Denmark – Sweden
Ref.: Mr Dieter Pauly
Written by: kaltz
The Danish FA were celebrating their centenary, and in doing so had arranged for a mini-tournament involving the footballing power that is Brazil as well as near neighbours Sweden. Denmark v Sweden is the undoubted classic among the Nordic nations, as these two countries have always been the leading among the five (now six, as the Faeroe Islands have since got their own national team at competitive level), with the Swedish the region’s expert on World Cup qualification: No less than seven times had they participated in international football’s grand showdown to date, with the 1958 silver medals on home soil easily their best return. It had been no mean feat to make it to the final, where they had lost 5-2 to Brazil, who had a 17 year old Pelé in their ranks. Sweden were looking to qualify for their eighth tournament, and were well on course with five points from their opening three fixtures, their most recent success being a 2-1 home win against Poland.
Denmark had indeed only qualified once for the World Cup, and that had been as recent as in the last tournament in Mexico, where they had won a lot of admirers for their attacking style of football. They’re also famous for their relaxed, party-happy supporters: Their ‘rooligans’ (the Danish term ‘rolig’ means ‘peaceful, quiet’ in English) army being one friendly bunch as opposed to those at the other end of the scale, where in particular England are infamous for their contingent of rather fiery followers. Earlier in the 80s, the Danish had also done well at the 1984 European Championships in France, where they had reached the semi-finals, only to exit at the expence of Spain after a penalty shoot-out. That crop of players would be the driving force also behind their escapades in Mexico ’86, where again Spain would defeat them, this time in the round of 16, after Denmark had won all three of their group matches. An unfortunate back pass by Jesper Olsen which had been snapped up by the Spanish ‘vulture’ Butragueño had been their undoing, and eventually Denmark proceeded to lose by 5-1. Most of this generation of players would again be in their squad for the 1988 European Championships in West Germany, but by now they were perhaps fading, as Denmark went on to lose all three of their group stage matches, and had to settle for an early exit. Sepp Piontek was still manager, though, and already this new generation of Danish footballers were beginning to leave their print at international level, even if their qualification had started a bit slow: Denmark could only draw their first two matches. They had since won successive matches against Bulgaria away and Greece at home, and in the latter they had turned on a majestic show of counter-attacking football which had been reminiscent of their best displays during the previous generation. Optimism was returning, and they would now have a chance to show their mettle with friendlies against their arch-rivals as well as the mighty Brazil.
Both sides fielded what was possibly their strongest line-ups, perhaps with a couple of notable absentees among the visitors, where goalkeeper T Ravelli had been made substitute to give back-up ‘keeper Eriksson some game time. And there was no Larsson to accompany captain Hysén at centre-back this time around. As against the Polish in their latest qualifier, he was still out injured, so his place went again to Norrköping defender Lönn. For the home team, right-sided defender Sivebæk was possibly the biggest name missing, and they too had decided to give their second choice goalkeeper the opportunity, with Rasmussen stepping into the line in place of Schmeichel.
With Scandinavian summer evenings particularly light, the match was an eight o’clock start, and there was no need for floodlights around the time of kick-off. This was the 89th meeting between the two, and it was Sweden who were ahead with their 40 wins against Denmark’s 32. The fixture was a near-on annual event, with the latest meeting coming only last year, when Denmark had won 2-1 in Stockholm, indeed Sweden’s only defeat in ten calendar year fixtures, where they had achieved some notable results, in particular in defeating both the Soviet Union and Spain in friendlies. They were yet undefeated in 1989. Denmark had lost 1-0 away to Italy in February, and had only recently drawn 1-1 at home to England in another friendly.
Referee was well-known West German Dieter Pauly, an experienced man of 47 years, officiating here in his tenth international. He had indeed been present during the 1988 European Championships, where he had been in charge of the group stage match between the Soviet Union and Holland (1-0).
|1 Troels Rasmussen||AGF|
|2 Henrik Risom||Vejle|
|3 Kent Nielsen||sub 38′||Brøndby|
|4 Lars Olsen (c)||Brøndby|
|5 Ivan Nielsen||PSV Eindhoven|
|6 Jan Bartram||Bayer Uerdingen|
|7 John Jensen||sub h-t||Hamburg|
|8 Henrik Andersen||sub 65′||Anderlecht|
|9 Flemming Povlsen||sub 80′||Köln|
|10 Michael Laudrup||Juventus|
|11 Lars Elstrup||OB|
|12 John Larsen||on 38′||Vejle|
|13 John Helt||on h-t||Lyngby|
|14 Jan Heintze||on 65′||PSV Eindhoven|
|15 Kim Vilfort||Brøndby|
|16 Peter Schmeichel||Brøndby|
|17 Brian Laudrup||on 80′||Brøndby|
|1 Lars Eriksson||IFK Norrköping|
|2 Roland Nilsson||IFK Göteborg|
|3 Glenn Hysén (c)||sub 39′||Fiorentina|
|4 Peter Lönn||IFK Norrköping|
|5 Roger Ljung||Malmö FF|
|6 Johnny Ekström||Bayern München|
|7 Glenn Strömberg||Atalanta|
|8 Robert Prytz||57′, sub 68′||Atalanta|
|9 Joakim Nilsson||Malmö FF|
|10 Mats Gren||sub h-t||Grasshoppers|
|11 Mats Magnusson||Benfica|
|12 Thomas Ravelli||IFK Göteborg|
|13 Dennis Schiller||on 39′||Lillestrøm|
|14 Klas Ingesson||on 68′||IFK Göteborg|
|15 Jonas Thern||on h-t||Malmö FF|
|16 Jan Hellström||IFK Norrköping|
|18 Sulo Vaattovaara||IFK Norrköping|
|19 Stefan Rehn||Djurgården|
Mr Piontek set his team up in a 3-5-2, where L Olsen was in the libero role behind the two man-marking Nielsens (no family relations), of which K Nielsen was looking after Gren, and with the experienced I Nielsen marking Magnusson. Along the touchlines, Risom was doing his best to keep width to the right, with Andersen likewise on the opposite side. Bartram and Jensen kept the centre of the pitch, with M Laudrup appearing in a liberated role right behind the two strikers, both of whom were appearing quite wide: Elstrup to the left, Povlsen to the right. This allowed M Laudrup to come forward and into space left open by the Swedish defence, where the centre backs and full-backs were seemingly finding it difficult to agree on who should look after the Danish forwards.
Mr Nordin lined up in Sweden’s traditional 4-4-2, and perhaps the only point worth making out is the fact that Ekström, usually a striker, was playing on the right hand side of midfield, probably because Nordin had wanted to exploit any space left vacant by Andersen on the left side of the Danish midfield. Gren was up top with Magnusson, both marked by each their Nielsen.
After all substitutions have been made:
The home side use their allowed number of outfield player substitutions, but they continue in 3-5-2 throughout, so most substitutions were straight swaps: Big defender K Nielsen was replaced before the end of the first half by Larsen, who took over the marking responsibility for Ekström. In the second half Ekström and Magnusson, the two Swedish strikers, would often swap sides, and Larsen followed Ekström when his man came over to the Swedish left of centre, I Nielsen likewise with Magnusson. And so it did appear that Larsen was playing as right-sided centre half, with I Nielsen to the left of spare man L Olsen.
In midfield Helt was a direct replacement for Jensen, whilst Heintze came on to see the match out in Andersen’s wide left role. For the final ten minutes, the younger of the two Laudrup brothers, Brian, took over Povlsen’s forward position.
For the visitors, they made a defensive re-shuffle when they brought off captain Hysén six minutes before the break, due to reasons that had been agreed beforehand. On came full-back Schiller, who normally played on the right, but he came on in Ljung’s left-back position, with Ljung coming into the centre of defence alongside Lönn, who switched from left to right central defender. For the start of the second half, Mr Nordin brought on midfielder Thern for striker Gren. This meant Ekström, who had played wide right in midfield during the first half, went forward to take up his customary striker’s role alongside Magnusson, with Thern appearing on the right hand side of midfield. Midway through the second half, the Swedish boss replaced Prytz with Ingesson, with the latter taking over on the right hand side for Thern, who went into a central position alongside Strömberg, who had taken over the captain’s armband when Hysén went off.
The early exchanges saw a few battles in midfield, and even early on it was apparent that the home side wanted to commit quite a few players when breaking forward, even if their cohesion was lacking. The visitors wanted to bring their front men into play by knocking balls forward for Magnusson or Gren, and they had also been looking to exploit the pace of Ekström, who was playing in a for him unusual position wide to the right in midfield. It would be needed of Andersen, who rather than Heintze was playing as the left-sided midfielder in Denmark’s 3-5-2, that he was keeping an eye on Ekström and not allowing him a head start. Ahead of sweeper L Olsen, both K Nielsen and I Nielsen, the two other central defenders, were keeping an eye on each their Swedish forward: the previous on Gren, the latter on Magnusson. For the hosts, both strikers were pulling wide: Elstrup, whose debut at international level in the away fixture against the Swedes last year had scored twice, saw to the left, with Povlsen looking to attack to the right. This left attacking midfielder M Laudrup to exploit any space left in central positions by the Swedish defence.
The first opportunity of the game comes for the visitors, when left-sided midfielder J Nilsson hits a free-kick towards the area that is flicked on by Gren and into the path of defender Ljung. Goalkeeper Rasmussen comes out and blocks his effort when the Swedish left-back really should have opened the scoring. This had happened on 16 minutes, and even the next chance should fall for the visitors, when flamboyant midfielder Strömberg got into a crossing position wide left and found the head of Magnusson, who could not find the target with his attempt. This was an even greater opportunity than Ljung’s attempt, and it was indeed a glaring miss. Sweden were the better team during an opening 25 minutes in which the home side had yet to get into their stride. Mostly, the game was being played at a pedestrian pace.
There had been precious few glimpses of fluent attacking play by the home side by the time they went ahead, so Povlsen’s opening goal was hardly the result of lengthy pressure. Bartram, who was playing in a central midfield position this time around after his highly effective performance wide left against Greece a month earlier, lifted a ball through the middle for the on-rushing Povlsen, who connected with his head and saw his header smash onto the bar, and he followed up to execute from his own rebound. Central defender Lönn really was in no-man’s land. On their first proper venture into Swedish territory, Denmark had gone ahead. The home crowd had already sounded a rendition of “Sverige er et tegneseriehold” (“Sweden are a comic-strip team”), despite the visitors having had the upper hand until then.
Only three minutes after the opening goal, the Danish again break from the back with pace, and the Swedish midfield is unable to follow, leaving the defence to try and cope with the pace of Povlsen. Attacking down the right wing, he eventually finds M Laudrup in the centre, and the Juventus forward tries to take the ball round Eriksson, only to be pulled too far wide and in the end rushing his finish, which only hits the side netting. However, it is worrying for the visitors that they seem to open up so easily at the back, as a solid defence is what much of their play is built on. This will indeed be the case a further three minutes later, when Laudrup bursts through the centre without a Swedish midfielder in sight. He finds Povlsen again down the right, and the visitors only escape because the Cologne forward mis-hits his return pass for Laudrup. After a slow half an hour, Denmark are showing signs of the buoyancy which tore Greece to pieces. The Swedish will need to be aware of these quick breaks.
There’s a couple of substitutions happening seven minutes from the half-time break, when Denmark replace central defender K Nielsen with Larsen, and the visitors take off captain Hysén for full-back Schiller, something which sees Ljung go into the heart of their defence, with Schiller taking over at left-back. Both of these substitutions appear to have been agreed in advance. K Nielsen will soon travel to South Korea to participate in a tournament with his Brøndby team, whilst Hysén at the weekend will play an important fixture with his Fiorentina. It is midfielder Strömberg who takes over as captain for the visitors.
After taking the lead, the Danish have been able to control proceedings better, and they are appearing with more confidence, knocking the ball around in midfield. Three minutes before the break, Andersen knocks a diagonal ball from the left, and the recently arrived Schiller is unable to clear before wide man Risom gets in behind his back to nick the ball and pass it into the six yard area where no one is looking after Elstrup. The striker has an easy task to side-foot home 2-0, and this is his third goal in only two appearances against the Swedish. However, there is no excuse for such pathetic defending, and Schiller is the player to blame. Half-time and 2-0 to the hosts.
There is another agreed substitution when Denmark see Helt on for Jensen at half-time, as the curly-haired midfielder has an important fixture with his club side Hamburg at the weekend. The diminutive Helt has shown earlier that he’s a capable replacement. There’s also a Swedish substitution at half-time, when Gren comes off for midfielder Thern, seeing Ekström return to a front position after having played out wide during the first half, something which had not been a great success. Thern, usually a central midfielder, takes up the position to the right in the Swedish midfield, with the more experienced Prytz and Strömberg, the Atalanta duo, still featuring in the centre.
Denmark are confident from early on in the second half, and some impressive trickery by Bartram will set up Risom to have a pop from an angle inside the area, only to see Strömberg block the ball away for a right-sided corner. Within five minutes of the half the Danish have their second decent opportunity as Laudrup gets in behind the Swedish defence out wide, and his pass into the area finds Elstrup, who has his effort blocked. The Swedes are hardly recognizeable from so far in the qualification, where they have been well organized defensively. Here, no one is willing to follow runs from the Danish midfielders, and it leaves their defence dreadfully exposed. It is seem time and again early in the second half, where swift play in midfield will release either Laudrup or one of the front two. They lack precision in the final ball, though, and this is what rescues the visitors on more than one occasion. Laudrup really is on fire, and whenever he is involved, there are intricate combinations inside the Swedish half of the pitch.
Tigerish midfielder Prytz takes his frustrations out on the referee when the West German awards the home side a throw-in which Prytz feels should have been theirs. He receives a yellow card for his protests. Only three minutes after his caution, Prytz could have been sent off when he tugged Laudrup back as the Danish again threatened to break at pace. The ref was lenient with the Swedish midfielder on this occasion.
It is Andersen’s time to get on the scoresheet on 64 minutes. Laudrup had played another ball in behind the Swedish defence, and running inside from his wide left role, Andersen is not tracked back by Thern, who stops and probably expects an offside call. However, the run has been timed to perfection, and the Swedish defence has again been caught square. They are being torn to bits, a bit like what had happened to the Greeks the previous month, and there seemed little they could do about it. Soon after his goal, Andersen’s replaced by Heintze. The Danish really seem well equipped along their left-hand touchline, where Bartram had been so prolific in their last outing, and here Andersen had contributed with an assist as well as a goal.
On 66 minutes Magnusson punishes the dallying Helt, and having won possession 25 yards out he strikes a low shot with his right foot, only to see it rebound off the upright and back into Rasmussen’s arms. Only a minute before the third Danish goal, Magnusson had tried to chip the home team’s ‘keeper from a similar distance, only to see his effort go well over. The Benfica striker is doing his best to keep the Danish defence on their toes, but he seems disappointingly alone in his efforts. Ekström’s hardly had a sniff all evening, and Larsen is doing a fine job in keeping him quiet.
Mr Nordin takes off Prytz, who is on a booking, and replaces him with the tall Ingesson. This sees Thern move in field, whilst the most recent substitute comes on in the wide right role. Both him and Thern are originally central midfielders. Two minutes after Ingesson’s introduction, there’s a fourth home goal: this time it is Laudrup who’s run in behind the visitors’ defence, and Risom’s ball over the top is perfect. Laudrup can shoot himself, but he has both Bartram and Povlsen inside him, and he passes the ball sideways to the midfielder, who can just side-foot home. The scoreline is becoming an embarrassment on the visitors. The Danish are eyeing their biggest victory against their rivals since a 6-1 scoreline in 1930. And when Risom is played down the right by Laudrup, Elstrup can glance his cross beyond the reach of Eriksson for 5-0. Again, central defender Lönn had been slack in his marking. The embarrassment is already complete.
Denmark are spreading the ball around confidently among themselves, and the disjointed visitors can do little other than running between. They have a couple of shots from a distance by Thern, but neither is able to worry Rasmussen. And whenever the home players decide to thread the ball through the middle, either Laudrup or the forwards are away. There appears to be a reluctance among the visiting players to track any Danish run forward. For the home side, there’s also an impressive second half performance from midfielder Helt, who seems very confident. There is also a great understanding between him and sweeper L Olsen: when the latter is moving forward, Helt stays back and takes over Olsen’s duties. Not that it seems necessary, as the visitors are no longer much of a goal threat. And 11 minutes from time it is the final nail in the Swedish coffin when the majestic Laudrup, turning 25 the next day, side-foots home on the second attempt. Initially, I Nielsen had played a ball over the top of the Swedish defence, Laudrup had run in behind, and as Lönn had cleared his ball inside on the goal line, the Juventus ace had got to his clearance. The home crowd had since long had every reason to taunt the visitors by calling them a ‘comic-strip team’. This was a pathetic display by Sweden, and if this is what they were like without the presence of Hysén, then they ought to start praying that they would have him available for their final three qualifiers.
The younger Laudrup brother, Brian, who’s just signed for Bayer Uerdingen in the West German Bundesliga, was rumoured to be injured even if he was named among the home side’s substitutes, and to rapturous applause he comes on for Povlsen for the final ten minutes. There’s an opportunity for the visitors to pull a goal back when they are awarded a free-kick from 18 yards, slightly to the right of centre. However, Magnusson sums up their afternoon when he hits his shot well over Rasmussen’s goal. A minute from time it is the older Laudrup who finds Bartram after yet another break, but the midfielder’s right-foot shot from the 18 yard line goes well wide.
Denmark gain revenge for a 6-0 Sweden win in Copenhagen 40 years earlier. Remarkably, it had been the visitors who had had the better of the first half an hour, but once Denmark got their first goal and realized that the visitors were not interested in tracking any of their runs through midfield, it was a rout. There was some awful defending from the Swedish after Hysén went off before the half-time break, and the ease with which they kept conceding must have been a great worry for Mr Nordin. The home side produced yet another impressively efficient display of counter-attacking football, and time and again they tore the visitors apart through strong running from midfield. M Laudrup had a thoroughly impressive match, and the accuracy in both his passing and his runs were too much to cope with for a pedestrian away team.
1 Rasmussen 6.7
2 Risom 6.9
3 K Nielsen 6.8
(12 Larsen 6.7)
4 L Olsen 6.9
5 I Nielsen 6.9
6 Bartram 7.5
7 Jensen 6.8
(13 Helt 7.1)
8 Andersen 7.0
(14 Heintze 6.8)
9 Povlsen 7.2
(17 B Laudrup -)
10 M Laudrup 7.9
11 Elstrup 7.1
1 Eriksson 6.4
2 R Nilsson 6.5
3 Hysén 6.6
(13 Schiller 5.8)
4 Lönn 5.6
5 Ljung 6.1
6 Ekström 5.9
7 Strömberg 5.7
8 Prytz 6.5
(14 Ingesson -)
9 J Nilsson 6.5
10 Gren 6.2
(15 Thern 6.4)
11 Magnusson 6.7