Paul Gascoigne celebrates his goal against Scotland

The collapse of the Soviet Union, along with the break-up of Czechoslovakia and the former Yugoslavia, meant a record 47 countries competed in the qualifiers for Euro 96, which were expanded to feature 16 teams. 

At the finals, England were heavily backed by an enthusiastic Wembley crowd but felt the pressure in their opening game against Switzerland, and drew 1-1. They made amends in their next game, beating Scotland 2-0, with Scottish captain Gary McAllister missing a penalty and Paul Gascoigne scoring a memorable goal, flicking the ball over defender Colin Hendry before volleying home.

A draw between England and Holland in their final group game would have sent both sides through to the quarter-finals. Instead, England thrashed the Dutch 4-1 with a thrilling display as Holland squeezed through despite their defeat.

In Group B, France topped the group after seeing off old rivals Bulgaria in the decisive final game, winning 3-1. Bulgaria’s Hristo Stoichkov and another star of the 1994 World Cup, Gheorghe Hagi of Romania, failed to repeat their success of two years previously. The Romanians lost all three of their group games, while the Bulgarians were edged out of second place by Spain.

Major upset

Group C provided a major upset, with 1994 World Cup runners-up Italy crashing out despite beating Russia in their opening game. Their attacking frailties were exposed in a shock defeat by the Czech Republic which left Italy needing to beat group leaders Germany and hoping that Russia took points off the Czech Republic.

The Azzurri dominated against 10 men for the whole match but could not score. When Russia took the lead against the Czechs with five minutes remaining, it looked like Italy would still make the quarter-finals. But Vladimir Smicer’s last-minute goal sent the Czechs through instead.

In Group D, defending champions Denmark struggled, as did tournament first-timers Turkey. Instead, Croatia and Portugal impressed, both playing some sparkling football.

The knockout stages proved disappointing, with six of the nine matches ending in penalty shoot-outs.

In the quarter-finals, England and Spain drew at Wembley. Julio Salinas saw his goal incorrectly ruled offside for Spain before England won on spot-kicks.

Penalties were also needed to separate France and Holland after a goalless 120 minutes at Anfield. Clarence Seedorf missed the crucial penalty, leaving France skipper Laurent Blanc to convert his to set up a semi-final against the Czech Republic, who had beaten Portugal with Karel Poborsky’s lobbed goal.

The final quarter-final was the nastiest match of the tournament. Lenient refereeing allowed Croatia to kick Germany all over Old Trafford. Davor Suker scored a fine goal, but Germany survived the loss of Jurgen Klinsmann and Fredi Bobic through injury to score twice.

Lacklustre affair

The first semi-final was another lacklustre affair, with France and the Czech Republic both struggling to get a shot on target during 120 minutes before the Czechs won the shoot-out.

In the other semi, England took the lead at Wembley thanks to Alan Shearer, only for Germany to equalise through Stefan Kuntz. Gareth Southgate was the unfortunate England miscreant in the penalty shoot-out, sending a weak shot straight at Germany keeper Andy Kopke, leaving Andy Moller to fire home the winning penalty.

The Czechs almost sprang another surprise in the Final when Patrik Berger converted a second-half penalty. However, Germany substitute Oliver Bierhoff equalised after just four minutes on the pitch to take the match into extra time, where UEFA’s new “golden goal” rule came into play as Bierhoff struck again.

Jurgen Klinsmann lifts he trophy aloft

Jurgen Klinsmann lifts he trophy aloft

Finals tournament
(played in England)

Group A
England 1-1 Switzerland
Holland 0-0 Scotland
Switzerland 0-2 Holland
Scotland 0-2 England
Scotland 1-0 Switzerland
Holland 1-4 England

P W D L F A Pts
England 3 2 1 0 7 2 7
Holland 3 1 1 1 3 4 4
Scotland 3 1 1 1 1 2 4
Switzerland 3 0 1 2 1 4 1

Group B
Spain 1-1 Bulgaria
Romania 0-1 France
Bulgaria 1-0 Romania
France 1-1 Spain
France 3-1 Bulgaria
Romania 1-2 Spain

P W D L F A Pts
France 3 2 1 0 5 2 7
Spain 3 1 2 0 4 3 5
Bulgaria 3 1 1 1 3 4 4
Romania 3 0 0 3 1 4 0

Group C
Germany 2-0 Czech Republic
Italy 2-1 Russia
Czech Republic 2-1 Italy
Russia 0-3 Germany
Russia 3-3 Czech Republic
Italy 0-0 Germany

P W D L F A Pts
Germany 3 2 1 0 5 0 7
Czech Republic 3 1 1 1 5 6 4
Italy 3 1 1 1 3 3 4
Russia 3 0 1 2 4 8 1

Group D
Denmark 1-1 Portugal
Turkey 0-1 Croatia
Portugal 1-0 Turkey
Denmark 0-3 Croatia
Croatia 0-3 Portugal
Denmark 3-0 Turkey

P W D L F A Pts
Portugal 3 2 1 0 5 1 7
Croatia 3 2 0 1 4 3 6
Denmark 3 1 1 1 4 4 4
Turkey 3 0 0 3 0 5 0

England 0-0 Spain Spain aet (England won 4-2 on pens)
France 0-0 Holland aet (France won 5-4 on pens)
Germany 2-1 Croatia
Portugal 0-1 Czech Republic

France 0-0 Czech Republic aet (Czech Republic won 6-5 on pens)
England 1-1 Germany aet (Germany won 6-5 on pens)

June 30 – London

Germany 2 (Bierhoff 73, 95) Czech Republic 1 (Berger 59pen)

aet. Ref: Pairetto (Ita)

Att: 73,611