John Jensen's famous strike against Germany in the EURO '92 final set Denmark on their way to an unlikely victory. He recounts his memories of a fairy-tale triumph to UEFA.com.
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"You know where you put air into the ball, there is a spot and if you hit the ball there, it will always go straight." John Jensen is trying to explain the origins of a popular expression that he invented for the Danish football lexicon.
It came about on 26 June 1992 when, in attempting to describe the most famous goal of his career, he rather indelicately suggested he had "smacked the ball right on the arse".
Jensen is recalling, of course, the strike that put Denmark on the way to their most famous victory, the 2-0 defeat of world champions Germany in the EURO '92 final. The then Brøndby IF midfielder was hardly known for his scoring ability – his only previous international goal had come five years before – but that evening in Gothenburg, his stunning 18th-minute effort set the tone for one of European football's great tales of the unexpected.
Perhaps not surprisingly, given its rarity, Jensen remembers the goal like it was yesterday. "I remember the first 18 minutes exactly," he told UEFA.com. "All the players had very heavy legs. We were perhaps nervous and the Germans were attacking and attacking, and Peter Schmeichel had made two great saves. Then suddenly we had an attack on the right and Kim Vilfort makes a sliding tackle. Maybe it was a free-kick, but Flemming Povlsen gets the ball and takes it [forward]."
When Povlsen laid the ball back to Jensen, just entering the box, he met it with a first-time shot that flew past the unsighted Bodo Illgner at his near post. "I just had one thing in my head – just hit the target, just hit the goal and then we will see," Jensen, 47, revealed. "Unfortunately for the keeper, he could not see the ball. I think there were two German players and Stefan Effenberg threw his body in front of the ball but too late, and luckily for me it went in the net."
Jensen's initial response was to look for the linesman's flag yet then, as he added, "I turned around and saw all the players coming towards me and then I knew maybe this was going to be Denmark's day and maybe my day as well. Suddenly I had eight players on top of me."
For Danish football it was the day of days, Vilfort's late second goal ensuring that the team who had only entered the competition as last-minute replacements for Yugoslavia had their hands on the Henri Delaunay Cup. Jensen himself was preparing for a beach holiday in Spain when the call came through. "My first thought was that I'd have to cancel my holiday," he joked, yet there was a serious side to his mixed feelings.
"You have a strange feeling because suddenly you are taking something away from other football players who had deserved to go to Sweden because they won the group," he said of the Yugoslavia outfit that finished a point clear of the Danes in qualifying.
Once in Sweden, though, Denmark's players embarked on their storybook adventure: advancing from their group after a win-or-bust victory over highly fancied France, they then overcame the Netherlands, defending champions, on penalties in the semi-finals.
"I think it was the best game of the tournament," Jensen said of a night of twists and turns in Gothenburg, where the Danes twice lost the lead in a 2-2 draw before prevailing from the spot. "Both teams went out to win the game and it was exciting football. It went to extra time and to penalties. There was everything in that match."
Such was the tension, Jensen and striker Povlsen hid their heads under a towel, unable to watch Kim Christofte's winning kick. "We just looked at each other without looking at the penalty. We heard the scream of the supporters and then we knew we were in the final."
Schmeichel's stop from Marco van Basten had tipped the scales in Denmark's favour in that shoot-out and the big keeper produced further heroics in the final. "When you look back, he had two or three big saves. I remember in particular a header from [Jürgen] Klinsmann – I thought it was in, but he suddenly came and saved it. It was very important for us that we had Peter in the goal."
For all Schmeichel's brilliance, it was ultimately a team effort, as Jensen is keen to stress. "It was not only Peter. It was everybody. It was Brian Laudrup. He did not score a goal in the whole tournament but he worked his backside off. The same with Flemming Povlsen, who didn't score either. All the goals came from midfielders but they were working so incredibly hard for us. They created the chances and the midfielders scored.
"It was very important to have these two up front, a hard-working midfield and a very solid back four and then Peter. It was a mix of all of us." And the recipe for the sweetest moment Danish football has ever tasted.