Matchday 5 – Thursday, 13th June 1996
GROUP B, St. James’ Park, Newcastle, 19,107
BULGARIA (1) 1 (Stoichkov 3)
ROMANIA (0) 0
BULGARIA: Mikhailov; Kishishev, Yankov, Tsvetanov, Ivanov; Balakov, Yordanov, Lechkov (Genchev); Kostadinov (Borimirov), Stoichkov, Penev (Sirakov)
ROMANIA: Stelea; Tetradze, Kovtun, Bushmanov (Yanovski), Onopko; Kanchelskis, Karpin (Kiryakov), Mostovoi, Tsymbalar (Dobrovolski; Radimov, Kolyvanov
After a day’s break, hostilities resumed up in Newcastle. Bulgaria and Romania, neither of whom won their opening match, were in action in the group also containing Spain and France.
Romania made just one change from the side which lost at the same ground to the French. Sabau came in for Mihali. Bulgaria made two changes from their draw with Spain. Out went Kiriakov and Hubchev, in came Tsvetanov and Yordanov.
Romania knew defeat would see them out of the tournament, and things couldn’t have started worse for them. Within three minutes of the start, Stoichkov burst through a defence resembling the Red Sea. He fired into the corner and Bulgaria were off and running.
After Stoichkov, Romania’s very own Superman, Hagi came to the party. His free-kick from about 35 yards out forced Mikhailov into punching it away for a corner. It was played short for Munteanu who blasted it from a similar distance. His shot was so fierce the Bulgarian ‘keeper stood no chance and it thundered off the underside of the bar and bounced out. Romania were adamant they’d scored. Replays proved them right but no goal-line technology in those days.
In the second half, Romania continued to press and Prodan was unlucky not to score with a diving header. Then in stoppage time the same player almost scored as his shot shaved the post after a goalmouth scramble.
But in the end, it wasn’t to be and Bulgaria hung on to claim their win. Romania were the first side out of the competition, despite being robbed of a goal.
GROUP A, Villa Park, Birmingham, 36,800
SWITZERLAND (0) 0
NETHERLANDS (0) 2 (Jordi 66, Bergkamp 79)
NETHERLANDS: van der Sar; Reiziger, de Boer R (Davids), Blind, Bogarde; Witschge, Winter, Seedorf (de Kock), Hoekstra; Jordi (Kluivert), Bergkamp
SWITZERLAND: Pascolo; Hottiger, Vega, Henchoz, Quentin; Jeanneret (Comisetti), Vogel, Sforza; Chapuisat, Grassi, Turkyilmaz
The Dutch were back at Villa Park, the scene of their frustrations against the Scots. Guus Hiddink made three changes with Taument, de Kock and Davids resigned to the bench. Hoekstra, Blind and Winter came in. The Swiss left out Bonvin and their captain, Geiger. In came Chapuisat and Everton’s Marc Hottiger.
The Swiss had earned an unexpected opening day draw against the hosts and with all four teams still on the same points, knew a win for any side in this next round was going to be crucial.
The first half was tight and goalless. Switzerland were unlucky not to get a decision their way when a break had Chapuisat surging forward. He turned inside Blind, who appeared to trip him. The referee waved play-on and the Dutch breathed a sigh of relief.
Early in the second half, the Swiss should’ve opened the scoring. A lovely passing move found them cut open the Dutch defence, as Grassi beat three and played Hottiger in. The Everton defender couldn’t keep his cool and blasted it way over.
It seemed to shake the Dutch into a response as de Boer played the ball over the defence for Bergkamp. He took it down but fired over too. The Netherlands then had another chance as Hoekstra’s left-wing cross was headed towards goal by Jordi Cruyff. He headed it down and it bounced over the ‘keeper but just as everyone was waiting for the net to bulge, Stephane Henchoz hooked it back off the line.
Midway through the half, the Dutch finally broke the deadlock. Pascolo came out to try and clear a corner, but only succeeded in passing it to Jordi on the edge of the area. He fired a left-footed shot beating the Swiss keeper on his near post. It was Jordi’s first-ever goal for the Dutch, and it was his country’s first goal of the tournament and their pressure had finally told.
As the Swiss pressed for an equaliser the game headed towards the final ten minutes. Van der Sar caught a ball in the area and rather than waste time letting the players all get back to their position, he booted it upfield. He’d spotted Bergkamp was up on his own with two defenders. Bergkamp had the pace of them and as he drew the keeper his first shot rebounded back off Pascolo, but his second found the net. The Dutch had won.
They now had control of the group and if England and Scotland drew in two days time, then they knew they were through to the next stage. The Swiss weren’t out of it, though. A draw at for the hosts again on Saturday would mean if they beat the Scots in their last game they might get through.
But things weren’t straightforward for the squad. Two days after this match Edgar Davids, who was dropped to the subs bench for the Swiss game, was sent home. He’d been very vocal about some of Hiddink’s decisions and the Dutch boss decided he’d had enough. Would they recover?