Written by Daz
Ahead of Saturday’s opening ceremony, I thought it would be fun to look back at some past EURO Tournaments, mainly just so that this blog gets to say something about England losing on penalties…so today we start with:
EURO 96 – “It’s coming home…”
Euro ’96 marked England’s return from the wilderness, the team having failed to qualify for the World Cup in 1994 in the USA and having been embarrassed at the 1992 Euro Championships where they finished bottom of their group. The nation now boasting full seater stadia after the Taylor Report following the Hillsborough Disaster was well versed to hold the newly expanded 16 team tournament and the English nation hoped against hope for another performance like World Cup 1990 where England were beaten semi-finalists. The tournament was also notable for some other reasons – it marked the first appearance at a major tournament of Croatia after the collapse of Yugoslavia, the Czech Republic after the dissolution of old Czechoslovakia, and it also saw the first appearance of Russia after the separation of the Soviet Union. The Tournament also introduced the “Golden Goal” rule which meant a goal scored in any period of extra time during the knock out stages would end the game.
The list of participating teams were:
The official England song was by Simply Red called “We’re in this together” but this was instantly eclipsed by another song released by comedians David Baddiel & Frank Skinner and Liverpool based indie band The Lightning Seeds called “Three Lions”, it became the song sang from the terraces and was so catchy that years later, the Germans even nicked it for their team, albeit slightly changed lyrically!
Group A had thrown up a tantalizing clash between England & Scotland and with the Dutch in the mix too, it seemed the Home Nation were in for a tough ride. England’s opening game was against the group underdogs Switzerland and amidst a sprawling show of patriotism and Knights and Dragons, the England team limped to an uninspired 1:1 draw. The Dutch quickly took control of the group and England were left with the possibility that if suffering a loss to the Scots in the next game it would leave them staring down the barrel of being knocked out at the first hurdle if Scotland triumphed over Switzerland and England failed to beat Holland. In a tense game, England triumphed 2:0 with a piece of magic from Paul Gascoigne for the second goal being one of the tournament high points. In the final game between Netherlands & England, it was expected that England would struggle against a Dutch side teeming with young talent but incredibly inspired by a rejuvenated Gascoigne and a strike partnership of Alan Shearer and Teddy Sherringham, the Dutch were destroyed 4:1, both teams progressed despite Holland’s defeat with Scotland missing out by the narrowest of margins after a victory over the Swiss wasn’t quite enough and they were eliminated on goals scored.
Elsewhere, Germany and tournament surprise package Czech Republic escaped from the “Group of Death” at Italy’s expense, Spain and France progressed with out too much trouble with Portugal and Croatia making up the Quarter Finals line up. The QFs’ were:
England v Spain
Germany v Croatia
Holland v France
Czech Republic v Portugal
England and France advanced thanks to nervous penalty shoot-outs with England keeper David Seaman the hero and France also re-establishing their footballing credentials after their World Cup 94 qualifying failure. In the games with goals, Germany triumphed 2:1 against a plucky Croatian side whilst Czech Republic shocked Portugal 1:0. France faced the Czech’s and were knocked out in a penalty shoot-out. The other semi-Final threw up a game that had not only the home nation fans but most neutrals salivating – England v Germany in a re-match of the 1990 World Cup Semi Final. It was also ironic as England had played West Germany in the Final the last time a major football tournament had been played on it’s shores in 1966 with a thrilling final triumph for the English and a famous footballing by-line from commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme consigned to history. England expected this would be revenge, fate seemed to be on their side. However despite a supreme effort from both sides they could once more not be separated and the score was 1:1, extra time ensued and penalties loomed, it was a repeat of the 1990 semi-final. Both teams struck home their initial 5 penalties with a perfect strike rate and England encouraged by their Quarter Final victory over Spain and inspired penalty saver David Seaman dared to hope this would be their time but as the German machine slotted away it’s 6th penalty, it was left to the odd choice of Defender Gareth Southgate to step up and his weak penalty was easily saved to give Germany the victory. Southgate would later be involved in a mocking Pizza Hut advert with Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle who had missed the penalties in England’s 1990 defeat, it would not be the last time the phrase “England lose on penalties” would be used in years to come. Some England fans did not take defeat well and fueled by disappointment and alcohol there were scenes of trouble and minor riots across the country, sadly the English football thug had not been knocked out with it’s team.
The Final threw up a David v Goliath contest between Germany and Czech Republic which looked a forgone conclusion, however Germany had been in a similar situation before in the 1992 final against Denmark and had been defeated and so the Germans took nothing for granted. The Czech’s took the lead through a Patrik Berger penalty before Oliver Bierhoff equalized for the Germans. The game headed into extra time and ended with heartbreak for the Czech’s as Bierhoff took advantage of a mistake by Czech keeper Petr Kouba to net the first ever Golden Goal winner and give the prize to the Germans.
So Germany claimed their first victory since the re-unification of East and West, no doubt they had already put down their towel to reserve the space the trophy occupied the night before the tournament had actually begun. England’s “Three Lions” song sang about “30 years of hurt…”, the hurt would continue.