It is rather embarrassing to admit that I missed the show the first time around but as Danish TV is doing us a big favour and repeating it, I bring you:
The best football match ever played on Danish soil
We are talking 1985 here. June 5, 1985 to be precise. Constitution Day and conveniently half a day off for many people as Denmark will be playing the Soviet Union in a crucial World Cup qualifier in Copenhagen. You might be forgiven for assuming that the Danish spectators were expecting a win – after all the Danish team was on a roll, it had the duo Elkjær and Laudrup up front and it was a home match. And home matches in June are always something special in Denmark.
They weren’t. Rather, the Soviet match was something like the test of the abilities of the 1980s Danish side. Forget about the clichés about Eastern Bloc machine football – if the Soviet side was a machine, it was a machine robot manufacturers still dream of producing. A highly competent and flexible one. If Soviet politics had worked like the national football team of the 1980s, the USSR could still be among the states of the world.
So, the USSR was the main competitor in the World Cup qualifying group and it was seen as a formidable one.
The final result does not give a true impression of the match. Denmark won 4-2, an impressive win by all standards, but people who were there tell us that nobody felt really certain about the outcome until the final whistle. For all they knew, the Soviets could have won 5-4 and they certainly tried. The Soviets gave Denmark a match and both sides delivered in style. So if you’re into competitive football at the highest and most entertaining level, Denmark – USSR is a must-see even if the game has developed in the past quarter of a century.
Has Denmark ever played a match as good as the 1985 one? My guess would be the quarter-final against Brazil at the 1998 World Cup. Denmark lost 2-3, but boy did they die with their boots on.
The unpredictability (in the best sense of the world) and level of competitiveness among teams was one reason why the 2008 European Cup was so compelling. It will be a very hard act to follow.