EURO '92 spotlight: How brilliant was Denmark's Peter Schmeichel?

UEFA.com celebrates the career of Peter Schmeichel, who kept goal during Denmark's fairy-tale run at EURO '92.

EURO 92 highlights: Spotlight on Peter Schmeichel
EURO 92 highlights: Spotlight on Peter Schmeichel

One of the great all-round goalkeepers, Peter Schmeichel was a fine shot-stopper whose influence started around halfway where defenders were still in earshot. He was a key member of Denmark's shock EURO '92 success.

EURO '92: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

EURO '92

• Denmark received a late call-up for the finals in Sweden, given just two weeks to prepare after Yugoslavia (the side they had finished behind in qualifying) were barred because of the developing Balkan crisis. The Danes were not on the beach, as has become folklore, but preparing for a friendly. Several players had mentioned that the beach was how they planned to spend the finals; coach Richard Møller Nielsen was resigned to fitting a new kitchen at home.

EURO '92 final highlights: Denmark 2-0 Germany
EURO '92 final highlights: Denmark 2-0 Germany

• With Møller Nielsen's rousing words ringing in their ears – "Make sure you don't embarrass yourselves," Schmeichel recalls – Denmark began with an encouraging goalless draw against England. "'Happy to be here' disappeared after England," recalled the Manchester United keeper. "We felt we should have won."

• A 1-0 defeat by hosts Sweden invited one Danish television commentator to declare "Denmark are out" – they were bottom of the group entering their third match against pre-tournament favourites France. A stirring performance Schmeichel rated as Denmark’s best in his time earned a 2-1 win and progress to the last four.

• Schmeichel's brilliance came to the fore on their last two steps to the trophy. The semi-final against reigning champions the Netherlands produced an enthralling 2-2 draw. It took a shoot-out to separate the teams and Schmeichel played a crucial part, diving low to his left to palm away a spot kick by Marco van Basten.

EURO '92 highlights: Denmark's last-four penalty joy
EURO '92 highlights: Denmark's last-four penalty joy

• Schmeichel saved his best for the showpiece, with three top-class stops against world champions Germany preserving an early lead given them by John Jensen. Kim Vilfort’s late strike sealed it.

What you might not know

• For the first six years of his life Schmeichel held Polish citizenship courtesy of his father Antoni, a Polish jazz musician. Peter owes his middle name – Bolesław – to his great-grandfather.

• Schmeichel worked in a textile factory, as a cleaner in an old people's home, as a sales manager and for a flooring firm before turning professional.

• Denmark's call-up to replace Yugoslavia at EURO '92 came so late that the squad arrived in Sweden with kit borrowed from the Under-21s. "When you look at the first game we played, against England, every one of us is in shirts and shorts that were a little bit too tight," he recalled. Normal order – long and baggy as early-90s style demanded – was restored next time out.

Denmark national anthem: Schmeichel and Co at EURO '92
Denmark national anthem: Schmeichel and Co at EURO '92

• Because of his intimidating physique – he was 1.91m tall and weighed close to 100kg during his playing days – Schmeichel wore specially-made XXXL jerseys. Recourse to the U21 kits in 1992 was particularly keenly felt by Denmark’s No1.

• Schmeichel scored 11 goals during his career, among them headers, volleys, penalties and, memorably, an overhead kick.

• Schmeichel regards his superb fingertip save to turn behind a low Jürgen Klinsmann shot before half-time in the EURO ’92 final the greatest save of his career. "When all my team-mates saw me saving something like that, they knew I would be in top form."

• When son Kasper lifted the English title with Leicester in 2016, the Schmeichels joined the Wrights (dad Ian and Shaun Wright-Phillips) as the only father and son to win the Premier League.

What he said

"It really sank in when we were in Copenhagen in the town hall for the celebrations with the rest of Denmark. That was unbelievable, truly unbelievable. At this point you're thinking: "We actually did this, it's not a dream."

Schmeichel on Denmark’s EURO ’92 glory
Schmeichel on Denmark’s EURO ’92 glory

“I’m proud of what I achieved in my career, but I also know that I wouldn’t have achieved any of it without the support of my team-mates. I played with great players, great managers and in great teams.”

What they said

"The best ever. Peter's charisma and character could change the game. His spirit spread to the rest of the team. Strong in the air, great reflexes and brilliant in one-on-ones. A true winner."
Brian Laudrup, team-mate for Denmark

"I don't believe a better goalkeeper played the game. He is a giant figure in the history of Manchester United."
Sir Alex Ferguson, manager at Manchester United

Peter Schmeichel celebrates after Denmark's EURO '92 semi-final win in Gothenburg
Peter Schmeichel celebrates after Denmark's EURO '92 semi-final win in GothenburgIcon Sport via Getty Images

"Goalkeepers win you games sometimes, and Peter Schmeichel won more games than any other goalkeeper I've ever seen."
Ryan Giggs, team-mate at Manchester United

"When people talk about players who made United so successful, he would be competing for one of the top slots. His influence in those initial title triumphs was just as big as Eric Cantona's."
Jamie Carragher, former Liverpool defender

Final tally

International: 129 appearances, 1 goal
UEFA club competition: 72 appearances, 1 goal
Domestic competition: 676 appearances, 9 goals