Kenny Dalglish is among those who have paid tribute to former Liverpool and England striker David Johnson, after he died at the age of 71.

The attacker, who lifted four top-flight titles and the European Cup three times during his time at Anfield, won eight caps for the Three Lions and scored six times.

A member of England's Euro 1980 squad, Johnson - nicknamed 'Doc' - was a part of the Liverpool squad that dominated football at home and abroad under Bob Paisley.

Dalglish, who lined up alongside the forward in their 1-0 victory over Real Madrid in the 1981 European Cup Final, honoured his late team-mate with a statement on social media.

"Sad news about The "Doc"," he wrote on Twitter. "David was a really good guy, [a] great team-mate and hugely popular in the dressing room. Our condolences [go out] to all his family."

Another former Reds team-mate, David Fairclough, also paid tribute, adding: "So sad to hear my great friend David Johnson has passed away today. [We] shared so many great moments and memories."

Liverpool themselves also posted a note of condolence, stating: "The thoughts of everyone at the club are with David’s family and friends at this very sad time."

Johnson, who started his career at Merseyside rivals Everton before a move to Ipswich Town, made his England debut in 1975 against Wales, scoring a brace in a 2-2 draw.

Five years later, he won his eighth and final cap in the Three Lions' Euro 1980 opener against Belgium, playing no further part in the tournament as his team fell short in Group 2.

Eric Dier is "grateful" to be back in the England squad for the World Cup after fearing he may never play for the Three Lions again following his Euro 2020 omission.

Tottenham defender Dier was a notable absentee from Gareth Southgate's side for the coronavirus-delayed European Championship in 2021, where England lost in the final to Italy on penalties.

The likes of Harry Maguire, John Stones, Kyle Walker, Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady were preferred at the back by Southgate, though Dier has returned to the fold for Qatar.

England face Iran in Monday's Group B opener and Dier acknowledged he thought the chance to represent his country at a major tournament may never come again.

"I'd be lying if I said that didn't cross my mind [that I might not be in England contention again]," the 28-year-old said. 

"When I missed out on the Euro 2020 squad that was one of the worst moments of my career.

"I'm grateful to be here now. I'm very proud of myself how I managed to fight my way back in."

Dier has been ever-present for Tottenham in the Premier League this season, pinpointing his "special" coach Antonio Conte as the reason for his upturn in form.

"Last season after Antonio Conte arrived that was some of the best football I've played – and it has carried into this season," he added.

"I'm enjoying every minute of working with him. He's a special manager."

The 32 nations competing at the 2022 World Cup face an unprecedented situation, with the world's elite leagues pausing for a mid-season break to allow their stars to compete for glory in the Middle East.

"It's a unique situation for us. In some ways it's quite nice. Maybe not for the coaches and managers - it's not ideal [for them]," Dier continued. 

"From a player's point of view, the quick turnaround is nice. We're here and just getting straight into it. I'm quite impatient. There are other aspects that aren't so great with injuries when they wouldn't usually have missed a tournament. I'm very excited to start."

Host nation Qatar has also come under widespread criticism amid concerns over their human rights record in a country where same-sex relationships are prohibited.

England manager Southgate, captain Harry Kane among a host of other senior figures competing at the World Cup have vowed to speak out, though Dier suggested players have been left in a difficult situation.

"It's extremely difficult for us as players. We know these topics are going to be addressed - it's a difficult situation," the centre-back said.

"When the World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2010, I was 16 at the time. It's difficult for me to talk on it. As players, we have no say on where we play.

"Those decisions are made by people way above us. We're the ones who end up sitting here having to answer these questions.

"I carry the values I've been given by my family and those who educated me. We've been here a very short time. For me, it's important to live this experience. At that point, I'll have a better idea of what to say on it.

"A lot of things that are disappointing have happened. As a team we carry values wherever we go – but we respect everywhere we go."

The UK and Ireland's joint bid to host Euro 2028 has been submitted to UEFA, with 14 venues under consideration to host games at the tournament.

Football associations of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland lodged an expression of interest in hosting the event in March, pledging to organise an "unrivalled" tournament.

Turkey, Italy and Russia have all previously professed their willingness to host the European Championships in either 2028 or 2032, with the latter of the trio doing so despite being banned from UEFA and FIFA competitions following the country's invasion of Ukraine.

Should the joint United Kingdom and Ireland bid triumph, games could be staged at nine stadiums in England, two in the Republic of Ireland, and one in each of the other three countries involved.

A joint statement from the five nations' football associations read: "The UK and Ireland bid to host UEFA Euro 2028 has today submitted our preliminary bid dossier – a key moment in UEFA's campaign process.

"The bid sets out our clear and compelling vision for UEFA Euro 2028: 'Football for all. Football for good. Football for the future'.

"Key to this vision is a commitment to diversity, social purpose and innovation in delivering an outstanding UEFA Euro 2028 that will create unforgettable memories in sold-out, iconic stadia in famous football cities known throughout the world.

"The UK and Ireland's track record of hosting successful major sporting events over many decades means we have the expertise and experience to take this world-class tournament to new heights.

"Our stadia concept includes a proposed shortlist of 14 venues in famous sporting cities known throughout the world, including destinations that are home to clubs with great European football history and heritage. 

"The plan ensures that all our proposed cities and stadia are connected by direct, quick and sustainable travel links and accommodation that will provide an unrivalled experience for teams and fans."

Villa Park, the London Stadium, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Wembley Stadium, the Etihad Stadium, St James' Park, the Stadium of Light, Old Trafford and Everton's planned new home are the nine English venues proposed by the associations.

They are joined on the shortlist by Croke Park, the AVIVA Stadium, Casement Park, Hampden Park and the Millennium Stadium.

The UK and Ireland initially explored the possibility of bidding to host the 2030 World Cup before switching focus in an effort to secure the UEFA competition.

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini is excited by the prospect of facing England in Euro 2024 qualifying, declaring "it will be nice to meet again".

England and Italy were drawn alongside Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta in a challenging qualification group on Sunday, from which the top two will qualify automatically for the tournament in Germany.

The duo met as recently as last month, when Giacomo Raspadori's goal condemned England to relegation from the top tier of the Nations League, while Mancini also led the Azzurri to victory over the Three Lions in last year's Euro 2020 final. 

England's dismal Nations League campaign meant they – alongside world champions France – were in pot two for the draw in Frankfurt.

Although Mancini claims he expected Italy to land one of those two giants, he remains content with the draw and is looking forward to meeting Gareth Southgate's men.

"I was sure we would have one between England and France, but that's okay too," Mancini told Rai Sport after the draw.

"It's a group of five, it's doable. But there won't be simple games, they'll all have to be played. 

"It will certainly be beautiful with England, with Southgate we know each other and if it continues like this we are pretty good, I don't know if he agrees. 

"By now this challenge is a classic and, although we faced each other 20 days ago, it will be nice to meet again."

While Italy have happy memories of their recent games against England, remaining unbeaten in their last six head-to-head meetings, the same cannot be said about another of their opponents.

North Macedonia clinched a stunning win over Italy in the World Cup play-offs in March, ensuring the Azzurri missed out on a second consecutive edition of the tournament.

Mancini is urging caution ahead of that reunion, adding: "It's one of those games that happen every now and then. As we saw in Palermo, all matches must be played, even the simplest ones."

The Azzurri boss was also pleased to be drawn alongside Ukraine, declaring: "There will be some emotion... but Ukraine is still a good national team."

Gareth Southgate declared England must improve on their poor record against Italy after the two nations were drawn together in a "tough" Euro 2024 qualification group.

The teams faced each other in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium last year, with Italy emerging victorious on penalties to win their first European Championship trophy since 1968 and deny England their first major title in 55 years.

The sides also met twice in the recent Nations League campaign, playing out a goalless draw at Molineux in June before Giacomo Raspadori gave Italy a 1-0 triumph in the return fixture at San Siro in September.

The Three Lions have not beaten Italy in six attempts since a 2-1 victory in 2012, and Southgate says that run needs to end.

"England's record against Italy generally is not very good," Southgate told Sky Sports. "So we've got to improve that.

"There's not too many surprises, they've changed the team a lot for all of those different matches.

"We know the quality they have, we know the depth that they have."

England and Italy have been drawn in Group C alongside Ukraine, Malta and North Macedonia, the latter of whom knocked the Azzurri out of the World Cup play-offs earlier this year, preventing the European champions from making it to Qatar.

Southgate acknowledged the overall difficulty of the group, adding: "It's clearly a tough draw, given the quality of the opposition.

"But we've had draws in qualification that have probably been a little bit more comfortable than that, although I'd have to say Poland and Hungary in the last qualifying group was particularly tough as well, so we're used to that.

"The draws are what they are, it's how you perform on the day."

England have the opportunity to gain a measure of revenge on Italy for their Euro 2020 final defeat after the two nations were drawn together in Euro 2024 qualifying.

Italy beat England 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Wembley in London on July 11, 2021 to win their first European Championship title since 1968.

Gareth Southgate's Three Lions had opened the scoring through Luke Shaw, but the Azzurri levelled via Leonardo Bonucci.

And spot-kick misses by Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka proved costly for England, who had hoped to win a first major title in 55 years.

The two will tussle again – twice – on the road to Germany 2024 after being drawn together in qualifying Group C in Sunday's ceremony, which was held in Frankfurt.

Nevertheless, both teams will still expect to reach the finals given the top two in each group progress to the tournament - joining them will be Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta.

It was North Macedonia who knocked Italy out of the World Cup qualifying play-offs earlier this year.

Group B is another standout after the Netherlands were drawn alongside reigning world champions France in a pool that also contains Republic of Ireland, Greece and Gibraltar.

Spain will be confident of plotting a way through Group A, which also contains Scotland, Norway, Georgia and Cyprus, though Belgium may face a slightly sterner examination after being grouped with Austria, Sweden, Azerbaijan and Estonia.

Qualifying is set to begin in March 2023 and conclude eight months later, with the winners and runners-up of each group going straight through to the tournament.

The remaining three teams will be decided in March 2024 via a play-off section, which will be made up of 12 group winners from the 2022-23 Nations League.

If a Nations League section winner has already qualified for Euro 2024, their play-off place will pass to the next best-ranked country from the same league.


Draw in full:

Group A: Spain, Scotland, Norway, Georgia, Cyprus
Group B: Netherlands, France, Republic of Ireland, Greece, Gibraltar
Group C: Italy, England, Ukraine, North Macedonia, Malta
Group D: Croatia, Wales, Armenia, Turkey, Latvia
Group E: Poland, Czech Republic, Albania, Faroe Islands, Moldova
Group F: Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Estonia
Group G: Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Lithuania
Group H: Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Northern Ireland, San Marino
Group I: Switzerland, Israel, Romania, Kosovo, Belarus, Andorra
Group J: Portugal, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Liechtenstein

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says the organisation will not repeat a pan-continental staging of the European Championship following Euro 2020, but has not ruled out further successful joint bids in the future.

Last year's rescheduled tournament, intended to celebrate its 60th anniversary, was beset by logistical difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2024 tournament will revert to a single nation host in Germany, but the 2028 edition could once again see multiple hosts, with a British Isles bid up against Turkey for duties.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Ceferin confirmed there will be no continent-spanning events in future, but he is not opposed to shared hosting between smaller neighbour nations.

"We are not considering such Euro tournaments in 10-11 countries, that was complicated enough," he stated. "With [the pandemic], it was even more complicated.

"With respect to sporting considerations, Switzerland played one game in Rome and then in Baku, and some teams played at home all the time.

"Those who did not travel and played at home ended up in the final. We don't like that concept at all.

"It was a good idea. It was the 60th anniversary of the Euros, some Pan-European friendship... These were the elements of that idea.

"I'm not saying that the idea was bad. But my feeling is that Euros should take place in one or two countries if we're talking about smaller countries."

Cristiano Ronaldo intends to continue with Portugal until Euro 2024, shutting down any notion the 2022 World Cup could be his last major international tournament.

The veteran attacker has struggled for form this season at club level with Manchester United, dropped by Erik ten Hag and mostly kept on the sidelines by a positive upturn in results.

But his place in Fernando Santos' Portugal squad has never been in doubt, with the 37-year-old leading his country in their Nations League matches with the Czech Republic and Spain this week.

Speaking at the Quinas de Ouro awards, where he was feted, Ronaldo revealed his ambitions to remain with the national set-up for another major tournament cycle, taking him through to the age of 39.

"I hope to be a part of the national team for a few more years," he stated. "I still have the motivation, and my ambition is high.

"My path here is not over. We have many quality youngsters. I will be at the World Cup, and I want to be at the European Championship, too.

"It has been a long road and I want to take the opportunity to say that the road is not over yet. You'll still have to put up with me for a little while longer!"

Ronaldo's only major honour at international level came at Euro 2016, albeit he missed most of the final victory over France following an injury.

Portugal will hope for a successful tournament in Qatar, where they are the top-seeded nation in Group H, alongside Uruguay, South Korea and Ghana.

UEFA has confirmed Russia will not be included in next month's qualifying draw for the 2024 European Championship.

Russia has been exiled by FIFA and UEFA following February's invasion of Ukraine, with the country's national teams and clubs banned from competing in any continental or international competitions.

UEFA confirmed ahead of the 2022-23 season that Russian clubs would be excluded from competing in their tournaments this season, although Euro 2024 was not mentioned in the previous update.

However, while confirming the procedure for the qualifying draw that will take place on October 9, UEFA has now confirmed Russia will not be among the 53 teams drawn.

"All Russian teams are currently suspended following the decision of the UEFA Executive Committee of February 28, 2022 which has further been confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on July 15, 2022. Russia is therefore not included in the UEFA European Football Championship 2022-24 qualifying draw," a statement read.

Germany, hosts of Euro 2024 and automatic qualifiers, will also not be in next month's draw, which will produce seven groups of five teams and three groups of six teams.

The 53 participating teams are seeded according to the overall 2022-23 Nations League rankings and divided into seven pots, with the 10 group winners and runners-up qualifying for the tournament.

Playoffs will decide the final three qualification spots for Euro 2024, which is scheduled to begin on June 14, 2024.

A senior German official has written to UEFA to request both Russia and Belarus are excluded from next month's qualifying draw for Euro 2024.

Following February's invasion of Ukraine, FIFA and UEFA issued a joint statement to confirm that Russia and Belarus, who are supporters of Vladimir Putin's regime, will be banned from competitions "until further notice".

That was followed up an update in May, where UEFA announced Russian clubs would be banned from continental competitions for the 2022-23 season, with Russia also excluded from the Women's Euros.

However, the European Championships in 2024, due to be held in Germany, were not mentioned in UEFA's most recent update.

That has led German federal minister of the interior Nancy Faeser, who oversees sport in her role, to write to UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin to call for both nations to be excluded from the qualifying draw, due to take place on October 9. UEFA did not comment on the matter but did confirm receipt of the letter.

German publication Der Spiegel carries reported quotes from the letter, which they say states: "Not only Russia, which is waging a war of aggression in violation of international law, but also Belarus as an essential supporter of the Russian leadership should be excluded from all international football matches and tournaments."

Faeser adds UEFA should include "the suspension of Russian and Belarusian officials from the influential bodies of international sports federations", as football must "live up to its responsible role and show a united stance against this form of disregard for human rights".

"All those responsible must be deprived of any possibility of sporting participation, influence or other representation."

The letter follows on from requests from Ukrainian Association of Football president Andriy Pavelko, who also requested Russia be excluded from next month's draw.

Ukrainian Association of Football president Andriy Pavelko has urged UEFA to omit Russia from qualifying for the 2024 European Championships.

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, UEFA and FIFA jointly decided that all Russian teams, both international and clubs, would be suspended from their competitions until further notice.

That ban continues into the 2022-23 season, but Russia will be able to play friendly matches, having arranged a controversial clash with Bosnia and Herzegovina on the eve of the World Cup in Qatar.

Bosnia have faced backlash for agreeing to that game, including from current players Miralem Pjanic and Edin Dzeko, with Pavelko also revealing he is doing "everything he can" to stop the game from going ahead.

In regard to qualifying for Euro 2024, the draw will be held on October 9 and Pavelko is determined for Russia to be excluded.

"UEFA's decision formally applies only to official competitions - therefore, it allows Russian football officials to negotiate the possible holding of friendly matches, but the Ukrainian Football Association immediately reacts to such attempts," he said in a statement.

"Recently we wrote letters to FIFA and UEFA with the demand to cancel the match between Russia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, scheduled for November 19.

"We also appealed to the association of Bosnia and Herzegovina, urging them to stand in solidarity with the entire civilised football world and refuse to participate in this match.

"There was also an appeal from our football legends to the players and coaches of the Bosnian national team to refuse to hold the match.

"An official decision has not yet been made regarding this game. But we are doing everything possible to prevent the match from taking place.

"We are taking similar actions in relation to the two friendly matches of the women's teams of Serbia U-17 and Russia U-17 in October.

"We are also currently making efforts at the UEFA level, the purpose of which is to prevent Russia from participating in the Euro 2024 selection draw, which is scheduled to take place on October 9 in Frankfurt.

"The aggressor country cannot be represented in competitions where the national teams of countries, unlike the Russian Federation, respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states who participate."

Pavelko added that Russia should remain "completely isolated on the international stage, including football" until they "stop committing crimes" and compensate Ukraine for damages.

Over seven decades on the throne, the Queen oversaw a number of major events – not least in the sporting world.

Sport was a significant feature of Her Majesty's 70-year reign, from attending events to handing over trophies, most famously in 1966 when England lifted the World Cup at Wembley.

Following the announcement of her passing on Thursday, Stats Perform looks at the major sporting events that coincided with prominent milestones throughout the Queen's reign.

 

The Queen's Coronation, 1953

Princess Elizabeth was officially crowned Queen on June 2, 1953, a year after the death of her father George VI. Aged just 25, her ascension to the throne took place amid a glittering ceremony at Westminster Abbey. In the sporting world, Alberto Ascari won the Formula One championship for a second successive year shortly after the historic moment. He remains one of only two Ferrari drivers to have won multiple titles, along with the great Michael Schumacher, while no Italian has triumphed since. This was also the year Ken Rosewall, one of the greatest tennis players of all time, won the first of his eight grand slam titles with victory at the Australian Open, aged just 18. Incredibly, the last of those major triumphs arrived 21 years after his maiden success at Wimbledon in 1974.

The Silver Jubilee, 1977

The Queen's Silver Jubilee marked the 25th anniversary of her accession and was celebrated by millions throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. Known for her love of horse racing, Her Majesty would no doubt have had a watching eye on that year's Grand National, won that year for an unprecedented third time by Red Rum – a record that stands to this day. A week on from that event, Tom Watson edged out Jack Nicklaus in a thrilling conclusion to the Masters, and he did likewise later in the year when coming out on top at The Open.

The Golden Jubilee, 2002

The Queen's 50-year anniversary on the throne coincided with a bumper year of sport, the highlight being the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan – the first time the football showpiece had been held outside of the Americas or Europe – which was won by Brazil for a fifth time. While the World Cup, Winter Olympics and Commonwealth Games garnered plenty of attention, that year's must-see one-off event was Lennox Lewis' heavyweight bout with Mike Tyson in Tennessee, with the Briton winning by knockout in the eighth round.

The Diamond Jubilee, 2012

The London Olympics was the biggest sporting event on home soil during the Queen's lifetime – bigger even than England's famous World Cup triumph of 1966 – and coincided with her Diamond Jubilee. The Games were a massive success, particularly for Great Britain, and proved one of many highlights in a remarkable sporting year. Europe produced one of the Ryder Cup's greatest ever comebacks in what is now known as 'The Miracle at Medinah', while Spain thrashed Italy 4-0 to win Euro 2012. Perhaps bigger than all that, though, was the news that Lance Armstrong had been banned from cycling for life and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after being found to have used performance-enhancing drugs over the course of his career.

The Sapphire Jubilee, 2017

Sixty-five years is a long time, with this Jubilee making the Queen the first British monarch to hit the Sapphire milestone. Sergio Garcia's wait for a first major would have felt just as long, the Spaniard claiming victory in a sudden-death play-off with Justin Rose at the Masters in what was his 74th major. The conclusion to that tournament provided drama aplenty, yet it was nothing compared to that year's Super Bowl as the New England Patriots recovered from a 28-3 deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in the largest comeback in the showpiece's history. It also remains the only Super Bowl to be decided in overtime.

Gareth Bale insisted Major League Soccer is "not a retirement league", and he hopes his move to Los Angeles FC will allow him to stay in contention for Wales at least until Euro 2024.

While his initial deal with LAFC is only a one-year agreement, it could be extended through to 2024, when Wales will be hoping to compete in the European Championship.

Bale left Real Madrid at the end of June after his contract was allowed to expire, with the forward – who was once the most expensive player of all time – enduring a difficult final few years at the Santiago Bernabeu.

His attitude and commitment to Madrid were often called into question by supporters, who routinely voiced their frustration towards him in recent years.

But Bale has continued to be worshipped by Wales supporters, and he more than played his part in helping them secure qualification to the World Cup for the first time since 1958 earlier this year.

Keeping himself fit ahead of Qatar 2022 is undoubtedly a key reason for the move to MLS, although Bale was eager to stress how he sees the potential for a long-term future in the United States.

While MLS has garnered a reputation for being a league where high-profile European players go to retire, Bale is adamant that is no longer the case.

"Like I said, this is a league that's really grown, that's come a long way in the last 10 years," he told reporters at his official presentation on Monday.

"Everyone's striving to improve the league, the players who come over see that as well. I don't think anyone sees it now as a retirement league, it's really a league that's physical, demanding; the weather changes are difficult, the travel is difficult.

"But it's exciting, and to play football in front of fans like these is what you play football for."

Bale's new club were only founded in 2014, debuting in MLS in 2018, but have since gone on to make a real impression on the sport in North America, even reaching the final of the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League.

Many were surprised by Bale's decision to head for the States given he reportedly had offers from English clubs and boyhood team Cardiff City, but he is convinced the European perception of MLS is outdated.

"I've watched MLS for a long time," he said. "Obviously the time difference makes it difficult, but whenever I could watch I'd try to catch it on the TV.

"The standard is really increasing, it's a lot better than people in Europe really think.

"The quality is improving, the league is improving, the stadiums are improving, the teams are improving.

"It's a league really on the rise. Yes, it's a new club, but it feels like it's been here forever. The job Larry [Freedman] and John [Thorrington, co-presidents] and rest of the team here have done to create such an amazing fanbase so quickly is remarkable.

"It's testament to how well the club is run, and I'm happy to be a part of it.

"To have my first training session today was amazing, the first step in hopefully a long journey."

Jack Grealish, Harry Kane and a host of other stars have congratulated England's Young Lions after they won the 2022 European Under-19 Championship.

Ian Foster's side came from behind against Israel in Friday's final in Slovakia to win 3-1 after extra-time, five years after their last triumph in the tournament.

Callum Doyle's second half finish cancelled out Oscar Gloch's opener, before young Aston Villa duo Carney Chukwuemeka and Aaron Ramsey sealed the deal in an extended final half-hour.

It marked the second comeback win on the trot after the Young Lions were forced to recover against Italy in their semi-final.

Their triumph however has been roundly celebrated by senior stars, including former Villa man Grealish, who broke through at Euro 2020 with England following his final season with the club.

"Get in there boys! [A] massive well done to everyone involved!" the Manchester City winger wrote on Twitter.

Three Lions captain Harry Kane also offered his congratulations, adding: "Brilliant lads. Well done and enjoy the celebrations."

Several members of the winning squad will harbour ambitions of breaking into the senior set-up in the coming years, with Mason Mount and Aaron Ramsdale among those who won in 2017 to have since become full England internationals.

They were the unlikeliest of all European champions and to this day remain the poster boys for all underdogs.

Denmark, the Euro 92 winners, gave hope to generations of teams that would follow them onto the big stage.

How could a nation with a population of a little over five million in 1992 sweep away the competition, when that competition looked so formidable?

Michel Platini's France squad boasted Papin, Cantona, Deschamps, Blanc and Boli; Germany had Klinsmann, Hassler, Moller and World Cup final match-winner Brehme; the Netherlands fielded Van Basten, Gullit, Rijkaard and a young Bergkamp.

Nobody was tipping Denmark, who were called into the tournament 10 days before it began after the expulsion of Yugoslavia, a decision taken by UEFA amid war in the Balkans.

Denmark have given hope to teams who logically should have none. This hope has often been outrageously misplaced. The notion that 'if Denmark can do it, so can we' is a fallacy. The Danes opened the door and fantasists walked through.

The 1992 Denmark team were a band of brothers who seized their unexpected opportunity, facing on-field and off-field challenges along the way. Thirty years since the June 26 final, we celebrate them.

HOW ON EARTH DID THEY DO IT?

There was little indication of what was to come when Denmark followed a 0-0 draw against England by losing 1-0 to hosts Sweden; however, a 2-1 victory over France in Malmo snapped the watching continent to attention.

Peter Schmeichel. John Jensen. Brian Laudrup. Kim Vilfort. Torben Piechnik. The football world knew about goalkeeper Schmeichel, a year into his Manchester United career, and Laudrup was Denmark's star outfielder. But many in their side were barely known outside Denmark. Twelve of their 20 still played in the Danish league.

Michael Laudrup was in international exile, after he and Brian quit the national team in late 1990, unimpressed with new coach Richard Moller Nielsen. Brian came back shortly before the Euros, but Barcelona forward Michael continued to give international football a swerve. Denmark got by without him.

"We were very fortunate that we were one group of people who felt like pioneers in Danish football," Schmeichel told UEFA.com. "We felt we had responsibility to break the waves and go against the tide and prove to everyone that we can compete."

He said it was a "myth" that the Danes had been summoned from the beach, not least because the Danish season was still in full swing.

It was "like a funeral" in the Denmark dressing room after the England stalemate, according to Schmeichel.

"But from that moment on we felt we were definitely in a position where we can compete in this tournament," he said.

SLAYING THE GIANTS

In an eight-team tournament, scraping through in second place from Group 1 meant the Danes went straight into a semi-final.

Getting the better of the Netherlands looked beyond Denmark, given the defending champions were so strong.

Both teams knew Germany were waiting in the final, having got the better of Sweden 3-2 in the first semi-final. The Netherlands had beaten Germany in the group stage, but their hopes of a second clash with Berti Vogts' side were to be shattered in Gothenburg.

Henrik Larsen's double either side of a Bergkamp strike almost gave the Danes victory in 90 minutes, but Frank Rijkaard grabbed a late leveller. When it came to penalties, Schmeichel's save from Marco van Basten made all the difference, every other player scoring from the spot as Kim Christofte sealed the shoot-out success.

In an interview at the FIFA Best awards in 2022, Schmeichel recalled how he had found inspiration in the national team from a young age.

"I have to go back to even 1984 when Denmark lost to Spain in the semi-finals of the Euros," Schmeichel said.

"I was in the generation that came after that and [took] the inspiration from that, and the understanding that even though we are from a small country with a limited number of people playing football, if you work hard and look for your luck, and we always produce skilful players, then there is an opportunity to create very, very good results."

Denmark were winning their battles on the pitch, but the most important struggle was being fought away from the spotlight, with Vilfort's young daughter Line battling leukaemia.

He missed the France game to be with his family in Copenhagen but returned to Sweden before the semi-final. A movie dramatisation of Denmark's great triumph that summer portrayed Line telling her father he should go back and join his team-mates.

Come the June 26 final against Germany, the Danes were not alone in thinking the improbable might just be possible.

At the Ullevi stadium, Germany began strongly but were caught out in the 18th minute when Jensen sent a sizzling strike past Bodo Illgner.

Schmeichel and his defence defied Germany, and in the 78th minute came a magical moment for Vilfort when he found space between Brehme and Thomas Helmer before sending a low left-footed shot in off the right post, sealing a 2-0 win.

Schmeichel said Denmark's achievement came "from not accepting we're a small country".

"If we get the right circumstances, we can go and do whatever job we want to do, so it's more a mentality thing," he said. "I think that, more than anything, was why we won the European Championship. It was magical and unexpected."

Coach Moller Nielsen later reflected on his sudden change of plans for June 1992.

Moller Nielsen, who died in 2014, was quoted by UEFA as saying: "I was supposed to fit a new kitchen [in my house] but then we were called away to play in Sweden. The kitchen is finished now. I got a professional decorator to do it."

From a hospital bed, Line Vilfort got to see her father lead Denmark to the country's greatest footballing success.

She died a few weeks later, at the age of seven. Dad was a national hero, but this would be the cruellest of final chapters in the story of these great Danes, a personal tragedy amid a summer-long national celebration.

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