It could be argued that Denmark’s second goal in their 2-0 win over West Germany in 1986 was the definitive move of that summer’s World Cup. Diego Maradona may have stolen the show with a couple of ridiculous strikes against England – one being his infamous ‘Hand of God’; the other a wonderful solo run that saw him beat five players and then slot past the goalkeeper – but neither of those efforts truly captured the times in a footballing or a stylistic sense.

Denmark V West Germany 1986 World Cup

Denmark’s second against West Germany did. It originated with a goal kick from an outfield player, which is something so rarely seen these days. What’s more, left-back Henrik Andersen didn’t just boot the ball downfield, but daintily chipped
it into midfield. That effortlessly graceful lobbed pass was followed by a nonchalant dribble up the pitch by its recipient, Soren Lerby, a provocative playmaker who wore his socks around his ankles and saw no need for shin pads. What is most noticeable, watching the goal now, is that Lerby didn’t come under any pressure whatsoever as he carried the play forward. He was able to take six touches and move over the halfway line into West Germany territory before encountering any sort of serious opposition.

When Lerby was finally faced with a defender, he simply laid off to the onrushing Jan Molby. Molby then sprayed the ball wide to the right-hand side, where Frank Arnesen was attacking. Arnesen looked up, spotted the run of John Eriksen, and found the striker with a first-time cross across the face of goal. Eriksen, evading both his marker and a desperate lunge from German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher, finished with aplomb.

From the lofted goal kick to the low-socked Lerby, the simple lay-offs and the lack of pressing, this goal screamed 1986. Tactically, it simply would not be possible today – the goal kick wouldn’t be on, and even if it was played Lerby would have been forced wide or back, or dispossessed. In fact, the move wouldn’t even get beyond halfway in this day and age, what with the increased emphasis on pressing. But it went all the way back then, and it did so in a typically Danish method.

Denmark 1986 Kit

That Denmark team were revered then, and they remain revered today. They are a cult team, perhaps one of the first ever international cult teams, and not just because of the way they played football. Their swagger and skill captured the
attention of neutrals, along with a unique, imaginative, impossible-to-ignore kit that encapsulated their manner.

The red and white colour scheme was nothing new or special, but the shirt design was utterly unlike anything seen before. There was so much – too much? – going on. It was half and half, with one half a solid block of red and the other a combination of red stripes on a white block. On each of the sleeves were red chevrons, pointing downwards. The collar was white with black trim. Words, frankly, don’t do it justice. Like Denmark’s second goal against West Germany, this kit just couldn’t happen today.

Yet, in spite of – or perhaps because of – the presence of so many strange shapes and the lack of consistency across the shirt, the design caught on. Hummel, who had come up with it, seemed intent on provoking a reaction. If this was indeed the case, they achieved their aim. In ‘Danish Dynamite’, Rob Smyth, Lars Eriksen and Mike Gibbons wrote that: “It is hard to tell whether the sportswear brand…tried to channel the team’s free-flowing aesthetics or simply got caught up in the moment, but the strip produced…transcended design and style.”

Denmark an Icon of the Era

Even now, Denmark’s 1986 shirt sits high on the shopping list of the average football nerd. It holds a special place in the hearts of fans, even those who have little to no real knowledge of Danish football history. The shirt has emphatically
withstood the test of time, thanks mainly to the players and results associated with it.

Denmark’s squad for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico was rather tasty. Well over half of the 22 selected to go to the tournament operated in Europe’s biggest leagues. Andersen played for Belgian giants Anderlecht alongside team captain Morten Olsen; Molby played for Liverpool, while John Sivebaek and Jesper Olsen represented Manchester United; Lerby was with Bayern Munich; Preben Elkjaer and Michael Laudrup were in Italy with Verona and Juventus respectively; Arnesen and Eriksen plied their trade in Dutch football for PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord.

Most observers were aware of these players’ talents before the tournament, having watched on as Denmark reached the semi-finals of 1984’s European Championship, thrashing Yugoslavia 5-0 along the way. So it was no surprise when Sepp Piontek’s side began their World Cup with a 1-0 win over Scotland. What was more surprising was that they followed that up with a 6-1 thumping of Uruguay and a 2-0 win over eventual runners-up West Germany. The Danes, with their iconic shirts and their sophisticated players, had topped their group.

In typically Denmark 1986 fashion, however, they would confound expectations even in elimination. Having grown perfectly into their ‘dark horse’ role, they were instantly hammered 5-1 by Spain in the first knockout round. As Smyth, Eriksen and Gibbons would later write, the result was “in the spirit of Danish Dynamite. This was a team who could win 6-1 one week and lose 5-1 the next.”

Hummel and Denmark Reunite for 2018 World Cup

Inspired by the extravagance and beauty of that Danish team, many English club sides would sign deals with Hummel to sponsor and design their kits. As a result, in the years that followed the 1986 World Cup teams such as Aston Villa and Southampton would be seen in the unique half and half shirts with the chevrons on the shoulders and sleeves. However, try as they might, these designs didn’t only lack the star quality of Denmark’s 1986 version – they also lacked the originality.

Hummel continued to produce and sponsor the Danish national team’s kit for many years, only to be replaced by Adidas in 2004. Within 12 years, however, the partnership with Hummel was revived. “We are very excited to have Hummel back as sponsor,” Danish Football Association Commercial Director Katja Moesgaard said. “The brand’s deep roots in Denmark and football culture conforms…with our wishes.” 

When Denmark go to this summer’s World Cup in Russia, they will do so with the familiar chevrons on their shirts. Even if only in a very small way, the legacy of their beloved 1986 squad, and the kit they wore, will live on.

This article was written by Blair Newwan for Soccer Box. With the 2018 World Cup fast approaching look out for the new Hummel Denmark 2018 Kit arriving into stock.