EURO '96 was built upon a summer of expectation for the England football team and when football came home. England had a team containing the likes of Shearer, McManaman and Gazza and the country waited with baited breath.

 

 

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England started their tournament against Switzerland and the country sang its heart out to get the team the result they so desperately wanted. England were on the road to victory, after Shearer had scored in the first half, but they were pinned back by conceding a late penalty after handball was given against Stuart Pearce. This disappointing start to the tournament seems to get forgotten in the games, and excitement, that followed.

 

Next up were the Scots and the auld enemy were desperate to spoil the hosts’ summer party. The game will be remembered for many things, the passion, the atmosphere, but probably two defining moments in the game are etched into people’s minds. After Shearer had given England the lead in the 2nd half the Scots were awarded a penalty after Tony Adams felled Gordon Durie in the penalty area. Gary McAllister stepped up to the spot kick, and even though it was on target and travelling at a fair rate of knots, it was too close to David Seaman and he stuck out his left arm and the ball was deflected over. These are the sort of moments that stick with fans and players for the rest of their lives. What happened soon after has gone down in England hearts as one of the greatest England goals. The goal has been described many times but the sight of Paul Gascoigne chipping the ball over Colin Henry and firing into the bottom corner of the goal is a sight all England fans never get sick of. Two nil and the game was over. 

 

Next up for England were the Dutch and the country was buzzing with anticipation. The Dutch were well fancied but what was to follow surprised many a pundit and fan alike.  A draw would have allowed both teams to progress through to the next round but with an expectant crowd England turned on the style. Shearer scored a first half penalty to open the scoring, but it was the 11 minute spell in the second half that blew the Dutch away.  Sheringham found the net after 51 minutes, then Shearer added a third on 57 minutes, then Sheringham again on 62 minutes. Wembley was in full swing and even though Kluivert pulled a goal back (which ultimately put the Dutch through at the expense of the plucky Scots) the vast majority of the crowd were overjoyed with what they had just witnessed.

 
Paul Gazza Gascoigne Euro 96

So, then came the Spanish. The visitors to a patriotic Wembley started the better of the two teams and were denied by the offside flag on two occasions. They also had a one on one that David Seaman did well to save with his legs after Javier Manjarin was clean through. England tightened up after the interval and came back into the game, and on 73 minutes Paul Gascoigne delivered a cross that somehow Shearer put over the bar. The end of 90 minutes and stoppage time, and the hunt for a golden goal. The two teams played out the half hour of extra time and no real chances were created. Penalties!! Spain missed their first after Fernando Hierro smashed his spot kick against the woodwork. England converted their first 4 spot kicks through Shearer, Platt, Pearce and Gascoigne. Then up stepped Nadal, and with the country on the edge of its seat, he hit the target but Seaman guessed right and pushed the spot kick away. England delight, Spain despair, and a meeting with the Germans in the semi finals. Nothing was stopping England now! Or was it?

 

 

The game took place on the 26th June 1996 at a packed Wembley stadium. The game started at a ferocious pace and England took the lead through Alan Shearer after only 3 minutes, the supporters started to dream about the final. The Germans however were not reading the same script and levelled through Kuntz after 16 minutes. The game thereafter ebbed and flowed.

 

The match reached 90 minutes with no further score and into extra time. Darren Anderton was having a good game, and he nearly turned it into an unforgettable one when his right footed strike bounced back off the post. And we all remember Gazza’s lunge! So close, yet so far, and to penalties it went. England converted their first 5 penalties, all of which were answered by the Germans, into sudden death it went! A high class shoot-out indeed, but someone had to miss eventually and unfortunately for England Gareth Southgate was that man, Andreas Moller did the rest and the German’s were into the final.

 

England were out and the nation heartbroken, what an opportunity gone.

 

Stuart Pearce Euro 96The final was a cagey affair between Germany and Czech Republic (their second encounter of the tournament) on the 30th June. The Czech’s threw a spanner in the works by scoring first through a Patrick Berger penalty on 59 minutes. Germany levelled on 73 minutes through Oliver Bierhoff and the game stayed like that until full time. Extra time and golden goal. The goal that won the game wasn’t long in the making and a turn and shot from Bierhoff was parried into his own net by Petr Kouba. He stood there in horror as the ball trickled in off the post and the white shirts of Germany started to celebrate their win.

 

The tournament was over but it had blessed us with a roller coaster of a ride and plenty of memories.

 

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