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Holders Denmark draw with Portugal in EURO '96 Group D opener

Denmark 1-1 Portugal
The holders were left thankful for a point after an impressive start to Group D by Portugal.

Ricardo Sá Pinto takes on Denmark
Ricardo Sá Pinto takes on Denmark Icon Sport via Getty Images

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.

EURO '96: All you need to know

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.

The best goals of EURO '96

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.

EURO '96: Team of the Tournament


Denmark prepare to start their title defence in Sheffield
Denmark prepare to start their title defence in SheffieldIcon Sport via Getty Images

Denmark: Schmeichel; Risager, Jes Høgh, Rieper, Helveg; Larsen (Vilfort 90), Brian Steen Nielsen, Michael Laudrup (c), Thomsen (Piechnik 83); Brian Laudrup, Beck
Substitutes: Olsen, Schjønberg, Erik Bo Andersen, Lars Høgh, Allan Nielsen, Tøfting, Laursen, Søren Andersen, Krogh
Coach: Richard Møller Nielsen

Portugal: Vítor Baía (c); Dimas, Fernando Couto, Hélder, Paulinho Santos; Luís Figo (Domingos 62), Oceano (Folha 37), Paulo Sousa (José Tavares 79), Rui Costa; Sá Pinto, João Pinto
Substitutes: Secretário, Vítor Paneira, Cadete, Alfredo, Pedro Barbosa, Porfírio, Paulo Madeira, Rui Correia
Coach: António Oliveira

Referee: Mario van der Ende (Netherlands)

Man of the Match: Peter Schmeichel (Denmark)