One of three groups in the UEFA zone with four teams in it, Group 1 would see the team finishing 1st directly qualify for the 1990 FIFA World Cup. There was also a possible berth for the group's runner-up, as the two highest ranked (i.e. most points, and, if level, goal difference) runner-ups from group 1, 2 and 4 would directly qualify for Italia'90. Group 1 of the European qualification for Italy'90 looked to be relatively even. There appeared to be no very strong or very weak team.Even though their team didn't look as good as it did a few years earlier, Denmark had to be favourites to win the group. Which team was reckoned in 1988 as Denmark's fiercest challengers? Probably Romania, but Bulgaria were always a feared opposition in this period and had done well in their qualification group for the 1988 Euros. One should not underestimate the standing of Bulgaria in footballing Europe in 1988. Greece were the least fancied of the four sides, but had finished as runner-up to Netherlands in their last European Championships qualification group.
Results and reports
19 October 1988 – Olympiakó Stádio (Athens)
Greece 1-1 Denmark
An aggressive home side earn a deserved point despite the visitors' fight back.
19 October 1988 – Vasil Levski (Sofia)
Bulgaria 1-3 Romania
Romania off to a brilliant start after an attacking display in Sofia.
2 November 1988 – Standionul Steaua (Bucharest)
Romania 3-0 Greece
Romania in full control against poor away side.
2 November 1988 – Idrætsparken (Copenhagen)
Denmark 1-1 Bulgaria
Denmark denied by cautious, fighting Bulgarian side.
26 April 1989 – Olympiakó Stádio (Athens)
Greece 0-0 Romania
Romania the better side for an hour, until Greece decide to put pressure on Romania in the build-up phase. A draw probably just about fair in the end.
26 April 1989 – Vasil Levski (Sofia)
Bulgaria 0-2 Denmark
Denmark galvanized by the return of Morten Olsen secure their first win in the qualifiers.
17 May 1989 – Standionul Steaua (Bucharest)
Romania 1-0 Bulgaria
Leaders Romania escape with a scare after Stoichkov's shot hit the bar.
17 May 1989 – Idrætsparken (Copenhagen)
Denmark 7-1 Greece
The visitors are nowhere near as the hosts turn on the style after the break and score five times against ten men.
11 October 1989 – Yuri Gagarin Stadion (Sofia)
Bulgaria 4-0 Greece
Greece have three players sent off in the second half and fall to graceless defeat against a home side turning the screw late on in miserable conditions.
11 October 1989 – Idrætsparken (Copenhagen)
Denmark 3-0 Romania
The Danes' good form continues, soundly beating Romania to take the lead before the last match.
15 November 1989 – Olympiakó Stádio (Athens)
Greece 1-0 Bulgaria
Greece climb above Bulgaria on the table.
*** UNDER CONSTRUCTION ***
15 November 1989 – Standionul Steaua (Bucharest)
Romania 3-1 Denmark
Romania prevail in wide open game, Denmark eliminated.
A group with exciting development, capped off with a brilliant decider in the last match between Romania and Denmark. Romania were the early leaders, but Denmark found their shape during spring 1989 and climbed to the top spot, only to lose it all on the last day.
The story of this group was also a story of the impact of two star players. With Miodrag Belodedici, Romania got off to a perfect start in autumn 1988, securing two wins against Bulgaria and Greece. At the same time, Denmark still looked shaky with their "new" national team and only managed to get two points from their first meetings with Greece and Bulgaria. After the exit of Belodedici, Romania started to look more insecure. They were surely the better side again vs Greece (a) and Bulgaria (h), but could have lost more than the one point. With Denmark it was the opposite trend: with the return of Morten Olsen to the national team, they regained self-confidence, first beating Bulgaria in Sofia and then hammering Greece in Copenhagen. The final encounters between the two teams saw neither Belodedici nor Olsen take part: the latter retired from playing in summer 1989. The teams won each their home fixture and so Romania scraped through to Italy'90.
Did the best team progress? Romania surely impressed during their qualification and played some of the best football seen in the UEFA zone: free-flowing, attacking football, looking particularly dangerous on swift counterattacks. But the Danish side as of 1989 was also a good one. They would have done well in Italy'90. Too bad that they got off to a slow start when the players still looked to blend in. The draw against Bulgaria in Copenhagen was fatal.