Usually the closest countries share the most intense rivalries- India, Pakistan; Chile-Peru. Denmark and Sweden is another example that fits very well in this category.

Øresund or what is often called The Sound in English, is the strait that separates the Danish island Zealand from the southern Swedish province of Scania.

Denmark and Sweden have been competing culturally for a very long time now. Politically as well, between the 15th and 17th century, the two were at war whenever they got a chance. It was almost always a case of the newly crowned king trying to show his mettle and attacking the opposite country for the most illogical, or no reason.

Ever since the first match in 1913, Denmark and Sweden have shared an intense football rivalry, which is illustrated through the support the matches get. The heat and intensity of this fixture often also lies in its ‘dormant state’ due to the two sides seldom facing against each other at international tournaments.

During the time of the two World Wars, sport was used to ignite feelings of camaraderie between the two countries. The Wars were not directly being contested between the two and hence, ‘Nordic brotherhood’ was what the leaders of the two countries started propagating. The presence of the royal families and the two kings during matches gave football more significance nationally.  After the Wars, the National Olympic Committee and Sports Confederation of Denmark (DIF) wanted to make sure that  traditional sporting relations between the two were re-established to ‘show the sport’s new face’.  There seemed to be more peace between the two nations, and there was a sense of Nordic reunity.  But only in badminton and single field handball, were the Danes able to pick a favourable result against their neighbours. That was not enough. The brotherly feeling from Denmark’s side towards their neighbours started ceasing as Swedes started defeating the Danes in the football field. From 1945 to the London Olympics in 1948, the Swedes managed to defeat Denmark 5 times, with the latter getting just one draw and one win .

Denmark and Sweden don’t usually meet one another in big matches, so the rivalry remains a somewhat dormant. When they do, it is usually a Classic Clash.

On 2nd June 2007, the two sides faced each other in Group F’s qualifying fixture for Euro 2008, at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, Denmark. This was the first time the two took on each other at a qualifier (However, they had previously played in Euro Group matches). Sweden went ahead in the seventh minute of the game, courtesy Johan Elmander. In the 23rd minute, the visitors doubled their lead after Petter Hansson sent in a free-kick right from the edge of the penalty box. Just three minutes later, Elmander doubled his score tally and the then Toulouse player put Sweden in a comfortable 3-0 lead. It seemed like the home team would get humiliated but minutes later, former Liverpool defender Daniel Agger became the unlikely goalscorer for his side. Sweden went into the interval with a two goal advantage. In the second half, Denmark started dominating and there was belief that they could get something out of the game. In the 62nd minute, Jon Dahl Tomasson scored and the Danes were on their way to do doing an Istanbul! 13 minutes later, substitute  Leon Andreasen sent the ball in from outside of the box and his long age effort rattled the back of the net. Denmark had remarkably made a comeback.

In the 89th minute,  Denmark’s Christian Poulsen and Sweden striker Markus Rosenberg were involved in a tussle in the penalty area. Poulsen punched Rosenberg in the stomach in the penalty area. He was shown a straight red and Sweden were awarded a penalty by referee Herbert Fandel. The drama of the game was too much for an enraged Danish fan, who ran onto the pitch to confront the referee. He attempted to attack the referee by grabbing his neck. Thankfully, Danish defender Michael Gravgaard jumped in and resolved the situation.

The match was abandoned and an investigation by the UEFA Disciplinary Committee upon receipt of the referee and delegate reports was to follow. Shortly after,  Sweden was awarded a 3–0 victory

The unidentified fan (who attacked the referee) said after the game,

“It was incredibly stupid of me. I want to apologize to Denmark, Sweden and the referee for my inhuman behavior. People in Denmark hate me, but I have no feeling yet what the reaction in Sweden is, other than they of course believe I am an idiot.”

Later, he confirmed being intoxicated while committing the act, explaining that he had drunk between 15-18 beers on the day of the match. He even said that he didn’t remember attacking the coach.

Some sections of the police and political authority, who were infuriated by Poulsen’s behaviour, asked for the player to be imprisoned! Eventually, he was given a three match ban. The midfielder was full of remorse after the game, as he knew that it was his act of momentary madness. that cost Denmark the game.  He said:

I was involved in a tussle with the Swedish player, who I felt had provoked me twice. I saw red and I hit him, I would like to apologise to my team-mates and the general public. It’s the most stupid thing I’ve ever done.

Denmark coach Morten Olsen was visibly left aghast after probably the craziest 89 minutes of football he was ever part of. He called it ‘Black Day’ of Danish football.

It was a black day for Danish football. I’ve spoken with the players who caused the affair. Christian Poulsen wasn’t the only one to blame for the episode but that doesn’t excuse what Christian did. 

UEFA went on to impose a 100.000 Swiss francs ($81,679) fine Denmark, who were also punished to play their next four home matches more than 250 kilometers from Copenhagen, with the next one against Liechtenstein, behind closed doors.

Top Image Courtesy politiken.dk

References: The Politics of the Male Body in Global Sport: The Danish Involvement