Ahh, the Euros AKA the UEFA European Football Championships. If you don’t know what the bobbins it’s all about, read our Chrissy’s guide to Euro 2012 here.
For me, the Euros kicked off (LOLZ) my football obsession, way back when…
*cue shite dream sequence music*
It was June 1996 and Alan Shearer still had hair. I was still at high school. England were hosting the Euros and there was an audible buzz in the air – literally. I used to walk home of a balmy afternoon wearing my England shirt on match days and would get honked at by every car with a St George’s flag in the window. Which was all of them.
I’d started to really get into football that season, mainly cos everyone fancied up and coming young players like David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Jamie Redknapp. Unsurprisingly, most of the girls at school ‘supported’ Manchester United or Liverpool for these reasons.
I however, knew my allegiance was with the Arsenal, and it wasn’t for the hotties (Ray Parlour, anyone?), oh no. It was because my brothers had instilled it in me via Chinese burns and head locks to make it so.
Anyhow, I digress. My point being, that as 15 year old, I was just discovering football. It was exciting and new to me. I bought Panini sticker albums and memorised the names of the Arsenal squad, swapping my Bartram for Berkamp and learning when to shout abuse at the ref.
When club season finished for the year (with bloody Man U winning the Premiership), I thought it was over. That there’d be a football shaped void in my life for the summer.
Not so. This was the year when ‘football came home’ (official slogan, not just the title of a certain song), for it was the European Championships and England were hosts! Note: the Euros are not like the Eurovision Song contest where the winning country hosts next time round. Countries apply for the ‘honour’ and are selected by UEFA.
This was the time when Wembley Stadium was still the mighty Twin Towers, or the “cathedral of football” as Pele once called it. The Euro 96 final was held here, with the likes of Hillsborough, old Trafford and Anfield hosting the knockout rounds.
Des Lynam, Jimmy Hill and Alan Hansen were our TV pundits, whilst Mick Hucknall produced the official song with a young Gary and Phil Neville in the video.
The unofficial song was of course Three Lions with it’s slightly pessimistic attitude – which the tabloids echoed, following a pre-tournament game in Hong Kong when they snapped members of the England squad, particularly Paul Gascoigne in a dentist chair with spirits being poured down their throats.
But here’s my memories of the beautiful game that summer:
The Euro 96 England squad
As a 15 year old, I was pleased with Terry Venables’ England squad. There were a couple of relative fitties (don’t judge my questionable taste, I was an impressionable teenager, right?): Jamie Redknapp (who only ended up playing for about 40 minutes before breaking his ankle – ouch), Darren ‘sicknote’ Anderton – hellz, even Steve McMananam would have got it. Not so much Southgate, Platt or 21-year-old Robbie Fowler, mind.
We had David ‘safe hands’ Seaman from Arsenal (and the aforementioned Adams and Platt) plus Alan Shearer who was a bit of a goal scoring machine at the time. And probably already going bald, aged 25.
Look at ‘em all blasting out the national anthem (well, all except Neville) here – they all look about 12!
There were obviously many goals throughout Euro 96, but for me, the biggies were:
Gascoigne’s goal against Scotland.
It was EPIC. Receiving a curling pass, he looped the ball high over Colin Hendry’s head before volleying past Andy Goram to clinch a 2-0 win over the Scots. IN YOUR FACE!
The goal was followed by an equally iconic celebration, the Dentist’s chair, with Gazza lying on the ground as his teammates sprayed water from bottles into his open mouth. LOLZ.
Mind you, the Ally McCoist goal for Scotland against Switzerland was also immense, netting a spectacular long-range drive. Pow!
Alan Shearer was the top goal scorer in Euro 96, putting five into the back of the net in all. He also scored the fastest goal, with a header just three minutes in against Germany in the legendary semi final, but alas, Kuntz (by name and nature) equalised some 15 minutes later.
The Stuart Pearce penalty in a shoot out against Spain.
Basically, it was his first one after his miss in the 1990 World Cup semi-final and he looked pretty happy about it:
The small matter of penalties in the England Vs Germany semi final.
Let me come onto that next. Germany’s Möller could have easily had the surname Kunt. He scored the winning penalty and copied Gazza’s pose after converting his own penalty. He had earlier been booked for petulant behaviour and so missed the final.
England Vs Germany. Again.
A repeat of the 1990 World Cup semi-final between Germany and England. Shearer made his header after three minutes to give his side the lead but Kuntz equalised less than 15 minutes later and the score remained 1–1 after 90 minutes.
In extra-time, Gascoigne nearly scored the Golden Goal but missed it by mere inches, Darren Anderton hit the post and Kuntz had a goal disallowed for pushing.
Neither team could find that crucial second goal and so it went to those bastard penalties. Both sides scored their first five kicks but Gareth Southgate had penalty number six saved, and that villian Möller scored the winning goal. Bah!
Germany went on to beat the Czech Republic in the final, with the first ever Golden Goal.
Alas, England’s Euro 96 was over. They’d entered the tournament with low expectations, to be fair, but had engaged the country throughout. England played the best football that summer; and they were for sure the best team in the tournament. Despite failing to bring home the trophy, they were applauded off as heroes.
Look at the match build up to the semi final here, it’s amazing:
Being beaten by the Germans in the semi finals was a crying shame, in more ways than one.
Gazza, already infamous for weeping like a baby in the 1990 World Cup, also cried during Euro 1996 in the semi final against Germany.
As extra time was drawing to a close he lunged for a cross inside the six yard box. Essentially, if his feet were bigger, he would have got something on it and England would have won; but he missed by inches, and again England went out on penalties.
Southgate also cried for obvious reasons. For being crap. And probably more so after appearing in that SHIT Pizza Hut advert.
Three Lions – Skinner, Baddiel and Lightning Seeds
I don’t need to tell you about this song. You all know it. But imagine hearing it for the first time, back then, when England was swept up in football fever, and Brit Pop was at it’s peak.
Cast – Walk Away
The other song that remains synonymous with Euro 96, is unfortunately Cast’s Walk Away. When the Beeb used this to accompany the montage of England’s highs and ultimate lows after getting knocked out by Germany, I’m not ashamed to say I cried.
Oasis – Don’t Look Back in Anger
This was also used for a lot of sad face footage afterwards.
Relive England’s Euro 96 highs and lows with this excellent compilation video:
And as for Euro 2012?