Matchday 7 – Saturday, 15th June 1996
When the draw was made all eyes pointed to this day in the schedule. England versus Scotland at Wembley. But on the morning of the game, the football stories were filled with news from the Dutch camp.
The Netherlands had been held to a goalless draw in their opening match against Scotland, but got their campaign off and running when they beat Switzerland on Thursday at Villa Park. But all was not well with the ‘Oranje’.
Manager Guus Hiddink made three changes to the side which took the field for the Scotland game. Squad captain, Danny Blind, was back in and Edgar Davids was consigned to the bench. After the game, Davids was quoted as saying of his manager, “Hiddink is too deep in the a**e of Blind”.
Davids was one of several players who’d been unhappy in the squad for a while. In fact, you could track it all the way back to the play-off win over Ireland which qualified the Dutch for this tournament. Ultimately, the row was all over money. The younger players were unhappy with how much they were paid compared to the more established names. Fortunately for the press, the majority of the younger players were black, Davids, Seedorf, Bogarde, Kluivert and Reiziger.
Then during the competition, a photograph emerged of the players have lunch in a garden. The black players were all sitting together. It’s since been explained this had more to do with the food being cooked that day, which appealed to those of Surinamese descent, and that they didn’t want the food spread across too many tables. A photographer managed to take a snap. The media created a storm by claiming there was a racist split in the camp. Hiddink tried to stop the photographer but only succeeded in being captured with his hands up, as if to emphasise his wish to hide the dissent.
With the tournament barely reaching the end of the first week, Davids was sent home.
Now the matter of the clash many had been waiting for.
GROUP A, Wembley, 76,864
SCOTLAND (0) 0
ENGLAND (0) 2 (Shearer 53, Gascoigne 79)
SCOTLAND: Goram; McKimmie, Calderwood, Hendry, McKinlay, Boyd; McCall, McAllister, Collins; Durie, Spencer
ENGLAND: Seaman; G Neville, Adams, Pearce; Southgate; McManaman, Gascoigne, Ince, Anderton; Shearer, Sheringham
England and Scotland used to play each other annually as part of the Home International Championships. This competition was disbanded in 1984 but the two football associations kept this fixture alive till 1989. Six years without the heavyweight clash had meant fans from both sides of the border were crying out for a repeat.
With both countries drawing their opening match, a win for vital. A draw wouldn’t be the end of things, but with England having to take on the Dutch in their final group match it would certainly be a better result for the Scots. Defeat for England would mean they’d probably have to beat the Dutch by three goals. Not an enticing concept.
The Scots had not won only won one of the previous eight meetings with their neighbours, and it was 15 years since they’d won at Wembley.
Scotland manager Craig Brown made two changes from the side which held the Netherlands to a draw. Scott Booth and Kevin Gallacher made way for Tosh McKinlay and John Spencer. The Scots side was a familiar one for the English, with five playing their football in the Premier League at the time.
England were unchanged. They had come in for some stick from the domestic media, especially Paul Gascoigne with many journalists questioning his fitness. But Gazza would not have wanted to have missed this game. He was a Rangers player at the time and would be up against Goram, Durie and McCall, who were all with him at Ibrox.
The first half was pretty cagey and tactical. Scotland had clearly looked to nullify England’s creativity in midfield by hitting long balls from the back. As the English defence dealt okay with these, they were unable to create many chances themselves.
One of the best chances fell to Sheringham. Shearer sent over a wonderful cross from the right-wing. Sheringham met it with his head but headed it down at Goram.
With the game goalless at half time, England made their move. With three at the back, Venables employed Southgate and Ince just in front. But neither was particularly creative and therefore despite Adams dealing well with the balls sent forward by Scotland, England just weren’t able to get Gascoigne, or the wide men, into the game.
The England management’s solution was to take Pearce off and bring on Jamie Redknapp. They moved Southgate back and the improvements were immediate. Now England had creativity. As soon as the ball was won at the back, Redknapp had the game to be able to bring in others. Also, he was able to intercept the ball and immediately change the play. McManaman and Neville in particular now came to the fore on the right. Gascoigne, too, was freed up to push forward and in one attack he was brought down on the edge of the area by Hendry. He took the free-kick himself but put it just over the bar. Two minutes later McManaman and Neville combined down the right, with the Liverpool winger cutting inside and sending his left-footed shot just wide.
The warning signs were glaringly clear to the Scots but they seemed helpless to do anything about it. Eight minutes into the second half the change bore fruit. Redknapp began the move, and McManaman and Neville were off again down the right. This time McManaman played Neville in near the byline, and his first time cross to the far post was headed in by Shearer.
Wembley erupted. Shearer, having gone 12 games goalless, now had two in two.
Up to the hour point, England had several opportunities to increase their lead. Goram pulling off one good save from Sheringham. But then the tide turned. The Scots had worked out their counter tactic.
Things seemed to turn when Neville’s weak back-pass put Seaman under pressure. He picked the ball up and referee rightly gave a free-kick in the area. The ball was down near the byline outside the six-yard area, reducing much of the danger. It was dealt with but the Scots were now galvanised.
Durie had a header which Seaman did well to claw away from the post. Then, Craig Brown finally brought on Ally McCoist. This gave England a further problem as he now provided a more potent threat than John Spencer had.
With less than 15 minutes to go the Scots had their reward. A long ball from the defence was played on to Durie in the area. He drew the challenge from Adams, who despite getting to the ball, brought down the Rangers striker. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. For the second game running England were looking at being pegged back by a spot-kick.
Dead-ball specialist, Gary McAllister, stepped up to level things. But his kick was saved by Seaman’s left elbow and the ball ballooned over the bar.
McAllister was distraught. He maintained the ball moved on the spot, but whether this affected his kick is unclear, but now it was England who were galvanised.
Three minutes after the penalty miss, Seaman kicked the ball downfield towards England’s left side. Anderton nodded it on and there was Gascoigne was now furthest forward. With Hendry to beat he chipped the Blackburn defender, ran around him and fired a right-footed shot past Goram.
It was probably, and possibly still is, the best goal scored by an England player at Wembley. Certainly, given the occasion and the moment in the game, it was pretty special. It had been a crazy three minutes with England seemingly being pegged back after leading, for the second game running. Yet now they were two goals clear and surely there was no way back for the Scots?
As the game drew to a close you could just start to hear the murmuring around the ground of ‘that song’. But more about that in days to come.
England had won, the country was now in tune with the tournament and one got the feeling the Euros had now come alive.
18th June 1996 – Scotland v Switzerland, England v the Netherlands
GROUP B, Elland Road, Leeds, 35,626
FRANCE (0) 1 (Djorkaeff 48)
SPAIN (0) 1 (Caminero 85)
FRANCE: Lama; Angloma (Roche), Blanc, Guerin (Thuram), Lizarazu; Desailly, Zidane, Deschamps, Karembeu; Loko (Dugarry), Djorkaeff
SPAIN: Zubizarreta; Lopez, Sergi, Abelardo, Alkorta, Otero (Kiko); Caminero, Amavisca, Hierro, Luis Enrique (Manjarin); Alfonso (Julio Salinas)
In keeping with the anticipation given to the England/Scotland game in the afternoon, the evening entertainment promised equal excitement.
This was a repeat of the 1984 Final which the French won on home soil. Spain were the perennial underachievers in international tournaments to this point. They started this match knowing defeat almost certainly see them out of the tournament. France had beaten Romania in their first match, yet the man who scored the goal, Dugarry, made way for Patrice Loko.
Spain made four changes. Pizzi was suspended after being sent off against Bulgaria. Also, out were Belsue, Amor and Guerrero. In came Lopez, Otero and Amavisca.
Early on Spain cut open the French defence as Alfonso set Caminero free. As he got into the area, Laurent Blanc appeared to trip him, but the referee was having none of it.
There was a tremendous atmosphere at Elland Road but both teams seemed to be gripped by hesitation in not wanting to commit themselves too much.
After a goalless first half, the game came alive early in the second period. The French stole the ball in midfield and Christian Karembeu, playing for Sampdoria at the time and latterly of Middlesbrough, chipped the ball to Djorkaeff. He took one touch and then slipped it past Zubizarretta for the opening goal.
Spain now had no option other than to go for broke. Defeat wouldn’t necessarily mean they were out but would have Romania in their final match and hope Bulgaria lose to the French.
Kiko, who’d come on for Otero, was closest but Amavisca also had a good chance. At the other Dugarry, who’d replaced Loko, tried to set up Djorkaeff but his header went wide.
Spain kept pressing and with just five minutes to go, received the reward for their efforts. Julio Salinas pulled the ball back across the goal and Caminero converted the chance to equalise.
Spain ended the game much the better side but couldn’t find a winner. In the end, a draw probably suited both sides, although Spain would feel they had the easier final match as they were up against Romania, who’d yet to score. If France and Bulgaria drew then we could have three teams finish on the same points
18th June 1996 – France v Bulgaria, Spain v Romania