Denmark ‘exploited back-pass rule’ to win Euro 1992

  • Rob Swan
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Denmark winning the 1992 European Championship still ranks among the biggest shocks in international football history.

The Danes weren’t even supposed to be at the tournament in Sweden but qualified by default after FR Yugoslavia were disqualified as a result of the breakup and warfare in the country.

Only eight teams qualified for the finals at the time, and it was unfancied Denmark who ended up going all the way.

Richard Moller-Nielsen’s side drew 0-0 with England in their opening group stage match before suffering a 1-0 defeat against the tournament hosts.

They needed to beat France in their third and final group match to avoid elimination and did just that. A 2-1 victory saw them reach the semi-finals, where they beat the Netherlands on penalties.

Denmark then faced Germany in the final and defied the odds by lifting the Henri Delaunay Trophy in Gothenburg after a 2-0 win.

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Goals either side of half-time from John Jensen and Kim Vilfort earned the Danes their first major international title.

But would Denmark have won Euro 92 if the back-pass rule had been introduced in time for the start of the tournament?

Footage from the final shows how goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel and his teammates cynically ran down the clock by wasting as much time as possible.

Watch it here…

Back then, ‘keepers were allowed to pick the ball up if one of their teammates passed to them.

But Schmeichel and his teammates exploited the law to win the final.

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This was the last competitive match before the back-pass law was introduced. It clearly improved football for the better.

That said, it took some getting used to for the players - especially the ‘keepers.

Goalkeepers who had never needed to worry about being competent with the ball at their feet suddenly found themselves in a world of trouble at the start of the 1992-93 season.

As this amusing clip shows, it was carnage for a little while…

However, ‘keepers were forced to improve this aspect of their game and the sport is now a far more enjoyable spectacle as a result.

The world’s best goalkeepers are all outstanding footballers, capable of taking the ball under pressure and pinging passes across the pitch.

It just shows how one rule change has the potential to change the sport forever.

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