Turning the focus on great midfielders, UEFA.com recalls Denmark's Kim Vilfort and his bittersweet experience at EURO '92.
Article top media content
"There is no way we could have survived extra time – every time the Germans went forward, they looked like they were going to score," said forward Brian Laudrup, recalling the closing stages of the EURO '92 final when Denmark led 1-0 in Gothenburg. "And then we managed to break away, and Kim – well, he finished them off."
Attacking midfielder Kim Vilfort's 78th-minute strike – in off the post from the edge of the box – provided the fairy-tale ending for Denmark, who were called in at the last minute to replace disqualified Yugoslavia in the Swedish finals.
However, for the Brøndby player, the joy of victory was only temporary relief; his six-year-old daughter Line, whose bedside he left twice to play at the tournament, died of leukaemia a few weeks later.
The story told of Richard Møller-Nielsen's side at the time was a relentlessly upbeat one – a team often misreported as having been brought back from holiday beaches to star at the EURO. Vilfort, then 29, joined the squad in Sweden after he and his wife had been told their daughter seemed to be responding to leukaemia treatment, but he was called to her bedside after Denmark's first two games when Line's condition declined – missing the 2-1 win against France that took the Danes to the semi-finals.
Vilfort's family urged him to return for the semi-finals and final – a narrative which forms one of the major themes of a 2015 film about the championship, Sommeren 92 (The Summer of 92). He converted a penalty in the semi shoot-out against the Netherlands, and then saw off Germany in the final. "We had fantastic spirit," he remembered. "We didn't have the best players but we had the best team."
From Valby, in Copenhagen's western suburbs, Vilfort started out at Skovlunde yet made his name at Frem, scoring at a prodigious rate between 1981 and 1985 to earn a move to French club LOSC Lille. However, his adventure abroad lasted just one season and he repaired to the Copenhagen fringes to sign for Brøndby in 1986. "Ten of the players in the [EURO '92] squad either played for, or had played for, Brøndby," Vilfort noted.
He stayed on as a player until 1998 and is still at Brøndby now as director of youth development – a position as the club's overall sporting director having proved a little too high-profile for his liking. "There is too much circus and too little football," he said.
Capped 77 times from 1983–96, Vilfort notched 14 goals for Denmark. His part in the 1992 triumph was recognised as he was named Danish Superliga player of the century in 2014, ahead of the likes of Peter Schmeichel, Jesper Grønkjær and Allan Simonsen.
"I'm surprised because I never saw myself as the greatest player by any means," he said. His former Denmark and Brøndby coach Morten Olsen felt him a worthy winner. "Kim Vilfort was every coach's dream of a team player," he said. "He could play any position, always gave the maximum, and had an indomitable winning mentality. Kim was always enthusiastic and always believed it could be done, no matter how bleak things looked."