Surprise champions in Sweden four years earlier, Denmark's defence started with an inauspicious and somewhat fortunate 1-1 draw against Portugal in Sheffield.
The Portuguese, built around a midfield which had helped to win the FIFA World Youth Championship in 1989 and 1991, were a breath of fresh air. Their speed of mind, fleet of foot and intricate passing proved a constant source of confusion for Denmark, with the mop-haired Fernando Couto an equally important pillar in defence. They had, however, fallen behind to Brian Laudrup's goal midway through the first half, Sá Pinto equalising shortly after the break to earn Portugal a point that was the least their performance deserved.
Lacking only a reliable goalscorer, they were nevertheless left frustrated by the defending champions. So starved of possession were Denmark that their goal came from their only shot of the first half, Vítor Baía's clearance hitting Mikkel Beck on the head and flying out left to Brian Laudrup, who cut inside and finished emphatically.
Though taking the lead did little to buoy Richard Møller Nielsen's team, they did at least show mettle aplenty to claim a share of spoils in the Steel City. Goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel displayed particular resistance to limit the damage, stopping Rui Costa's free-kick, diving at João Pinto's feet and saving from Sá Pinto. Luis Figo was also denied on two occasions.
Parity was finally restored in the 53rd minute when Paul Sousa dispossessed Brian Laudrup and António Folha's cross bounced in the area for Sá Pinto to head in his first international goal. Denmark were largely on the back foot thereafter but could have snatched the victory when Claus Thomsen put a free header wide. A more clinical finish would have been unjust for Portugal, whose display earned acknowledgement from even the Danish fans.