This feature is a part of RETEUROSPECTIVE
This is the day that Danish football came of age. After the sour ending to their debut night against France, now the Danes have served notice that they can be a force in this tournament. They joined France in recording a 5-0 rout in this group today and in doing so set up a mouth-watering winner takes all clash with Belgium in the coming days to decide qualification for the semi-finals.
Where Denmark had been extremely unfortunate to lose after their fine performance in the tournament opener against France, here on this boiling Saturday evening in Lyon they unleashed all of their attacking verve to mark their entrance on to football’s big stage.
Tournament debutants they may be, but this is a side full of quality, especially going forwards, making plain that they belong at this exalted level of the international game. The free-flowing style of the Danes, led by the beguiling talents of Preben Elkjaer and Frank Arnesen, both ably assisted by the emergent Michael Laudrup, has brought Denmark one of the finest nights in their footballing history.
That this astonishing victory was secure despite the loss of their highest-profile player made it all the more impressive. Allan Simonsen, the finest player Denmark has produced to date, could only watch on, nursing the leg broken sustained against France a few days earlier. He could be forgiven for thinking that his status in Denmark could ultimately be eclipsed in the days and years to come by some of those on show in Danish red here in France.
The only change to the Danish line-up from the narrow loss to France was Ole Rasmussen who was brought in to replace Simonsen, and to deal with the potential threat posed by Safet Sušić. Another Ole, Qvist, the goalkeeper, also had his hands full. The comfortable victory that the scoreline suggests was far from the truth of this match as Yugoslavia created sufficient opportunities of their own to score a number of goals.
That they didn’t was in part down to their own lack of clinical finishing, but equally down to some magnificent saves by Qvist. Most notably twice stopping Zlatko Vujović from point-blank range in the second half and again from Borsilav Cvetković with saves that deserve to be remembered as much as the fine attacking on display.
If Denmark’s first goal in this game was slightly fortuitous, when the lively Arnesen’s eight-minute cross being misread and palmed into his own net by the Yugoslav goalkeeper Tomislav Ivković, the early score was a sign of the already apparent openness of the match.
The second came along not long after, following a fabulous run on Denmark’s left from Elkjaer. He sent a cross in towards the six-yard box towards the onrushing Laudrup who got to the ball moments ahead of Ivković and flicked it over the unfortunate goalkeeper. The ball was net bound anyway, but Berggreen made sure by prodding it across the line before the scrambling defender, Ljubomir Radanović, could attempt to clear.
Danish dominance at this early stage was such that Yugoslavia’s coach, Todor Veselinović, was compelled to make a change during the first half to try and wrestle back some midfield control. It led to an improved display from the Yugoslavs, and those great saves from Qvist which maintained the Danish lead that had begun to feel increasingly slender; their attacking exuberance masking a vulnerability at the back.
But once Elkaer was illegally stopped in his tracks by the befuddled Ivan Gudelj and Denmark extended their lead from the resultant Arnesen penalty, the identity of the victors was no longer in doubt.
By the time Denmark scored their fourth, the attackers were queuing up to take turns to finish it off. Morten Olsen lobbed a pass to Elkjaer, who created the space to run into before feeding Berggreen on the right. His cross found Laudrup who could have scored himself but instead chose to nonchalantly tee up Elkjaer to finish off the move. When John Lauridsen added the final flourish with a curler into the far corner having just come off the bench, the Yugoslavs were well beaten, despondent and done.
It could have been more in the closing moments had the Danish finishing been more clinical, but in recording such a resounding victory, Denmark have given themselves a tremendous opportunity to reach the semi-finals and in doing so have unleashed their swaggering, stylish attacking dynamism on to the European stage.
By Aidan Williams @yad_williams