-0 at the break and it wasn’t long before they added to their tally in the second half.  Paul Madeley brought the ball into the Cypriot half and exchanged passes with Bell before floating a ball to the far post where Keegan nodded it down for MacDonald to complete his hat-trick.  Three

Revie then shuffled his pack but instead of taking off MacDonald he chose to take off Channon and replace him with QPR’s Dave Thomas.  Commentator David Coleman informed viewers how Thomas was “one of the best crossers of a ball in the First Division” and immediately we had evidence of this as Ball played him in down the right and his cross to the edge of the six-yard area was powered home by the head of MacDonald.  Four.

Again Ball can be seen encouraging MacDonald to keep going with thirty-five minutes still on the clock.
Within minutes England had the ball in the net again but this was ruled out as Beattie was adjudged to have kicked the ball out of the keeper’s hands after chesting it down in the area.  The challenge was enough to force the visitors to bring on a substitute keeper.  With just three minutes remaining Thomas played a one-two with Ball on the right and his cross into the six-yard box was headed in by MacDonald and he’d become the first England player to score five goals in a competitive international and the first since the War to do it in any match.  Five.
MacDonald did get the ball in the net after his fourth goal but it was ruled out for offside.  He was ecstatic with his performance and especially grateful to Keegan and Ball who’d played such a part in the success.  At the end of the game the electronic scoreboard at Wembley flashed up
“Congratulations – Supermac 5 Cyprus 0”
As MacDonald was leaving the pitch he saw Revie over by the touchline, head down and he shouted over to him 
“Read that and weep, you bastard. Read that and weep”

But Revie didn’t hear him and as everyone was high on the euphoria of it all the manager repeated his performance in the dressing room by not even shaking hands with a player who’d scored five goals in one game.  The only time the manager spoke to the player the whole country was talking about was when he ordered him out of the bath to speak to the press.  
Later in his autobiography MacDonald would explain how the press seemed strangely cool towards him afterwards and he couldn’t understand why.  Back then players or their agents received £25 for post-match interviews and a year later when MacDonald met the BBC football producer and gently suggested his agent hadn’t received the fee, he was abruptly told Revie had demanded £200.  It appeared this was raised via a collection from some of the production staff, camera, sound and lighting engineers and yet Revie had trousered the lot.
MacDonald kept his place in the team for the return against Cyprus where Keegan scored the only goal of the game and then in the goalless draw in Belfast against Northern Ireland.  But he was dropped for the Wales and Scotland matches as his replacement, David Johnson scored in both games.
Supermac would win just three more caps with just two more starting appearances as his international career ended in Lisbon in November 1975.  Six goals from fourteen appearances was a decent return but he only scored in two games and after the Cyprus success he never played at Wembley for England again.  Revie certainly wasn’t interested in him despite his big money move (£333,333) to Arsenal in 1976.

A serious knee injury forced the early termination of MacDonald’s playing career at the age of 29 in 1979 and although he perhaps didn’t achieve the success at international level that his fame at club level suggested, he can at least claim a record which may stand for a while yet.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

1992 - European Championships

This tournament was one of the most remarkable in living memory.  No one remembers the football, which was pitiful at best, but they all remember Denmark.  They hadn’t originally qualified for the finals, but thanks to a bit of bother in the Balkans, they were called up and they won the whole thing.

This was the ninth European Championships, and Sweden were the hosts.  After the qualification campaign, there were some big political changes which had a major effect on the participants. 

A civil war had broken out in Yugoslavia, which would eventually lead to the forming of several new countries.  The United Nations had imposed economic and cultural sanctions on the country and so UEFA was duty bound to ban them from taking part in the finals.  From a football point of view this was a disappointment as they had put together one of the best sides in their history.  But it opened to door for Denmark, who had finished just 1pt behind the Yugoslavs in their qualifying group.  What was amazing about this is that UEFA’s decision only came with just 10 days to go before the start of the tournament.  The draw for the groups had already been made and now England, France and Sweden had to prepare for different opponents.  The other major change involved the break-up of the Soviet Union.  Instead of representing USSR as they had in all the previous tournaments, eleven of the fifteen ex-republics formed a team under the banner of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).  This team selected players from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Tajikistan.

The eight qualifiers were split into two groups with the top two in each group going through to the Semi-Final stage.

GROUP A:  Sweden, England, Denmark, France
GROUP B: Netherlands, Scotland, CIS, Germany

Just four stadiums were used



10 June 1992, Rasunda Stadium, Solna, 29,860
SWEDEN   (1)   1   (Eriksson 24)
FRANCE   (0)   1   (Papin 58)

Sweden: Ravelli; Nilsson, Eriksson, P Andersson, Bjorklund; Ingesson, Thern, Schwarz, Limpar; Brolin, K Andersson (Dahlin)
France: Martini; Amoros, Blanc, Boli, Casoni; Angloma (Fernandez), Deschamps, Sauzee, Vahirua (Perez); Papin, Cantona

The tournament kicked off in Stockholm with the hosts up against 1984 winners, France.  The French, coached by Michel Platini who captained their 1984 triumph, were in a state of transition, and the Swedes believed they had nothing to lose.  France had the better of the opening exchanges without registering many shots on target. Then after twenty four minutes the Swedes had a corner on their left and defender Jan Eriksson rose to head, virtually unchallenged, to put the hosts in front.  Just before the break the French had a great shout for a penalty turned down when Eriksson wrestled Papin to the ground but the referee obviously decided that sort of contact was fair.  A tournament’s popularity often hinges on the hosts success, and Sweden held their lead until just before the hour.  Substitute Christian Perez played a lovely diagonal ball from just inside his own half over the Swedish defence for Papin the run onto.  The prolific Papin headed it forward and then fired an unstoppable shot past Ravelli to level things up.  Instead of pushing on from there, the French failed to really trouble the Swedes and both sides seemed happy to take a point.

11 June 1992, Malmo Stadium, Malmo, 26,385
DENMARK   (0)   0
ENGLAND   (0)   0

Denmark: Schmeichel; Sivebaek, Nielsen, L Olsen, Andersen; Christofte, Jensen, Vilfort; B Laurdup, Poulsen, Christensen
England: Woods; Curle (Daley), Keown, Walker, Pearce; Steven, Platt, Palmer, Merson (Webb); Lineker, Smith

The 1990 had been notable for the negativity of the football it contained.  This tournament would continue in this vein, starting with this match in Malmo.  England’s preparation was hampered by late injuries to John Barnes and Gary Stevens.  This left Graham Taylor’s plans in tatters as he didn’t have a recognised right-back for the match.  To everyone’s surprise he gave the job to Keith Curle.  Curle, a central defender at Man City, had only made his debut as a sub against CIS in April and here he was starting a game in a major international tournament, out of position.

Denmark failed to work on a potential weakness, in fact we never discovered if either side had any weaknesses as there were so few attacks.  The game ended goalless and the group was all-square after the opening round of matches.

14th June 1992, Malmo Stadion, Malmo, 26,535
FRANCE   (0)   0
ENGLAND   (0)   0

France: Martini; Amoros, Blanc, Boli, Casoni; Durand, Deschamps, Sauzee (Angloma), Fernandez (Perez); Papin, Cantona
England: Woods; Palmer, Keown, Walker, Pearce; Steven, Batty, Platt, Sinton; Lineker, Shearer

England were again in Malmo for their second game, against the group favourites France.  Neither side wanted to make a mistake and the game will probably be remembered for two incidents, both involving Stuart Pearce.  The first occurred in England’s penalty area as they cleared the ball, French defender Basil Boli elbowed Pearce in the face.  The referee failed to spot it, although the blood dripping from Pearce could hardly hide it.  Moments later, Pearce struck one of his famous thunderous free-kicks from about thirty yards out and it rattled the crossbar.  That was it, and now both teams would need to win their final matches to progress.

14 June 1992, Rasunda Stadium, Solna, 29,902
SWEDEN   (0)   1   (Brolin 58)
DENMARK   (0)   0

Sweden: Ravelli; Nilsson, Eriksson, Andersson, Bjorklund; Ingesson, Thern, Schwarz, Limpar (Erlingmark); Brolin, Dahlin (Ekstrom)
Denmark: Schmeichel; Sivebaek, Nielsen, L Olsen, Andersen; Christofte, Jensen (H Larsen), Vilfort; B Laudrup, Poulsen, Christensen (Frank)

In contrast to the dross served up so far, this game was really entertaining.  You wouldn’t have thought so by the scoreline, but both teams really went at each other.  Sweden had the better attacking options, in Brolin, Andersson and Dahlin and their attacks started to have a real energy about them.  The Danes gave as good as they got too, but on fifty eight minutes Brolin finished off another bright move for Sweden and they turned out to be the only goal of the game.  The Swedes were now hopeful of winning the group, whereas the Danes had been happy to make up the numbers but could they really beat France to go through?

17 June 1992, Rasunda Stadium, Solna, 30,126
SWEDEN   (0)   2   (Eriksson 51, Brolin 82)
ENGLAND   (1)   1   (Platt 4)

Sweden: Ravelli; Nilsson, Eriksson, Andersson, Bjorklund; Ingesson, Thern, Schwarz, Limpar (Ekstrom); Brolin, Dahlin
England: Woods; Batty, Keown, Walker, Pearce; Daley, Webb, Palmer, Sinton (Merson); Platt, Lineker (Smith)

In Stockholm, England needed to beat Sweden to be certain of progressing to the Semi-Finals.  They could still go through if they drew 2-2 as long as the France v Denmark ended goalless.  England had yet to score in the tournament, but just four minutes in David Platt converted a cross from the left and they were off and running.  England were still leading at half-time and relatively comfortable.  The second half, though, was a completely different experience.  Sweden came out all guns blazing and their free-flowing attacking football gradually made the England defence more and more jittery.  Jan Eriksson headed in the equaliser just six minutes after the break.  Ten minutes later came the moment few England fans will ever forget.  With England needing to score again, manager Graham Taylor decided he needed to take off Gary Lineker (80 caps, 48 goals) and replace him with Arsenal’s Alan Smith (13 caps, 2 goals).  It was a gamble that backfired, Sweden scored next and neither Lineker or Smith ever played for England again.  Graham Taylor never managed England to a major tournament again.  With eight minutes to go, Ingesson, Dahlin and Brolin just passed the ball past the English defence and Brolin finished the move to give Sweden another win.

17 June 1992, Malmo Stadion, Malmo, 25,673
FRANCE   (0)   1   (Papin 60)
DENMARK   (1)   2   (Larsen 8, Elstrup 78)

France: Martini; Amoros, Blanc, Boli, Casoni; Durand, Deschamps, Perez (Cocard), Vahirua (Fernandez); Papin, Cantona
Denmark: Schmeichel; Sivebaek, Nielsen (Piechnik), L Olsen, Andersen; Christofte, Jensen, Larsen; B Laudrup, Frank (Elstrup), Poulsen

The French needed to win this game, although a draw would be enough as long as they scored as many goals as England.  As with their opening match against Sweden, France created the most early on yet conceded first.  Denmark, possibly playing with the freedom of a side who thought this could be their last game, were first out of the traps when they took the lead in the opening ten minutes through Henrik Larsen.  Denmark still lead at the break and still looked on top even though Papin equalised on the hour.  Cantona crossed from the right to the far edge of the area, where Fernandez controlled the ball on his chest and instead of playing it back into the box, as he shaped to do, he backhealed it to Papin who curled a beautiful shot past Schmeichel to equalise.  At this stage, France were going through with Sweden.  With twelve minutes to go, Lars Elstrup banged Denmark back in front and now the French were worried.  Denmark didn’t let go of their grip of the game and with the Swedes beating England, the two Scandinavian teams went through.  From a side that thought they were getting the summer off, Denmark were now through to the Semis.


12 June 1992, Ullevi, Gothenburg, 35,720
NETHERLANDS   (0)   1   (Bergkamp 75)
SCOTLAND   (0)   0

Netherlands: van Breukelen; van Aerle, R Koeman, Rijkaard, van Tiggelen; Wouters (Jonk), Roy, Witschge, Gullit; Bergkamp (Winter), van Basten
Scotland: Goram; Gough, Malpas, McPherson, McKimmie; Durie, McStay, McCall, McAllister; McClair (Ferguson), McCoist (Gallecher)

In Gothenburg, Netherlands set about defending their trophy against Scotland.  Expected to brush the Scots aside, Netherlands struggled to keep control of the match.  Both sides had chances but it was the holders who got the all important goal as Dennis Bergkamp prodded his shot past Andy Goram.  The goal came with fifteen minutes to go, and it may have seemed tough on the Scots, who had given a good account of themselves, but it was just what the Dutch wanted.

12 June 1992, Idrottsparken, Norrkoping, 17,410
CIS   (0)   1   (Dobrovolski 64 pen)
GERMANY   (0)   1   (Hassler 90)

CIS: Kharine; Chernyshov, O Kuznetsov, Tsveiba; Kanchelskis, Shalimov (Onopko), Dobrovolski, Mikhailychenko, Lyutyi (Ivanov); D Kuznetsov, Kolyvanov
Germany: Illgner; Reuter (Klinsmann), Kohler, Binz, Buchwald; Effenberg, Hassler, Doll, Brehme; Voller (Moller), Riedle

In Norrkoping World Champions, Germany, were up against a CIS side who probably weren’t that different from any side representing USSR.  In the first half, Rudi Voller broke his arm attempting to foul one of the CIS players, but the half-time score was 0-0.  CIS then broke the deadlock as Igor Dobrovolski converted a penalty after he was fouled.  CIS looked as if they might pull off a major shock, but a free-kick to Germany in the 90th minute, saw Thomas Hassler equalise to give the Germans a point.

15 June 1992, Idrottsparken, Norrkoping, 17,638
SCOTLAND   (0)   0
GERMANY   (1)   2   (Riedle 29, Effenberg 47)

Scotland: Goram; Gough, Malpas, McPherson, McKimmie; McStay, McCall, McAllister, McClair; Durie (Nevin), McCoist (Gallacher)
Germany: Illgner; Binz, Sammer, Kohler, Buchwald; Effenberg, Moller, Hassler, Brehme; Klinsmann, Riedle (Reuter) (Schulz)

After their decent performance against the European Champions, Scotland moved onto the World Champions.  Germany, managed by Bertie Vogts, took the lead after twenty nine minutes through Karl-Heinz Riedle, who would later play for Fulham and Liverpool.  Just into the second half and Stefan Effenberg’s cross hits Malpas and goes in and Germany were now 2-0 up.  Scotland couldn’t find a way back into the game and were now preparing to go home.

15 June 1986, Ullevi, Gothenburg, 34,400
CIS   (0)   0

Netherlands: van Breukelen; van Aerle, R Koeman, Rijkaard, van Tiggelen; Wouters, Roy, Witschge, Gullit (van’t Schip); Bergkamp (Viscaal), van Basten
CIS: Kharine; Cherbyshov, O Kuznetsov, Tsveiba; Kanchelskis, Aleinikov (D Kuznetsov), Mikhailychenko, Onopko; Kolyvanov, Dobrovolski, Yuran (Kiriakov)

In Gothenburg, CIS set their stall out for a draw and got exactly what they were after.  It was a dangerous gamble as even victory over the Scots in their final game would not guaranteed their progress.  Nethelands had the better of the chances but Dmitri Kharin was in great form in the CIS goal.  Netherlands now just needed a draw against Germany to go into the Semis.

18 June 1992, Ullevi, Gothenburg, 37,725
NETHERLANDS   (2)   3   (Rijkaard 4, Witschge 15, Bergkamp 72)
GERMANY   (0)   1   (Klinsmann 53)

Netherlands: van Breukelen; van Tiggelen, R Koeman, Rijkaard, F de Boer; Wouters, Roy, Witschge, Gullit; Bergkamp, van Basten
Germany: Illgner; Binz (Sammer), Frontczek, Kohler, Helmer; Effenberg, Moller, Hassler, Brehme; Riedle (Doll), Klinsmann

Since meeting in the World Cup Final in 1974, these two had met four times in major tournaments.  They met each other in the 1980 and 1988 Euros, winning one each.  This time the Dutch were in good form.  Frank Rijkaard put them in front after just two minutes.  After fifteen minutes, Robert Witschge scored direct from a free-kick and the Dutch were 2-0 up.  Klinsmann got a goal back for Germany just into the second half, but the Dutch were rarely troubled and Bergkamp scored their third in the 72nd minute.  The Germans now had to rely on CIS not beating Scotland

18 June1992, Idrottsparken, Norrkoping, 14,660
SCOTLAND   (2)   3   (McStay 7, McClair 16, McAllister 84 pen)  
CIS   (0)   0

Scotland: Goram; Gough, Boyd, McPherson, McKimmie; McStay, McCall, McAllister, McClair (McInally); McCoist, Gallacher (Nevin)
CIS: Kharine; Chernyshov, Tskhadadze, O Kuznetsov; Kanchelskis, Aleinikov (Korneev), Mikhailychenko, Onopko; Kiriakov (D Kuznetsov), Dobrovolski, Yuran

The CIS had gambled on being defensive and gaining draws against the Dutch and Germans, relying on their confidence in being able to beat Scotland.  The Scots were already out but in this game they provided their finest football.  Paul McStay put them in front after seven minutes and then ten minutes later Brian McClair doubled the lead.  They rounded the victory off when Gary McAllister scored from the penalty spot and Scotland could, once again, go home from a tournament early but with their heads held high.  For CIS this was the last time they played as a unified country.


21 June 1992, Rasunda Stadium, Solna, 28,827
SWEDEN   (0)   2   (Brolin 64 pen, Andersson 89)
GERMANY   (1)   3   (Hassler 11, Riedle 59, 88)

Sweden: Ravelli; R Nilsson, Eriksson, Bjorklund, Ljung; Ingesson, Andersson, Thern, J Nilsson (Limpar); Brolin, Dahlin (Ekstrom)
Germany: Illgner; Helmer, Reuter, Kohler, Buchwald, Brehme; Effenberg, Sammer, Hassler; Riedle, Klinsmann (Doll)

Sweden were buoyed by the Germans defeat against Netherlands, but soon realised how injuries had weakened them that day.  Back to full strength, the Germans put on the style.  Thomas Hassler scored another trade-mark free-kick.  Riedle then made it 2-0 after 59 minutes and the game seemed to have been won.  Brolin converted a penalty for Sweden just five minutes later, but they were still being overrun in midfield.  Two minutes from time, Riedle grabbed his second goal of the game and Germany now dreamed of a World Cup/European Championship double as they had achieved in the ‘70’s.  Kennet Andersson headed another goal back for the home side, but unfortunately for the Stockholm crowd they couldn’t force extra time.  Germany were now in their third major final in the last four competitions and were looking like favourites.  For Sweden, they had produced one of their finest tournament performances ever.

22 June 1988, Ullevi, Gothenburg, 37,450
NETHERLANDS   (1)   2   (Bergkamp 23, Rijkaard 86)
DENMARK   (2)   2   (Larsen 5, 33)  
Denmark won 5-4 on penalties

Netherlands: van Breukelen; van Tiggelen, R Koeman, Rijkaard, F de Boer (Kieft); Wouters, Roy (van’t Schip), Witschge, Gullit; van Basten, Bergkamp
Denmark: Schmeichel; Sivebaek, Piechnik, L Olsen,, Andersen (Christiansen); Christofte, Jensen, Vilfort, Larsen; B Laudrup (Elstrup), Poulsen

Netherlands: Koeman, van Basten, Bergkamp, Rijkaard, Witschge
Denmark: Larsen, Poulsen, Elstrup, Vilfort, Christofte

The Dutch were now very confident of retaining their trophy, especially as they were up against Denmark who had, had their bags packed since they lost to Sweden.  The Danes shouldn’t have even been there, so they could hardly want to get to the final more than the Dutch, could they?

Brian Laudrup’s cross from the right wing was headed in by Henrik Larsen at the back post and Denmark were in front in the opening five minutes.  Bergkamp then equalised almost twenty minutes later.  Witschge chipped the ball into the area where Gullit headed it back to Bergkamp on the edge of the area and he fired his shot past Schmeichel.  But the Danes came back just ten minutes later when Vilfort crossed from the left to Laudrup who headed back where Ronald Koeman’s poor headed clearance fell straight to Larsen to beat van Breukelen again.  Denmark lead at half-time and were largely untroubled during the second half too.  With just four minutes to go, Frank Rijkaard finally equalised for Netherlands when the Danes failed to clear a corner to take the game into extra-time.  The Dutch were so close to going out, but now they had thirty minutes to try and win the game.  They couldn’t make any further inroads, the Danes hung on and we now had the lottery of a shootout.

Ronald Koeman was first up for the Dutch and he scored.  Larsen also made no mistake.  Up stepped Marco van Basten, top scorer four years earlier but without a goal this time round.  His shot was saved by Peter Schmeichel.  Poulsen scored for Denmark and they now held the advantage.  Bergkamp, Rijkaard and Witschge all scored the Netherlands, as did Elstrup and Vilfort.  It then fell to Kim Christofte to put the Danes into the final and he didn’t miss.  Against all odds possible, Denmark had reached the European Championship Final.  They had deserved their place too, as they certainly weren’t outplayed by the holders and could now continue their amazing fairytale.


26 June 1992, Ullevi, Gothenburg, 37,800
DENMARK   (1)   2   (Jensen 18, Vilfort 78)
GERMANY   (0)   0

Denmark: Schmeichel; Sivebaek (Christiansen), L Olsen, Piechnik, Nielsen; Christofte, Jensen, Vilfort, Larsen; B Laudrup, Poulsen
Germany: Illgner; Reuter, Kohler, Helmer, Buchwald, Brehme; Sammer (Doll), Effenberg (Thom), Hassler; Riedle, Klinsmann

Apocryphal stories had the Danes on the beach at the beginning of June.  Whether that’s true or not is not certain, but they cannot have been preparing for what they were now involved in, when their seasons ended in May.  Germany were overwhelming favourites.  They fully expected to add the European Championship to their World Cup trophy from Italia ’90.  Germany created several chances in the opening twenty minutes, but it was Denmark who opened the scoring.  John Jensen scored it, only his second ever goal for the national side.  1-0 to Denmark at the break, and people around Europe were starting to contemplate whether it really could happen.  The second half just became more and more frustrating for the Germans as you could visibly see them getting desperate and the Danes growing in confidence.  The Germans always an aura around them as if they were lucky, and while the gap was only one goal, there was always the prospect of them getting back into it.  That hope well and truly faded in the 78th minute when Kim Vilfort shot Denmark into a 2-0 lead and the miracle had happened.


One of the most remarkable stories of international football and the sort of thing only thought possible in books or movies, Denmark had turned up for a party they weren’t originally invited to, and walked off with the ‘best dressed’ prize.  They probably had their bags packed after their second match but the fairytale just went on and on.  To add to the image of fantasy, Kim Vilfort, who scored the winning goal, had just come back from visiting his daughter who was ill with leukaemia.  They also did it without one of the best players in Europe at the time, Michael Laudrup.

Denmark had probably had better, more talented teams during the ‘80’s than this one, but somehow this was just meant to be.  It was their time.  They were average against a poor England side in their opening game, played well and lost to the Swedes and then it just turned for them.  The Germans were stunned, they later admitted to being too complacent about their chances.  The Dutch played their best football against Germany, but seemed to freeze against the Danes.  The Swedish players did their country proud too, in a group they were not expecting to get out of.

Scotland also can be proud of their efforts, ultimately in vain, and CIS lacked a decent goalscorer as they could’ve at least tried to have a go in their early matches. But it was England and France who had most to regret about their tournament performances which contained almost no high points at all.