Matchday 3 – Monday, 10th June 1996
GROUP A, Villa Park, Birmingham, 34,363
NETHERLANDS (0) 0
SCOTLAND (0) 0
NETHERLANDS: van der Sar; Reiziger, de Boer R (Winter), de Kock, Bogarde; Witschge (Cocu), Davids, Seedorf, Taument (Kluivert); Jordi, Bergkamp
SCOTLAND: Goram; McKimmie (Burley), Calderwood, Hendry, Boyd; Booth (Spencer), McCall, McAllister, Collins; Durie, Gallacher (McKinlay)
The second match in England’s group saw Scotland take on the Dutch. Both teams finished as runners-up in their qualifying groups, but Scotland’s record was better, so the Dutch had to overcome a play-off against the Republic of Ireland. In fact, the Dutch were only runners-up on a head-to-head advantage over Norway who finished on the same points.
But despite all that, the Dutch were favourites to progress with England from the group. After the opening day draw between the hosts and the Swiss, both these teams knew they could gain a crucial advantage in the group if they won.
The Dutch had the better of the early exchanges and almost scored as John Collins cleared the ball off the line after a goalmouth scramble. He was stood on the near post at a corner and replays showed he handled the ball. He admitted afterwards he believed the ball hit his hand, but his tongue seemed firmly in his cheek.
Not long after, Scotland had a free-kick just outside the area, left of centre. McAllister took it and his curling shot forced Van der Sar to make an important save as he tipped it over. The Netherlands then had a couple of chances to score but were again thwarted by some resolute defending from the Scots.
For most of the second half, the Scots continued to frustrate their opponents. The Dutch threw on Kluivert, but it was Seedorf who had the best chances both of which bounced over the bar. In the end, Scotland were the happier of the two camps with a goalless draw, and England were also pretty pleased. Their opening day stalemate had no longer handed an advantage to others.
GROUP B, St. James’ Park Newcastle, 23,323
ROMANIA (0) 0
FRANCE (1) 1 (Dugarry 25)
ROMANIA: Stelea; Petrescu (Filipescu), Selymes, Belodedici, Mihali; Munteanu, Popescu, Lupescu, Hagi; Lacatus (Illie), Raducioiu (Moldovan)
FRANCE: Lama; Di Meco (Lizarazu), Blanc, Desailly, Thuram; Guerin, Deschamps, Zidane (Roche); Karembeu, Dugarry (Loko), Djorkaeff
It must have been particularly frustrating for these two. They were in the same qualifying group and then once qualified, they found themselves playing each other again in the finals. The two meetings thus far had seen France win 3-1 in Bucharest and a goalless draw in Paris. Despite that, Romania won the group on account of the French drawing as many matches as they won. The French were on the rebuilding phase after failure to qualify for USA ’94, a tournament where Romania reached the Quarter-Finals.
A cagey game hinged on one moment in the first half. A poor clearance from Mihali was picked up by Djorkaeff in midfield. He crossed to the edge of the area looking for Dugarry. Despite the presence of two defenders and the ‘keeper, who for reasons best known to himself had come out that far, the French striker got his head to the ball first. The ball looped over the keeper and into the empty net. Had Stelea stayed at least six yards off his line, he’d have caught it.
The game contained two of Europe’s greatest players, Zidane and Hagi yet hardly reached the billing given to it in the preview.
Spain and Bulgaria had played out a draw on Saturday, so France had a real advantage as they joined Germany as the only teams to win so far