Never Netherlands! Proof dreams do come true – just like 1992
The Danish fans were swarming the streets, climbing up the traffic lights and statues, while cars with flags flowing out of the windows were honking with vigour. They were singing, dancing, embracing and hanging from balconies, shouting in pure delight. Was it 1992 all over again? Had they just won the European Championship? Not even. It was only day two of the tournament and Denmark had just beaten the Netherlands for the first time in 45 years.
Two hours earlier, the scene wasn’t as jovial. Thousands of Danish fans, sprinkled with a few Dutch folk brimming with confidence, massed into Kongens Have to watch what would be a truly daunting task for a Danish team that were considered massive underdogs.
“As we smuggled the beers into Kongens Have, best case scenario was a 1-1 draw,” Lars Jensen remembered. “We were hopeful and excited, but knew we could be in for a kicking.”
The crowd was stiff and watched stoically as the Dutch attacked in waves straight from the whistle. The bewildered Danes looked mesmerised as the Dutch conjurers produced moments of magic, seemingly at will, that constantly harassed their defence. At the helm of the indomitable barrage were Robin Van Persie, Wesley Sneijder, Ibrahim Afellay and Arjen Robben. Things looked grim.
But wait! What was this? The crowd had suddenly erupted, like a dormant volcano awaking from decades of slumber, spewing large quantities of flags, flare smoke and beer cans into the Copenhagen sky.
The Dutch sorcerers were in disbelief. The Ajax outcast Michael Krohn-Dehli had just bolted through their ranks, smashing the ball between the legs of their keeper Maarten Stekelenburg and into the bottom corner of the net.
In Kongens Have, the euphoria subsided a bit as the fans realised that Denmark would have to try and maintain their fragile lead for over an hour. The crowd was nervous as the Dutch attack continued to press on, but a resolute defensive performance from Daniel Agger and Simon Kjær at the back helped settle the worst bouts of anxiety, although a Robben effort off the post didn’t help proceedings.
And then suddenly, it was halftime. The crowd rose once again, knowing that a good talk from Morten Olsen could raise spirits for the final 45 minutes. Chants and songs broke out intermittently, capped by Dutch cursing as someone began singing “Are you Belgians in disguise ...”
But the Dutch weren’t Belgians, and keeper Stephan Andersen had to make a series of outstanding saves to keep the Danes ahead. The crowd jeered and hollered sarcastically as Van Persie miss-kicked and Robben blasted over.
The Dutch kept pushing forward and an equaliser seemed imminent, but the Dutch seemed to be running out of steam. Could Denmark steal the win from the World Cup’s runners-up? When Klaas-Jan Huntelaar kicked the ball onto Lars Jacobsen’s arm in the penalty box, the crowd collectively held their breath before the ref waved play on. It was beginning to look like Denmark’s day.
The Kongens Have crowd sensed something special was happening, and the last five minutes seemed to take forever. “Not now, surely,” someone uttered as the Dutch desperately hoofed one last ball into the Danish box. But fate would have none of it, and as the ref lifted the whistle to his lips for the last time, Kongens Have exploded.
“I was absolutely amazed at how the entire city was hugging, high-fiving and chanting in unison,” Danish-Peruvian fan Lisbeth Vogensen said. “Especially that moment when that dude got up with a huge flag and started waving it ... and everyone just stopped, looked up at the flag and started singing.”
And the party proceeded well into the night. Washed away was the disappointing World Cup two years ago: the losses to the Netherlands and Japan, the lacklustre performance, the calling for Olsen’s sacking. Forgotten were headlines such as “Stor Dansk VM Fiasko” and “Danmak ydmyget ved VM”.
Instead it was “Dansk EM mirakel” and “Vi vinder hele lortet!” the next day. The cautious pre-tournament mood has evaporated and been replaced by an aura of pure glee and a smidgen of that arrogance the Dutch had. This was best conveyed when an Irma supermarket this week began selling courgettes “Fra taber Holland” (From the losers, the Netherlands). Sing when you’re winning, as they say.
Denmark could very well lose their next two games to Portugal and Germany and leave the tournament early, but their fans will forever remember that evening in June when the Dutch fell in Kharkiv.
“It was delightful,” Danish-British fan Anders Nash bellowed. “Grown men reduced to tears, as the goal flew in the sky filled with beers. Denmark’s finest result in 20 years.”