BY CHRIS CLARK
“De er Rode
De er Hvide
De er Dansk Dynamit”
This song reverberated around the Copenhagen stadium as an all-action, fearless attacking Danish team were sweeping all before them in the build up to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
It was a side that contained world-class players such as Preben Elkjaer, Michael Laudrup, Morten Olsen, Soren Lerby and Frank Arnesen, and played under the stewardship of the canny German, Sepp Piontek. They captured the imagination of the public once they had qualified for 1984 European Championships ahead of England.
The pivotal qualification game for the World Cup in Mexico in 1986 occurred on 5th June 1985 when the Danes hosted an excellent USSR side. Both teams needed the win.
“De er Rode, De er Hvide” boomed out from all four sides of the stadium, it was an astonishing atmosphere, and what was to follow was an extraordinary game.
Denmark won 4-2, but it could have easily ended 5-5. At that time, Elkjaer and Laudrup were considered to be probably the world’s best strike force; each scored twice, as the game developed into a pulsating end-to-end battle of punch and counter-punch.
“For me, this will always be the game” admits Laudrup himself, “A lovely sunny afternoon, a packed national stadium and then the game itself; six goals which could have easily been ten – one amazing opponent and a match where nothing was decided even when at 4-1 after sixty-seven minutes”.
Denmark eventually prevailed, they had qualified for Mexico 1986, and the Danish daily newspaper Ekstra Bladet, buoyed by the euphoria sweeping the nation, asked it’s readers to submit lyrics for a song to be recorded in support of the national side.
They were inundated with entries. However, there was no doubt that the key lyric used in the song was to be “De er Rode, De er Hvide (we are red, we are white), which had been sung by fans in the qualification games.
The players and manager hammed it up in the official video for one of the great World Cup songs.
The song became a huge hit in the summer of 1986 in Denmark. It also reached number 3 in the charts in neighbouring Norway and Sweden for a number of weeks. For once, Denmark’s Scandinavian neighbours were being swept up by the momentum of the gathering Danish bandwagon.
As Denmark approached the World Cup finals, no other side contained players from the champions of Italy, West Germany, England, Holland and Belgium. Despite being placed in the first ever coined “Group of Death” (West Germany, Uruguay, Scotland and the Danes), Denmark were perceived as dark horses.
The Danes were a thrillingly futuristic side with perpetual movement and jet heeled dribblers, however, it just wasn’t their football that caught the eye in Mexico. Their Hummel kit was ground-breaking; red and white halves was nothing that hadn’t been seen before, but the red and white pinstripes on them were. Sadly for Denmark the halved shorts were banned by FIFA, presumably for being too cool.
Denmark’s first game was a tight 1-0 win over Scotland, earned courtesy of a typically robust strike from Preben Elkjaer. A solid start. Yet, what happened four days later shocked the footballing world. Uruguay were trounced 6-1. They may have been reduced to ten men, but by then, Denmark were already all over them. The Danes blitzed their South American counterparts with a dazzling display of breathless, relentless football. Michael Laudrup scored a sensational goal, as he weaved his way past the statuesque Uruguayan defence – ITV commentator John Helm simply stated “The boy’s a genius.”
That result left Denmark top of the group and with a dilemma going into the final group game against West Germany; draw or win and they would face Spain in the 2nd round; lose and they would have an easier match against Morocco. “We had a team meeting and decided to go for the win” said midfielder Jan Molby. “the truth is we felt we could take them.” Indeed they did. They dispatched the eventual finalists 2-0 with Jesper Olsen scoring an impudently caressed penalty, that had BBC commentator Barry Davies purring.
Denmark faced Spain in the knock out stages, and they took the lead with another penalty from Olsen, but Spain would not falter. The game changed on the stroke of half time, as Olsen played an inexplicably careless blind pass across his penalty box. The only man waiting in the box was the ace Spanish centre forward Emilio Butragueno who gleefully equalised. To this day in Denmark, to commit such a faux pas is described as a “rigtig Jesper Olsen” (a real Jesper Olsen). The Danes were rocked by this goal, and after the break the Spaniards went into the lead on fifty-six minutes when Butragueno headed home. Piontek responded in the only manner he knew – he immediately brought on a forward for a defender, but this left the Danes open to the Spanish counter-attack. Denmark capitulated and were left wide open at the back. Spain won the game 5-1. Those who woke up the following morning (it was an 11pm kick off in England) to be told the score were not at all surprised – until they were told who had won.
Denmark’s World Cup was over, but it was not the end for their famous song. In 2010, the song was re-recorded by the Japanese pop group Vanilla Beans, who were known for their avid support of the Danish national team. But like the Danes’ World Cup adventure in South Africa in 2010, the best less said about this version the better.
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