Just a couple of days away from a very important football match between Wales and Denmark where a victory would mean Wales winning the UEFA Nations League Group B propelling Ryan Giggs led Wales into the top League and also gives another potential avenue to qualify for the European Championships Finals. The winners of their respective groups in the Nations League go into a playoff system where the winners obtain a spot in the Finals. I thought it would be a good idea to look at a previous game between the two countries, which hopefully is a good omen, resulted in a victory for Wales.
The date was the 9th September 1987 and the venue was Ninian Park, Cardiff. Wales were under the management of Mike England and in attempting to qualify for the European Championship Finals to be held the following year in West Germany had made a reasonable start up to the time of this match. Wales had drawn away to Finland and in the return, at the Racecourse Ground at Wrexham, had beaten the Finns comprehensively. In the other game Wales had played up to the game against Denmark, they had drawn at home to a decent Czechoslovakian side, so the chances for qualifying were very much alive.
Denmark was managed by Sepp Pointek and the Danish side was highly regarded. The side had played well in the 1984 European Championships, and had also qualified for the 1986 World Cup Finals and was regarded by some as a side who could even win the World Cup. Their run coming to an end in the second round to Spain but not before the Danes had impressed and sparkled in their group beating Scotland, Uruguay with some sparkling football and also beating eventual finalists, West Germany. The side played an attacking brand of football and with stars such as Jesper Olsen, Frank Arnesen, Preben Elkjaer and the mercurial talent of Michael Laudrup, they were a major force in World football.
That night in Cardiff, Wales were very much the underdogs but after a promising start, Welsh fans were optimistic even taking into account playing this very good Danish side. The atmosphere as I recall made by over 20,500 fans from the recesses of my memory bank was very good and full of optimism. Wales decked out in their all red Welsh kit manufactured by Hummel (one of the all-time best kits Wales have worn), started out well and were more than holding their own. Mike England had mentioned in press conferences prior to the game that Denmark could be susceptible aerially and on 19 minutes his comments seemed to have merit. Mark Hughes played a pass out to David Phillips wide on the right-hand side of the pitch and he wasted no time in putting in a long looping cross to the back post where Robbie James won the ball in the air and headed the ball back towards the six-yard box. Andy Jones was more alert than his marker, getting in front of Ivan Nielsen and got in a header which beat the goalkeeper, Troels Rasmussen all ends up only for the ball to come back off the bar, again, first person to react was from Wales, this time Mark Hughes who had followed up his initial lay off to dive in and head the ball into the net. Wales were in front.
The game ebbed and flowed after this with Denmark having some good moments, but Wales defended very well on the night, marshalled outstandingly by the captain, Kevin Ratcliffe and when Wales did attack, they caused Denmark problems. Wales were very direct playing to their strengths with Mark Hughes and Andy Jones upfront really proving to be a handful for their opponents. Hughes at the time was playing his club football with Bayern Munich after struggling at his parent club, Barcelona. Jones who was playing for Port Vale at the time and was scoring goals for fun at that level (37 goals in all competitions only the season previous) was playing as Ian Rush was unavailable and both were excellent on the night. Wales held on for a great victory and after the other results in their group ended the night topping the group. Welsh fans were getting excited but we have been here before, could we finally qualify?
The following month, Wales travelled to Copenhagen to play Denmark and lost by a solitary goal scored by Preben Elkjaer. The Danes were now favourites to win the group but Wales still could qualify if they won in Czechoslovakia, however, Wales lost in Prague in the final qualifying game, their dream of qualifying (again), had been diminished with Denmark securing qualification.
As it turned out the Finals in West Germany for Denmark proved to be very disappointing. The Danes finished bottom of the group without picking up a point. But four years later that disappointment would be turned on its head with a remarkable and totally unpredicted victory becoming the European Champions for the only time in their history.
The team lineups for the game on the 9th September 1987 was as follows:
1/ Neville Southall (Everton)
2/ Neil Slatter (Oxford United)
3/ Clayton Blackmore (Manchester United)
4/ Kevin Ratcliffe (Everton) (c)
5/ Pat Van Den Hauwe (Everton)
6/ David Phillips (Coventry City)
7/ Robbie James (Leicester City)
8/ Peter Nicholas (Aberdeen)
9/ Andy Jones (Port Vale)
10/ Mark Hughes (Bayern Munich on loan)
11/ Glyn Hodges (Newcastle United)
12/ Eddie Niedzwiecki (Chelsea)
13/ Dean Saunders (Oxford United)
14/ Geraint Williams (Derby County)
15/ Mark Aizlewood (Leeds United) – Came on for Hodges
16/ Barry Horne (Portsmouth) – Came on for James (Horne’s debut for Wales)
1/ Troels Rasmussen (Aarhus)
2/ John Sivebaek (St Etienne)
3/ Kent Nielsen (Brondby)
4/ Morten Olsen ( FC Cologne) (c)
5/ Ivan Nielsen (PSV Eindhoven)
6/ Soren Lerby (PSV Eindhoven)
7/ Klaus Berggreen (Torino)
8/ Jens Jorn Bertelsen (Esjberg)
9/ Flemming Povlsen (FC Cologne)
10/ Preben Elkjaer (Verona)
11/ Michael Laudrup (Juventus)
12/ Jan Heintze (PSV Eindhoven)
13/ John Jensen (Brondby) – Came on for Laudrup
14/ Jesper Olsen (Manchester United)
15/ Claus Nielsen (Brondby) – Came on for Povlsen
16/ Lars Hogh (Odense)
Hope you have enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Let’s hope Wales can gain another victory on Friday night. Fingers crossed, promotion to UEFA Nations League A awaits if so!
Feature Picture Image Credit: walesonline.co.uk