The biggest surprise of European Football

When you talk about Luxembourg, you surely refer to one of the weakest national teams in European football. Despite suffering heavy defeats in recent years, including 0-4 at home with Liechtenstein, a squad that has approximately the same value, Luxembourg had once great performances. In 1963 they missed by a whisker the qualification at the European Championship, held in Spain, one year later. That time, this kind of tournament had only four teams, and this small country only made it up to the last eight.

What happened exactly? From 11th of March 1934 until 8th of October 1961, Luxembourg lost all 15 matches that they have played. Most of them at big score margin. But that autumn day will remain in the national team’s history, because in the last game of the WC 1962 qualifiers, they won their first game ever: 4-2 with Portugal, a team which only five years later, would achieve an incredible 3rd place at the World Cup. This success lasted for about two years, as in this period Luxembourg did not play any other game. They would eventually play in September 1963 a first qualifying match for Euro 1964. But when Holland is the opponent of a team that has such a low value, you should know what the final result would be. It was scheduled to be played in two legs, but this didn’t seem to help Luxembourg, as both games where to take place in Holland: The first one in Amsterdam, in front of more than 36.000 people. Surprisingly, the hosts did not win, despite opening the score early, in the 5th minute. May would equalize for Luxembourg and so the show begun. Now, the two teams must play in the second leg, at Rotterdam, in late October. More than 40.000 fans came to see Holland qualify, and they did nothing else but to assist of one of the greatest surprises in the history of football: Luxembourg winning 2-1 and making it to the next stage of the competition, our as we can name it, the unofficial quarter finals. The hero’s name is Dimmer, the man who scored both goals in the 20th and 68th minute.

Camille Dimmer was born on 20th of April 1939 in Clervaux, a small town with less than 2.000 people. He only played 19 times for Luxembourg, but scored eight times, including those against Holland. As a profession he is engineer, but after leaving football he preferred to try a career in politics and so he was sitting in the Chamber of Deputies between 1989 and 1994. Also, an important fact is that between 1959 and 1960 he wore the shirt of Anderlecht Bruxelles. After retiring from political career he became honorary president of European Association of former parlamentarians, between 2008 and 2010!

So, thanks to this man, Luxembourg won the right to face Denmark in the course for a place at the final tournament. This national team was way better than our heroes from the beginning, but surely a bit weaker than Holland. So, everything could happen and so it did from the first minute. On Municipal Stadium from Luxembourg, nearly 7.000 people witnessed an incredible start from their favourites. Pilot opened the score from the first minute, but eventually the game ended in a draw, 3-3, after a hat-trick from Ole Madsen, de Danish striker. The second leg looked like as simple as it can be for the team from North, but Luxembourg didn’t want to exit the competition and so the game ended also with an equal, 2-2 this time, result settled by Schmit in the 84th minute. Madsen scored again all the opponents goals and so he gathered five strikes in two games. A play-off will be needed.

The match took place in Holland, at Amsterdam, a pitch that Luxembourg remembers with pleasure. But now, if they want more a victory is mandatory, because another draw just won’t help them. Only 5.700 spectators came to see a match that proved to be less spectacular than the previous two. In the end, Denmark made it through after a thick 1-0 victory. A single goal scored, of course, by the same Ole Madsen.

After five matches without losing, this defeat broke the moral of all the players from the little upper country. Their performance was fast forgotten after they ‘achieved’ 25 games in a row without winning and with only two 0-0. The next victory came in 1972, when they beat Turkey, 2-0, in the World Cup campaign. The result didn’t work this time like the one against Portugal in 1961. Luxembourg did not won another match until 1995 (!), when they beat Malta, 1-0. 84 games passed through all this time! But the result came in another period when this national team’s football quality was increasing. In that qualification round for the European Championship, Luxembourg also beat Czech Republic. With the same 1-0, which was a enormously victory if we realize, that after exactly one year (1996) the Czechs would became European vice-champions!

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