Yesterday we had the drama of both Quarter-Final ties going to penalties. England and France emerged victorious and waited to see who they’d meet in the Semi-Finals. Here is what happened in the other two Quarter-Final ties.
Matchday 12 – Sunday, 23rd June 1996
Old Trafford, 43,412
GERMANY (0) 2 (Klinsmann pen 20, Sammer 59)
CROATIA (0) 1 (Suker 51)
GERMANY: Kopke; Sammer; Reuter, Babbel, Helmer, Ziege; Moller, Eilts, Scholl (Hassler), Bobic (Kuntz), Klinsmann (Freund)
CROATIA: Ladic; Stanic, Bilic, Jerkan, Stimac, Jarni; Boban, Jurcevic (Mladenovic), Asanovic; Suker, Vlaovic
After all the excitement of yesterday, the anticipation for today was palpable. Croatia caused an upset when they took reigning champions, Denmark, apart at Hillsborough. Their determination to rest players for the knockout stages meant they were well beaten by Portugal and thus finished second in the group. This gave them a trip to Old Trafford to take on Germany, who’d been runners-up to Denmark four years before.
Germany had eased through their group and were rewarded with a fourth-successive match at Manchester United’s home ground.
German coach, Bertie Vogts, made three changes from the side which drew 0-0 with Italy. Stefan Reuter was suspended after being sent off. Thomas Hassler and Thomas Strunz were on the bench. In came Markus Babbel, who’d started against Russia, and Mehmet Scholl who was making his first outing of the competition.
Ignoring the changes made for the Portugal game, as there were so many, Croatia made just one change from the Denmark game. Robert Prosinecki, who’d played against Portugal as well, was replaced by Nikola Jurcevic. Jurcevic played his football in Germany with Freiburg.
The Swedish referee dished out two yellow cards for German players in the first ten minutes. Sammer and Klinsmann.
Croatia then had a good chance when Vlaovic was put through. He had his head turned away from goal as the ball was played through. He had to wait for it to run for him and as he turned he put it wide.
20 minutes in and the Germans had a penalty. A ball was played through for Sammer to run onto it into the area. He managed to nod the ball past Jerkan but as the ball bounced up, the Croatian defender knocked it out of play. The referee was in no doubt and up stepped Klinsmann to put them in front. At last, we had a goal from open play in the Quarter-Finals.
Croatia were definitely finding space in midfield. One opportunity was created for himself by Boban, who shot from long range but it went narrowly over.
Then with six minutes until the break, Germany suffered a setback when Klinsmann had to go off injured. Steffen Freund came on and they had to rearrange things.
Despite their efforts, Croatia went into half time still losing 0-1. Germany were still yet to concede a goal in this tournament.
We only had to wait six minutes of the second half before that all changed. Freund was caught under pressure at the back and suddenly Suker was in. With the world still talking about his audacious chip over Schmeichel earlier in the tournament, the Croatian striker produced another moment of magic to have everyone talking again.
As he closed in on goal, he dummied Kopke by rolling the ball with his left to his right and then impudently passing the ball into the empty net. It was no more than they deserved and all of a sudden Germany looked vulnerable.
What a game we had now. But within minutes it all turned. A ball was played forward to Scholl on the halfway line and Igor Stimac came in to challenge him from behind. It was a rash challenge and the Derby County defender was already on a yellow card. The referee had little choice but to send him off.
Three minutes later there was a further setback for the Croatians. Moller played Babbel in down the right. His challenge with Jerkan annoyed the Croatians as the defender fell to the ground. Babbel then crossed to the penalty spot where Sammer had run from the back. He won the challenge in the air and then fired the ball home to put the Germans back in front.
Croatia had a good chance to equalise in the final few minutes. Jarni crossed from the left to the far post. Suker got free but headed straight at Kopke.
In the end, Germany won 2-1 in normal time and were through to a mouth-watering Semi-Final against England at Wembley.
Villa Park, 26,832
CZECH REPUBLIC (0) 1 (Poborsky 53)
PORTUGAL (0) 0
CZECH REP: Kouba; Latal, Suchoparek, Kadlec, Hornak, Nemec; Nemecek (Berger), Bejbl; Poborsky, Kuka, Smicer (Kubik)
PORTUGAL: Baia; Secretario, Couto, Helder, Dimas; Oceano (Folha), Sousa, Costa, Figo (Cadete); Joao Pinto, Sa Pinto (Domingos)
In the last Quarter-Final Group D winners Portugal were up against one of the surprise packages of the tournament, the Czech Republic. The Czechs had beaten Italy but were then staring at elimination when they’d let a 2-0 lead slip against Russia. That was until a late from Vladimir Smicer. Playing his football at the time for Slavia Prague, Smicer was rewarded with a place in the starting line-up for this game. Only his fifth appearance for his country. He was playing instead of Nedved, who was suspended. The skipper, Vaclav Nemecek was back as well as Miroslav Kadlec, having missed the Russia match.
Portugal were unchanged. They won their group after beating a weakened Croatian side. The winners of this game would take on France in the Semis.
Portugal made much of the running in the early stages. The two up front, Sa Pinto and Joao Pinto were causing problems with their movement. Sa Pinto forced a good save from Kouba.
Gradually, the Czechs came back into it. The game was played at a decent pace, frantic at times. Then with around ten minutes to go to the break, Sa Pinto was booked. He would, therefore, miss the Semi, if they got there.
There were no goals at half time. Although there was plenty going on, the game had lacked a quality chance. Perhaps it would need a moment of magic to bring the game fully to life.
Both sides made changes at the break. Kubik came on for Smicer, whereas Domingos replaced Sa Pinto. The reasoning was obviously if they were going to be without him in the Semis, they may as well do without him to try and get there.
That bit of magic? Well, we only had to wait eight minutes for it. It was the goal which launched a career. Karel Poborsky picked the ball up in midfield. He got lucky with a tackle which rebounded back to him and he was clear. Running into the area he reached the edge, and without looking at the ‘keeper, he simply scooped the ball up and over Baia. It was the most audacious lob. It became his trademark and was one of the goals of the tournament. On the back of that goal, he earned a move to Manchester United straight after the tournament, but only last one and half seasons.
The whole ground rose to recognise the goal and suddenly the game had that little of class the game had been lacking.
The Czechs continued attacking rather than go completely defensive. But Portugal weren’t giving up, and remained a threat.
But, then with eight minutes to go, the Czechs’ right-wing-back received a second yellow card. He lunged into a challenge on Dimas and got his marching orders. He would miss the Semi-Final.
With five minutes to go the Portuguese had a great chance. Folha, who’d come on for Oceano, got to the bye-line down the left. He crossed into the area and another substitute, Jorge Cadete got his head to the ball first. His run gave him the best opportunity to get a good contact on the ball to take it in. But it went wide.
Generally, the Czechs coped well with whatever the Portuguese had to offer and in the end that Poborsky goal was enough to win it.
The Czech Republic were through to the Semis to meet France.
We now had our Semi-Final line-up.
Wednesday 26th June 1996
France v Czech Republic, Old Trafford
England v Germany, Wembley