World Cup Part 6: Denmark v Uruguay, 1986

GARY THACKER remembers the explosive Danish Dynamite team of 1986 and their cool Hummel kits

The Danish Dynamite team of the mid to late ’80s were aptly named. A collection of players that exploded into the footballing world, flaring so brightly, shaking up the established order, and then disappearing again all-too-soon. Lest anyone forget the impact they had though. There was a game in the 1986 World Cup when, in 90 minutes, the team in the uber-cool halved shirts offered up their ‘signature’ performance. A team at the very zenith of their powers tore their opposition asunder with a brand of football that can only be described as, well, explosive!

The Danes, appearing in their first World Cup Finals, were pitched into a group with West Germany, Uruguay and Scotland. In the first round of games, the Uruguayans were unlucky not to start with a win when only a late Klaus Allofs inside the last five minutes pulled a draw out of the fire for Die Mannschaft. Later the same day, Piontek’s team laboured to a single goal victory over the Scots, with Preben Elkjær netting the winner. In the second round of games, the South Americans would face the Danes, with the earlier results hardly indicating that it was game they should be overly concerned about.

Nevertheless, on 8 June, it was a fairly robust Uruguay that squared up to a Danish team that would display their jet-heeled dynamism, a penchant for dribbling, and all-round high-voltage play in a game that would live long in the memory.

Just a few minutes in, a downed Michael Laudrup would be introduced to a boot in the face as the referee innocently followed the play elsewhere. Retribution would be swift, suggesting that the game may not pan out as the South Americans may have envisaged. On 11 minutes, Laudrup evaded a couple of lunging tackles before finding his ‘beauty and the beast’ strike partner Preben Elkjær, who drilled home to put the Danes ahead.

The goal brought a different kind of retribution. Perhaps with the intention of discouraging such endeavours, Miguel Bossio received a yellow card for chopping Laudrup down a mere two minutes after the goal and then completed the set when red was flourished following a ‘robust’ challenge on Frank Arnesen. At the time, Uruguay had the outstanding talent of Enzo Francescoli among their number but the forward was hardly a factor as they sank further into a defensive shell, pinned back by the ebullient, Quixotic play of the Danes. The goal had lit the fuse and the Danish Dynamite was about to explode.

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Elkjær had a goal disallowed and two penalty appeals were waved away by the referee, but just ahead of the break a typically Mercurial piece of play brought the second goal. Inside his own half, Søren Lerby played the ball wide to Elkjær. Full of pace and power, the striker screamed down the line simply outpacing his marker, before crossing into the box. Lerby had tracked his team-mate’s run and, as the ball arrived in the box, was there to bury it into the net. It was a stupendous strike. The last minute of the half saw a Francescoli penalty for Uruguay netted to pare down the advantage, after an award that was as generous as the decisions to deny similar Danish claims were miserly.

Any nascent hopes of an unlikely comeback were buried though when a piece of impudent skill by Laudrup saw him don his dancing shoes and blithely skip through a morass of lunging legs, sway left then right, dummy the goalkeeper, and roll the ball into the net. If the second goal was down to the ‘beast’ in Elkjær, this one was the ‘beauty’ of Laudrup. It was show-time!

Elkjær netted a fourth just past the hour and the fifth to complete his hat-trick with ten minutes to play, before Jesper Olsen, in almost staccato stop-motion guided home a sumptuous sixth goal. It had been the type of display that reinforces a belief in the ‘beautiful game’. A 2-0 victory over the Germans closed out their group programme in style. Whither now for this collection of players.

Sad to say, as well as being the zenith of the team, it was also their last day in the sun. A team that had thrilled over the previous few years and burst into full flower in this tournament was fated to die against Spain in the knockout round that followed. Olson had put the Danes ahead with a penalty and all seemed on track, but then a calamitous back pass error by the same player gifted Emilio Butragueño an equaliser just ahead of the break. Then, pouring forward to redeem the error, the Danes were mercilessly picked off on the break and were beaten 5-1.

It was a defeat as deflating as the victory over Uruguay had been uplifting. Although Denmark would go on to win the 1992 European Championship, it was with a team different in nature to that which expired in the heat of the 1986 World Cup. The Danish Dynamite team had lived briefly, but the football world should be grateful for their coming, and perhaps lament an all too soon departure.

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