Matchday 1 – Saturday, 8th June 1996
GROUP A, Wembley Stadium, 76,567
ENGLAND (1) 1 (Shearer 24)
SWITZERLAND (0) 1 (Turkyilmaz pen 82)
ENGLAND: Seaman; Neville G, Adams, Pearce; Southgate, Ince; McManaman (Stone), Gascoigne (Platt), Anderton; Sheringham (Barmby), Shearer
SWITZERLAND: Pascolo; Jeanneret, Henchoz, Vega, Quentin; Sforza, Bonvin (Chapuisat), Vogel; Geiger (Koller), Grassi, Turkyilmaz
England kicked off the tournament after the opening ceremony. The country had been approaching the competition with great anticipation, yet a little concern as to whether it could hit the heights of the last international competition held here, back in 1966.
Terry Venables had taken over as manager from Graham Taylor after England failed to qualify for the USA ’94 World Cup. Two years of friendlies had seen him arrive at this stage knowing his first choice eleven. Future England boss, Gareth Southgate, had won his place in the team during this period and was making just his fifth appearance. Venables had introduced a ‘Christmas Tree’ formation with Southgate sitting just in front of the back three giving the option of dropping back into a traditional back four if necessary.
But the pre-match build-up wasn’t straightforward. Alan Shearer hadn’t scored for his country for 12 matches. The mercurial Paul Gascoigne continued to divide opinion, with some doubting he had a place in the team. Gazza was playing his football in Scotland at Rangers, and despite being Scottish Player of the Year, many down south questioned his fitness and dependability.
Switzerland had come into the tournament as group winners from qualification, in a group which contained Turkey and Sweden. Their qualifying campaign was masterminded by Roy Hodgson but by Euro 96 he had left to take over the reins at Inter. Former Portuguese international, Artur Jorge, was recruited from Benfica. He later went on to manage Portugal and Cameroon.
In front of an enthusiastic crowd, England looked to create things from the off. Pearce had a shot from well outside the area which went over. Pearce was again involved with McManaman on the left and the Liverpool man’s shot was pushed away by Pascolo. It fell to Gary Neville who fired a fierce shot from 30 yards which the keeper had to push over the bar.
24 minutes in and the host nation made the breakthrough. Ince, with options either side of him, cleverly threaded the ball through for Shearer on the right-hand side of the area. The Blackburn striker didn’t need a touch before firing an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.
One could feel a great sigh of relief permeate throughout the country as Shearer had broken his drought at the best time possible. Could it be?
Shearer had another chance soon after when he headed wide from Pearce’s left-wing cross. But then England had a scare as at the other end. Turkyilmaz skinned Pearce down the England left and got to the by-line. He played the ball across the six-yard box where Grassi ran in. He got ahead of Southgate and Neville and with Seaman out of position, somehow managed to hit the bar from five yards when it looked harder to miss.
Just before the break, Anderton floated a left-footed free-kick in from the right-wing to the far post. Sheringham was unmarked, but his header at the foot of the post was saved with his feet by Pascolo.
Leading at half-time, England then seemed to freeze in the second half. Grassi went close, Vogel had a shout for a penalty turned down. Chapuisat, then playing his football at Dortmund, came on as a substitute and fired over the bar from outside the area.
Adams then brought down Vogel right on the edge of the area. The resulting free-kick was hit straight at the wall but bounced back out to Vogel who hit a curling shot which just narrowly went the other side of Seaman’s left-hand post.
The visitors were knocking at the door. Then they received their reward. The ball was turned towards Grassi in the area by Southgate who didn’t deal with his header. At right-angles to the goal, Grassi hit it first time with his left foot. It hit Pearce’s arm which was above his head and the ref had no doubt it was a penalty. Turkyilmaz stepped up and sent Seaman the wrong way.
It was no more than Switzerland deserved and they were back level. Ince had a shot from outside the area which the keeper just parried wide. At the other end, Seaman did well to get down low to his near post to deny Grassi.
The game ended level and England certainly felt they’d made the mistake of not seeing off their opponents. The Swiss did well to come back into the game and the result seemed fair.