On the occasion of Brian Laudrup’s birthday on February 22, FIFA.com will find the interview he gave us a few years ago to talk about the unforgettable quarter-final of the 1998 World Cup, but also the triumphs in the final of EURO 1992 and the Confederations Cup 1995.
Denmark’s victory in the 1992 UEFA EURO final remains one of the biggest surprises in history. Last minute guests, the Scandinavians had foiled all odds to lift the trophy in the face and beard of the great European powers.
Alongside his brother Michael – absent from this tournament – Brian Laudrup has long been one of the pillars of the selection coached by Richard Möller Nielsen. Together, the three men led the Danish Dynamites to victory in the 1995 FIFA Confederations Cup and in 1998 achieved their country’s best performance at the FIFA World Cup ™.
FIFA.com met the former midfielder. He looks back on the golden age of Danish football in the 90s, a period during which he played an essential role.
Brian, if you look at the recent history of the Danish team, has your triumph in 1992 given you a certain aura on the international scene over the past 25 years?
Without a doubt. But Euro 1984 marked a first turning point for Denmark. We were not the laughing stock of the continent because we had a few good players in our ranks, but we have to admit that partying interested us more than the competition … We had a small country mentality. We would beat famous opponents, but we could just as easily lose to a very small team. When German Sepp Piontek took over he instilled a new mindset. He had a quality group. All these ingredients allowed Denmark to make a name for itself, whether it was during Euro 1984 or the World Cup 1986. These Danish Dynamites were sensational. They have profoundly changed the image of Denmark and Danish football.
Did your feat in 1992 constitute a passing of the baton between two generations?
Exactly. The legacy of this team was heavy to shoulder, but we surprised everyone, including ourselves, in 1992. We continued this momentum in 1998, with a superb run in the World Cup. Then we passed it on to another generation. It was the start of a new era.
What do you think was the key to this unexpected success?
My brother Michael was not there in 1992. A lot of people tend to forget him. Afterwards, we were told that we were just lucky, that we did not have the level to win such a competition. The secret of our victory is that we have known each other for a very long time, sportingly and humanely. Several internationals had spent many years together at Brondby. Some had competed in the Olympics together, others had dated in the U-21s. We no longer had any secrets from each other and that’s what made the difference.
Would such a feat have been possible in 2016?
Today, the Euro hosts 24 teams but at that time, the final phase consisted of two groups of four. To reach the semi-finals, it was important not to lose. It was enough to win five matches to lift the trophy, but no one was allowed to make mistakes. This tight format served us well because we were not prepared. We were not physically up to standard (Denmark learned of its participation late, following the disqualification of Yugoslavia). In the current context, we would not have won. In 1992, there were fewer opponents, but the level was even higher.
After this historic victory, you added a trophy to your collection by awarding yourself the 1995 Confederations Cup. What memories do you have of it?
We were several to play our first international tournament in 1992. After this success, we were eager to meet great teams like Argentina or Mexico. Nielsen told us that we would have very different opponents in front of us and that it would be even more difficult to win than in 1992. He invested a lot in this competition because he wanted to prove that what is he was in Sweden owed nothing to luck. The year before, I had played alongside Gabriel Batistuta. This Argentina was not lacking in talent. Still, we managed to beat her 2-0 in the final. People were ecstatic in Denmark. We had just won a mini-World Cup. We were so proud. Of course, we knew it wasn’t the real World Cup. But more than any other coach before or after him, Richard made his mark in Danish football history. He deserves to be recognized.
You did not participate in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups. Each time, your destiny was decided on the last day. How did you experience it?
It was horrible. The Euro was magic because a team like ours never expects to win a title like this. Yet we did. In contrast, a player still hopes to participate in the World Cup. My brother often spoke to me about Mexico 1986. It’s an experience that all the players in the world want to live. I told myself that if I could take part in a World Cup, I would have really succeeded in my career. I had moments that I will never forget in France, especially since this tournament was extraordinary.
Is your 4-1 victory over Nigeria in the round of 16 of France 1998 one of your best memories?
Without a doubt. We had a great team. Michael was back, having experienced some difficulties in the first matches. The media began to wonder whether he should not be left on the bench. Whatever ! Nigerians were overwhelmingly favored. With players like Jay-Jay Okocha, Tijani Babangida and Nwankwo Kanu, they probably would have beaten us on a good day, maybe even largely. But Denmark is a small country and when it plays without pressure it always gives its best. We surprised the Nigerians and that’s what made the difference. They tried everything, but nothing worked the way they wanted. We had the perfect match and suddenly we felt like we could climb much higher. The whole team was filled with unfailing confidence.
You then faced Brazil in the quarter-finals. Did you feel like you had nothing to lose?
We didn’t particularly shine in our three group matches. We knew it would take another miracle to have a chance of winning, as we had faced Nigeria, and we scored after two minutes. It was unimaginable. The Brazilians were stunned, it showed. They then regained the advantage but when we equalized we noticed that there was dissent in their ranks. They were arguing. They were not well. You could tell they were tired. I said to myself: “We’re going to get there. We’re going to cause the biggest surprise of all time.” Unfortunately, at the time they had one of the best players in the world in the person of Rivaldo …
Your celebration (pictured above) when you tied at 2-2 remains one of Denmark’s most famous images in the World Cup. How did you get the idea?
Before the game, my son said to me: “If you score, could you do something a little bit special? Usually you just run towards your goal. changes a little “. I remember sending the ball under the crossbar. There, I had to do something. I acted on instinct. Frankly, I don’t know where it came from, but I have to say I’m pretty happy with it! I had just scored against one of the best teams in the world and suddenly we were on the verge of a World Cup semi-final. I don’t think about it too much on a daily basis but as soon as I give an interview, everything comes back to me. A career changes a man through moments that will never be forgotten.