Matchday 8 – Sunday, 16th June 1996

GROUP C, Old Trafford, Manchester, 50,760

RUSSIA   (0)   0

GERMANY   (0)   3   (Sammer 56, Klinsmann 77, 90)  

RUSSIA: Kouba; Latal (Nemecek), Kadlec, Hornak, Suchoparek; Nemec, Poborsky, Nedved, Bejbl, Berger (Smicer); Kuka

GERMANY: Stelea; Tetradze, Kovtun, Bushmanov (Yanovski), Onopko; Kanchelskis, Karpin (Kiryakov), Mostovoi, Tsymbalar (Dobrovolski; Radimov, Kolyvanov

There was a definite feeling around the country that after yesterday this tournament had finally come alive. Today’s two matches would serve to emphasise this fact.

In Group C, Germany had been impressive in their opening match against the Czechs. Italy had found a way passed the Russians, without really looking good. But the Czechs win over the Italians now threw the group wide open. If the Russians could win this one all four teams would have three points going into the final round of matches.

German boss, Bertie Vogts, made three changes from their opening game. Jurgen Klinsmann and Oliver Bierhoff were brought back in up front, with Markus Babbel also starting after coming on as a sub against the Czech Republic. Klinsmann had been suspended for the Czech match but made his presence felt in this game.

Russian boss, Oleg Romantsev, also made three changes. In came Chelsea’s Dmitri Kharine in goal for Cherchesov. CSKA Moscow’s 20-year-old Dmitri Khokhlov came in for Karpin and Nikiforov replaced Bushmanov.

Russia had the best of the chances in the first half when Mostovoi was sent clean through by Dmitri Khokhlov but failed to convert the chance. Later on, Tsymbalar hit the post but the first half was goalless. It didn’t take long for the German to threaten in the second period. Mattias Sammer was looking continuously dangerous as a sweeper. Ten minutes after the break one of his forward runs paid dividends. Moller played him in and his first-time shot was initially saved by Kharine. But then the ball slipped free and Sammer was first to follow it up for the opening goal.

Yesterday had seen the goal of the tournament so far when Gascoigne scored against Scotland. A contender for the award then came in this match from Klinsmann. Bierhoff on the right played him in. Initially, with his back to goal, he was aware of Nikiforov standing off him slightly. This gave him time to turn, then slip the ball passed the Russian as if he wasn’t there. As he reached the edge of the area he just curled the ball with the outside of his right foot into the top corner. It was a classy goal, stunning in its simplicity and effectiveness. Klinsmann had become a popular figure during his season in England with Spurs. Anfield rose to admire his goal.

The game was effectively over as a contest, but there was still time for the Germans to emphasise the gulf in class. In stoppage time, Kuntz had been sent clear but still had Nikiforov to beat, deep in the Russian half.  He rode the challenge with ease, then played the ball square where Klinsmann was unmarked. He had time to calmly slide the ball past Kharine for an emphatic win.

Pos GROUP C P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Germany 2 2 0 0 5 0 5 6
2 Italy 2 1 0 1 3 2 1 3
3 Czech Republic 2 1 0 1 2 3 -1 3
4 Russia 2 0 0 2 1 5 -4 0

 

Remaining fixtures:

19th June – Russia v Czech Republic, Italy v Germany

 

GROUP D, Hillsborough, Sheffield, 33,671

CROATIA   (0)   3   (Suker pen 54, 90, Boban 81)

DENMARK   (0)   0  

CROATIA: Ladic; Stanic, Bilic, Stimac, Jerkan; Asanovic, Prosinecki (Mladenovic), Boban (Soldo), Jarni; Vlaovic (Jercevic), Suker

DENMARK: Schmeichel; Helveg (Laursen), Hogh, Schjonberg, Rieper; B Nielsen, M Laudrup, Thomsen; B Laudrup, Larsen (Tofting), Vilfort (Beck)

Croatia had won their opening match against Turkey thanks to a late goal from Goran Vlaovic. They made just one change for the game against the defending champions, Denmark. Vlaovic replaced Alen Boksic up front.

Denmark had been held by Portugal as they struggled to hold onto a one-goal lead. With Portugal subsequently beating Turkey, the Danes knew defeat tonight would virtually put paid to their hopes of retaining their title.

For this crucial match, they made two changes. Michael Schjonberg came in for Jens Risager, and Kim Vilfort was preferred up front to Mikkel Beck. Vilfort scored the second of Denmark’s goals in the final four years earlier. No country had ever retained a European Championship title. If they were to create history, they would need all the help they could get.

The first half was a tough stalemate, with both sides willing to exhibit their strength and toughness to force an opening. Croatia had the more attractive ideas with Boban, Suker and Asanovic particularly impressing. Suker fired one shot onto the roof of the net before Vlaovic was sent clear by Asanovic. But no goals at half time was certainly not an advert for what was to come.

Croatia soon picked up the pace in the second half as Asanovic ran right through Denmark down the left of the area. As he reached the byline he appeared to be tripped but the referee wasn’t convinced.

The beauty in the Croatians play was how their players seemed interchangeable. This was evident 10 minutes into the half when Suker was in a central midfield position. He picked up the ball in the centre-circle, looked to his right waiting for the right-back, Stanic, to make a run. He found him with a sumptuous ball hit with the outside of his left foot. As Schmeichel came out, Stanic got there first and the Danish keeper brought him down.

Suker stepped up and placed it beyond the Manchester United keeper’s right hand. Croatia lead 1-0.

Denmark brought Beck on, but it was Suker who was running the show. He won a corner from which Derby’s Igor Stimac hit the bar from six yards out. Croatia claimed it bounced down over the line but replays proved not to be the case.

Almost immediately the Danes were nearly back in it. A free-kick from the right was floated to the far post. The header came back across the goal and Brian Laudrup went in, under pressure from the ‘keeper, but only managed to turn the ball onto the post.

As the game moved into the final 10 minutes, Croatia’s superiority in midfield began to tell. Boban, Prosinecki and Asanovic were in complete command. As they knocked the ball around, moving the Danes where they wanted them, Boban made a surging run down the right, beating two men. His cross was partially cleared by Rieper, but only to Asanovic. He found Suker on the left-hand edge of the area and he brilliantly slipped Rieper.

Suker floated a lovely cross to the far post where Boban converted the chance and Croatia were 2-0 up.

The next 10 minutes were just a joy to watch. Jarni thumped the ball out of defence to the halfway line. Suker controlled it beautifully, turned and then saw Schmeichel off his line. He lofted the ball over the Danish keeper, who just managed to get back in time to save it on the line. It was typical of the Croatian confidence and the form Suker had been in.

Within minutes Suker was there again after a cross from the right, but his header went over. Brian Laudrup then forced a corner, which Croatia defended. In a show of ridiculous optimism, Schmeichel had gone up for the corner but with the ball still in play he was in a race to try and get back to his goal.

Asanovic had the ball in the right-back position. He played a long ball diagonally to Suker, again free wide on the left. Suker took it on to the left-hand edge of the area. Schmeichel came to narrow the angle and everyone wonder what the Croatian was going to do.

Audaciously, Suker chipped Schmeichel for the third goal. It was a special moment. One to rank alongside Gazza’s from the day before. Suker had made one of the best goalkeepers around look like a complete amateur. A Suker punch, perhaps?

It capped a wonderful performance from Suker and Croatia and they’d carved the European Champions apart. With Germany turning on the style in the afternoon, we now had two sides we were sure were contenders for the final placings.

Croatia had now confirmed qualification for the knock-out stages. Denmark weren’t out of it, as a victory over Turkey could see them through if Portugal couldn’t get at least a draw against Croatia.

Pos GROUP D P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Croatia 2 2 0 0 4 0 4 6
2 Portugal 2 1 1 0 2 1 1 4
3 Denmark 2 0 1 1 1 4 -3 1
4 Turkey 2 0 0 2 0 2 -2 0

 

Remaining fixtures:

19th June – Croatia v Portugal, Turkey v Denmark

That completed the second round of group matches. For the final round, both matches in each group would kick off simultaneously.

Here’s a summary of the groups as they stood;

Still to play:

18th June 1996 – Scotland v Switzerland, England v Netherlands

Pos GROUP A P W D L F A GD Pts
1 England 2 1 1 0 3 1 2 4
2 Netherlands 2 1 1 0 2 0 2 4
3 Scotland 2 0 1 1 0 2 -2 1
4 Switzerland 2 0 1 1 1 3 -2 1

 

Still to play:

18th June 1996 – France v Bulgaria, Spain v Romania

Pos GROUP B P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Bulgaria 2 1 1 0 2 1 1 4
2 France 2 1 1 0 2 1 1 4
3 Spain 2 0 2 0 2 2 0 2
4 Romania 2 0 0 2 0 2 -2 0

 

Still to play:

19th June – Russia v Czech Republic, Italy v Germany

Pos GROUP C P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Germany 2 2 0 0 5 0 5 6
2 Italy 2 1 0 1 3 2 1 3
3 Czech Republic 2 1 0 1 2 3 -1 3
4 Russia 2 0 0 2 1 5 -4 0

 

Still to play:

19th June – Croatia v Portugal, Turkey v Denmark

Pos GROUP D P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Croatia 2 2 0 0 4 0 4 6
2 Portugal 2 1 1 0 2 1 1 4
3 Denmark 2 0 1 1 1 4 -3 1
4 Turkey 2 0 0 2 0 2 -2 0

 

The tiebreaker rules which applied for this competition were;

  1. Head-to-head
  2. Goal difference
  3. Goals scored