#FlashbackFriday - Euro '96:
Football Came Home, but the Henri Delauney trophy left with the Germans
England’s rehabilitation amidst the international football community had made great strides by 1992. Back in European club competition and hosting the 1992 European Cup Final, the FA felt emboldened enough to formulate a bid for both the 1998 World Cup Finals, as well as the 1996 European Championships. In order to attain support for the latter among UEFA members, the FA decided to pull out of the former. On May 5th 1992, UEFA announced that England were chosen as the host nation for Euro ’96, for what was initially supposed to be an eight team tournament. Incidents involving England fans at Euro ’92 raised fears that the hosting of Euro ’96 may be in peril, however the finals tournament in England would still proceed four years on.
After failing to qualify for the USA ‘94 World Cup, England may have been relieved to be spared the qualification process for
Euro ’96, especially as it would be the first Championship since the fall of the Soviet Union and the break-up of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, meaning that the number of entrants to the competition rose by eleven competing sides. It would also be the first where three points would be awarded for a win instead of two. The number of qualifiers to the Finals however would expand to sixteen, meaning that for the first time group runners up would qualify for the Finals.
Among the home nations that would qualify for Euro ’96 would be Scotland, who finished as runners up to Russia in Group eight, along the way attaining a 1-1 draw with the Russians at Hampden Park in November 1994 and sealing qualification with a 1-0 home win over Greece at the same venue in August 1995.
It would be bad news however for the Welsh, who after coming very close to qualifying for USA ’94, faced a harder task after dismissing boss Terry Yorath. The Welsh appointed John Toshack, who resigned after just one game. Former boss Mike Smith took charge at the start of the qualifiers. Despite attaining a 1-1 away draw with Germany in April 1995, the Welsh were struggling for a win in their qualifying group and appointed Englishman Bobby Gould in June 1995.
The Welsh managed just two wins throughout the tournament, which included a 1-0 win over Moldova in September 1995, finishing bottom of Group Seven.
Progressing from the group would be Germany as group winners, who managed a 2-1 win over the Welsh at Cardiff Arms Park in October 1995 and Bulgaria, who after eliminating Germany from USA ’94 also attained a 3-2 win over the eventual group winners in June 1995.
In Group Four, after breaking away from Yugoslavia in 1991, Croatia made their international debut in Euro ’96. Croatia’s first competitive international came in September 1994, which was an away trip to Estonia, who were also making their debut in the European Championships. Croatia won 2-0 with both goals scored by Davor Suker. The Croatians caused a stir by winning the group and even managing a 2-1 away win over Italy in November 1994 (both goals again from Suker), the Italians themselves also qualifying as group runners up on level points with Croatia.
Among other qualifiers were Romania and France in Group One – the Romanians topping the group despite suffering a 1-3 home defeat to the French in October 1995
From Group two, both Spain and reigning Champions Denmark would also proceed to the Finals, the Spanish topping the group by beating Belgium 4-1 away in the process in December 1994.
The two worst performing runners up however would have to play off for the right to appear at Euro ’96. In Group Six, Portugal would win the group at a cantor with a six point gap over runners up Eire. The Irish managed a 4-0 away win over Northern Ireland in November 1994. The return fixture the following March however ended in a 1-1 draw.
The Irish managed a 1-0 win over Portugal at Landsdowne Road the following month, however suffered a 0-3 defeat in the return fixture in November.
That same evening, Northern Ireland beat Austria 5-3 at Windsor Park to finish on equal points to Eire, however missed out on the play off by a goal difference of +1 to Eire.
The tightest group however would be Group Five – containing Czech Republic, Holland and Norway, where just one point separated first and third place. The Czechs won the group and managed a 3-1 win over Holland in April 1995. The Dutch however secured the runners up spot with a 3-0 win over Norway in Rotterdam in November 1995, which set them up for a play-off with Jack Charlton’s Eire at Liverpool’s Anfield Road Stadium in December 1995.
Two goals from a twenty year old Patrick Kluivert earned a 2-0 win for the Dutch to secure their passage to Euro ’96. Defeat for Eire spelt the end of the run for Jack Charlton as Eire boss, who resigned soon after the game. Before his appointment in early 1986, the Irish had failed to qualify for a single major international championship. A decade on however, that tally had risen to three. Charlton had been later quoted as saying that: ‘in my heart of hearts, I knew I'd wrung as much as I could out of the squad I'd got – that some of my older players had given me all they had to give’.
Eighteen months prior to the start of Euro ’96, the Irish played host to an England side which had played two and a half years’ worth of international friendlies. There sadly was nothing friendly about the visit of the English fans in February 1995. The previous September, the IRA had called a ceasefire with regard to the troubles north of the border which, though this particular ceasefire would be shattered by the Canary Wharf bombing in early 1996, it did mark the beginning of the end of the troubles which had raged since the end of the sixties.
The far right however had feared a surrender of the North to Irish Republicanism and Combat 18 (an horrific breakaway organisation from the BNP who took their name from the initials of Adolf Hitler being the first and eighth letters of the alphabet) had orchestrated violence inside of Landsdowne Road which led to the abandonment of this fixture. So bad were scenes inside Landsdowne Road that Capital Gold Sport commentator Jonathan Pearce actually cried while on air! Serious questions were also raised as to whether Championships would be effected.
Euro ’96 however took place in what was a fairly upbeat time for the UK, with the rise of the ‘Cool Britannia’ ethos. Football officially married itself to the zeitgeist with England’s official song for Euro ’96 – ‘Three Lions’ - performed by Britpop band the Lightning Seeds in conjunction with David Baddiel and Frank Skinner of cult Friday night post-pub comedy show ‘Fantasy Football League’. The song had been original in that it was most probably the very first non-triumphalist Football song and more hopeful in tone (with the exception of New Order’s ‘World in Motion’ six years earlier, which was really more of an ode to the Acid House ‘Summer of Love’ than football or the England National side – the original lyrics to the chorus was to be ‘E is for England’!).
The song went straight to Number one in the UK singles chart on its first week of release, but remained there for just one week only to be displaced by a four week run at the top by the Fugees’ cover version of ‘Killing Me Softly’. By the tournament’s close, the song would return to the top of the Charts – only the second such song to do so since the end of the 1960s (the other being ‘Mr. Blobby’ two and a half years earlier). It would also be the first to return to the top of the charts after a gap of more than one week since the Beatles did so with ‘She Loves You’ at the end of 1963 after being dislodged from the top spot seven weeks earlier.
Among the Unofficial England anthems however would be ‘England’s Irie’ by Shaun Ryder’s Black Grape in collaboration with Lily Allen’s Dad Keith and Joe Strummer of The Clash, which reached number six, as well as ‘Eat My Goal’ by a Harlow-based combo called Collapsed Lung. The latter song would be appropriated by Coca-Cola for their ‘Eat Football, Sleep Football, Drink Coca-Cola’ advertising campaign of that year and would reach number thirty one in the UK Singles Chart.
Given Terry Venables’s signing abilities, it’s a surprise that Tel himself hadn’t signed a recording deal to cash in on Football-Pop Music cross-fertilization which took place over the summer of ’96. The official anthem for the Euro ’96 tournament however would be the much less ‘cooler’ Simply Red, with 'We’re in this Together’, a phrase which ironically became an election slogan of David Cameron’s ‘Simply Blue’ Conservative Party in the 2010 General Election.
Some of the excesses of the ‘Loaded’ era also seeped into the National football side ahead of Euro ’96, with a pre-tournament trip to China and Hong Kong. During the tour, England defeated China 3-0 and a 1-0 win over a Hong Kong Select XI, which included veterans of the English game such as Carlton Fairweather, Dave Watson and Mike Duxbury.
However, the tour would be remembered mainly for what happened after the game as the England side depart the Stadium for a twelve course end-of-tour banquet, at a local hotel. From there, Terry Venables allowed members of the England team to go out on the town to celebrate the end of the tour as well as Paul Gascoigne’s twenty ninth birthday party, which ultimately led to the furore caused by the ‘Dentist Chair’ antics by a group of England players in a Hong Kong nightclub called the China Jump Club. In essence, Punters had to lie back in the seat with their mouths open wide, while tequila and vodka would be poured down.
Even worse was to follow on the Cathay Pacific plane home. As told by Michael Gibbons, in his book ‘When Football Came Home: England the English and Euro 96’, as Gazza had been sleeping off the previous night’s intake none other than Alan Shearer had slapped him across the face. In a rage, Gazza went up and down the aisles, kicking all the seats, throwing cushions around and suspecting that either Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman or Les Ferdinand a few rows behind him had been responsible, the in-flight television screens of the aforementioned two received a battering. On arriving at Heathrow, Cathay Pacific hit the FA with a bill for £5000.00. With just two weeks to go before the start of the tournament the tabloids were outraged, with Paul Gascoigne referred to by one as ‘a drunk oaf with no pride’.
The opening game of the Euro ’96 tournament at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 8th June had been England v Switzerland. England’s opponents up until the previous November were managed by current England boss Roy Hodgson, who after sealing qualification headed to the San Siro to manage Inter Milan. Mid-way through the first half, Alan Shearer bagged his first international goal for over twenty months. England however endured an uninspiring second half and the Swiss bagged an equalizer eight minutes from time after Stuart Pearce conceded a penalty after a hand ball in the box. Kubilay Türkyilmaz converted from the penalty spot to give the Swiss a 1-1 draw with the host nation.
Along with outraged press reports of players out on the town the evening after the match, the press were also scathing of England’s performance, with Paul Gascoigne bearing the brunt. Jeff Powell of the Daily Mail had proclaimed: ‘Gazza must Go . . . the Guzzler dries up to leave coach Venables no option’, going on to add that: ‘England must sling out Paul Gascoigne on his earring. They must devise a way to play without this playboy relic of what once might have been a great playmaker’. Scotland’s first game at Villa Park meanwhile was against Holland. The Scots exceeded expectations by holding the Dutch to a 0-0 draw.
The following Thursday, the first win was achieved in Group A when the Dutch beat Switzerland 2-0 with goals from Johan Cruyff’s son Jordi and a second from Arsenal’s Dennis Bergkamp with eleven minutes to go.
One week on from their underwhelming first performance, England would play Scotland at Wembley – who after playing each other annually for over 117 years, would play each other the first time since 1989. After a goalless first half, England still looked far from a side capable of making a serious challenge for the European Championship. Eight minutes into the second half however, Alan Shearer put England ahead. With a quarter of an hour to go, Tony Adams was adjudged to have brought down Scotland’s Gordon Durie in the penalty box and a penalty awarded, which Gary McAllister popped up to take. England goalkeeper David Seaman however spared his Arsenal club mate Tony Adams’s embarrassment however by pulling off a save. Moments later came the moment when the tournament finally came to life for England.
From a David Seaman goal kick, a couple of passes later Paul Gascoigne had received the ball. Having flicked the ball over the head of Scotland’s Colin Hendry, Gazza smashed the ball on the volley into the Scotland net. In joyous celebration, Gazza and team mate Teddy Sheringham in effectively a two-fingered response to press critics carried out a re-enactment of the Dentist Chair with a discarded pitchside water bottle. England had sealed all three points with a 2-0 win over the Auld Enemy. Some quarters of the British media immediately performed a 360 degree reverse from a week earlier, with the Daily Mirror – then edited by Piers Morgan - running a front page "apology" to Paul Gascoigne the following Monday.
What was lost amidst the celebration however was that some public disturbances had occurred around the Scotland game. Despite this, Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm George - the man responsible for policing at Euro 96 – felt confident enough to state that: ‘if you exclude the relatively high number of arrests during the England v Scotland game - which were mainly for drunkenness and ticket touting rather than violence - then the average number of arrests at each game is just 16’.
To secure qualification to the next round, England were required to get a result against Holland – a bogey side whom they had failed to beat for the previous eighteen years, as well as suffering high profile defeats to the Dutch in Euro ’88 and the Qualification rounds of the USA ’94 World Cup. England however were no doubt emboldened by the strife within the Dutch camp, after Midfielder Edgar Davids had been sent home by Dutch boss Guus Hiddink. Davids accused his boss’s decision to drop him from the Switzerland game as being influenced by his former Ajax team mates Ronald De Boer and Danny Blind and even quoted as saying that: ‘the coach should not put his head in the ass of some players’. With a rift also growing with four other players of Surinamese descent - Clarence Seedof, Patrick Kuivert, Winston Bogarde and Michael Reiziger - some observers hinted of a racial divide within the squad.
The Guardian’s Jamie Jackson disputes this however and commented some years after the event that: ‘at Euro 96 the Oranje's unrest started due to a dispute over the club salaries of (former Ajax players) Davids, Kluivert, Seedorf and Reiziger that had been bubbling beforehand’. England managed to exploit the discord in the Dutch ranks with a shock and awe first half performance. England opened the scoring with a penalty converted by Alan Shearer half way through the second half after Paul Ince was upended in the penalty box. Another for Shearer and one from Teddy Sheringham put England three goals up by half time.
In the second half, another for Teddy Sheringham gave England a four goal lead just past the hour. Meanwhile, one hundred miles North at Villa Park, Scotland had taken the lead with a first half goal from Ally McCoist of Rangers. As results stood, Scotland were heading to the knockout stages of an international tournament for the first time in their history.
Sadly for Scotland, Patrick Kluivert pulled one back for Holland with twelve minutes to go. The Scots held on to their lead until full time to achieve a 1-0 win. England’s fixture however ended in a 4-1 victory, which meant that Holland took the runners up spot by virtue of scoring two goals more than the Scots.
In Group B meanwhile, after failing to qualify for a second successive World Cup finals (their third failure to qualify out of four international tournaments) the French were drawn against Spain, Bulgaria and Romania. In the opening fixture of the group, Spain met USA ’94 Semi Finalists Bulgaria at Leeds’s Elland Road. Barcelona hero Hristo Stoichkov opened the scoring with a penalty on sixty five minutes. Nine minutes later however, Alfonzo Perez equalised for Spain. The match ending in a 1-1 draw.
Twenty four hours later at St. James’s Park Newcastle, France pulled off a 1-0 win over USA ’94 Quarter Finalists Romania, with a goal from AC Milan’s Christophe Dugarry
In the same stadium three days later, a Hristo Stoichkov goal gave Bulgaria a 1-0 win and eliminated Romania
Forty eight hours on at Elland Road, France and Spain played out a 1-1 draw. Youri Djorkaeff put the French a goal up early in the second half, though an equaliser from José-Luis Caminero five minutes from time earned the Spaniards a draw.
The concluding group fixtures saw the French secure the top spot with a 3-1 win over Bulgaria at St. James’s Park, meanwhile a 2-1 win for Spain secured them the runners up spot and their passage to the Quarter Finals to face England at Wembley.
Euro ‘96’s equivalent of a group of death would be Group C, which contained USA ’94 finalists Italy, the Germans, Czech Republic and Russia. Germany’s opening fixture with the Czech Republic at Old Trafford resulted in a 2-0 win for Bertie Vogts’s side with goals for Christian Ziege and Andreas Moller. Forty eight later at Anfield, Italy beat Russia 2-1 with Pierluigi Casiraghi bagging two for the Italians.
Also at Anfield three days on however, Italy fell to a 1-2 defeat to the Czech Republic with future Juventus star and Kurt Cobain lookalike Pavel Nedved on target for the Czechs.
Twenty four hours ahead of Germany’s fixture with Russia at Old Trafford, the Provisional IRA detonated the biggest bomb in Great Britain since the end of the Second World War in Corporation Street in the Centre of Manchester. As a result 212 people were injured, as well as over £700 million worth of damage caused (the inflation adjusted figure would exceed £1 Billion in 2016 currency). Mercifully though, there were no casualties.
When the game proceeded the following day, Germany consolidated their position at the top of the group with a comprehensive 3-0 win over the Russians at Old Trafford with goals from Mathias Sammer and two for Jurgen Klinsmann.
The following Wednesday saw the final group matches commence. With two minutes to go at Anfield, the Czech Republic had allowed a two goal lead to slip and were trailing 2-3, before future Liverpool star Vladimír Šmicer popped up with a late equaliser to earn the Czechs a 3-3 draw. Meanwhile, thirty miles away at Old Trafford the Italians were held to a 0-0 draw, meaning that the Czechs progressed to the Quarter Final stage at the expense of USA ’94 finalists Italy.
In Group D, the reigning champions Denmark would be drawn alongside Portugal, Croatia and Turkey and opened their finals’ campaign with a 1-1 draw at Hillsborough. Two days later, at the City Ground Nottingham, Croatia’s debut at a major international finals was marked with a 1-0 win over Turkey.
Three days on, Turkey suffered back to back losses with a 0-1 defeat to Portugal on the same ground. At Hillsborough the following Wednesday, Denmark suffered a 0-3 loss to Croatia with two goals for Davor Suker – the second a superb chip over Peter Schmeichel in the closing minutes.
In the final round of fixtures, after two straight wins Croatia slumped to a 0-3 defeat to Portugal at the City Ground with goals for Figo, Joao Pinto and Domingos. Despite a 3-0 win over Turkey, Denmark would see no repeat of the heroics of four years earlier as Portugal and Croatia would progress to the Quarter Finals.
Three days after group fixtures were concluded the Quarter Finals would commence, with England’s meeting with the Spanish at Wembley. Despite a disallowed goal from Spain put away by Julio Salinas (which on the replay look perfectly legitimate), the match finished goalless after ninety minutes. This would also be the first match in which the ‘Golden Goal’ would be applicable – being that the first goal scored in extra time would decide the match. No further scoring occurred in extra time, meaning that the game went to a penalty shootout after finishing with a 0-0 draw after 120 minutes.
After Alan Shearer opened the scoring, Fernando Hierro’s penalty hit the bar and hence put England in front. There followed a successful penalty from Arsenal’s David Platt, as well as Spain’s Guillermo Amor. Pressure therefore would be on the shoulders of Stuart Pearce, remembering his Italia ‘90 Semi Final penalty shoot-out miss just six years prior. Pearce successfully buried his penalty followed by an emphatic punching of the air and scream from the Nottingham Forest Left Back. Alberto Belsue kept the Spanish in it by successfully converting his kick, though after Paul Gascoigne put his kick away, the pressure was on Miguel Nadal to score to prevent Spain’s elimination. David Seaman however guessed right and England booked their place in the Semi Final the following Wednesday to win their first – and thus far only – penalty shoot-out in a major international tournament.
Later that same day, France met Holland at Anfield in a match which also finished goalless after 120 minutes. All five French penalty takers successfully converted their penalty kicks, however Bernard Lama save from Clarence Seedorf to send a divided Dutch camp on their way back over the North Sea.
The following day at Old Trafford, Germany and Croatia played off for the right to meet England at Wembley. Jurgen Klinsmann put the Germans ahead with a penalty on twenty minutes, though Croatia equalised six minutes into the second half with a goal from Davor Suker. The Germans however sealed their passage to the Semis with a goal from Matthias Sammer, which gave the Germans a 2-1 win.
Later that same evening, the Czech Republic met Portugal at Villa Park in Birmingham for the final place in the Semi Finals. The match would be decided by an excellent lob by Old Trafford bound Karel Poborsky, which gave the Czech Republic a 1-0 win.
Both of the Semi Finals in Euro ’96 would be played on the same day. The First Semi-Final would be a 4PM kick off between France and the Czech Republic. The game finished goalless after ninety minutes and again, another sign that the ‘Golden Goal’ concept was proving counter-productive by discouraging sides from going all out for a win in extra time, once again another game finished in a 0-0 draw after 120 minutes. In the penalty shoot-out that followed, all five penalty takers for both sides successfully converted to take the shoot-out to sudden death. A miss from Reynald Pedros of France however meant that the Czech Republic would progress to the final of Euro ’96.
The Second Semi-Final would be a 7.30PM kick off between England v Germany at Wembley. The run up to the game however saw much criticism of the British tabloids, who after their heavy vitriol in reaction to the behaviour of the England players, had lost the moral due to their xenophobic tone toward the Germans. One such heading in particular would be the infamous ‘Auchtung Surrender!’ headline of the Piers Morgan edited Daily Mirror, which mocked up Gazza and Stuart Pearce in superimposed World War II helmets and led to criticism from the Press Complaints Commission. Much of the nation however were more moderate in expressing national pride.
One notable occurrence being that this would be the beginning of the flag of St. George displacing the Union flag as the dominant symbol of support among England fans – of which the latter had been thirty years prior when England won the World Cup. This also being a period long before the Flag of St. George’s appropriation by far right Groups such as the English Defence League (in the years since, the Union Flag seems to have become more of a benign symbol in comparison to the mid to late nineties). In the event, Germany were without their captain Jurgen Klinsmann who had been side-lined through injury.
Also, with both sides first choice colour of White Shirts, England would lose the toss to decide who would wear their home kit. The English instead were forced to wear their second choice Grey kit. Many traditionalists clamoured for the FA to re-introduce the red kit for this fixture, but the guardians persisted with the kit colour that was primarily chosen because it went well with jeans! In the event, England took an early lead at Wembley with Alan Shearer putting them ahead with a header from a corner after just three minutes. The Germans however pulled level on sixteen minutes with a goal from the unfortunately named Stefan Kuntz.
This fixture became the fourth game of the six matches from the knock-out phases to go to extra time and like all of the others, no further scoring happened in extra time. However, extra-time was far from uneventful, which made it all the more daunting to watch with the knowledge that a single goal would win it for either side. Highlights of extra time included Spurs’s Darren Anderton hitting the post, Paul Gascoigne missing an open goal, as well as the Germans putting it into the England net only to be disallowed. The game after 120 minutes finished in a 1-1 draw and, as with the Italia ’90 Semi Final of six years earlier, a penalty shoot-out.
The first five penalty takers for both sides all converted their chances. The sixth penalty taker – Aston Villa’s Gareth Southgate – saw his effort saved by Andeas Kopke. Andreas Moller popped up to take the sixth penalty for Germans, which was blasted past David Seaman. Moller, for reasons best known to himself, decided to perform a Mick Jagger-esque strut in front of the Wembley crowd in celebration.
A nation transfixed to television sets watching the drama unfold (overwhelmingly watching the BBC), had the mood set by a compilation of England’s highlights played over the track ‘Walkaway’ by Britpop band, Cast. England were out of the tournament and to make matters worse, the post-match scenes in Trafalgar Square would be more redolent of something out of the 2011 riots than the folk myth that surrounds Euro ’96 in the English collective memory.
Ironically, an outgoing Terry Venables consoled the nation by paraphrasing German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, by stating that: ‘whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you strong’. Gareth Southgate meanwhile later consoled himself with a Pizza Hut advert alongside Chris Waddle and Stuart Pearce.
The final of Euro ’96 four days later, in contrast to the Semi Final is surely an event that is rarely positively remembered outside of Germany. On the hour, the Czechs took the lead with a penalty from future Liverpool star Patrick Berger after Karel Poborsky was brought down (although it looked like the offending challenge actually took place outside of the penalty area).
Ten minutes later, the Germans brought on Oliver Bierhoff as a substitute. Within four minutes, Bierhoff had Germany drawn level, which took the final into extra time. Just five minutes into the first period of extra time, Bierhoff had struck again. Finally, after four previous games which required extra time, a ‘Golden Goal’ finally happened. However there wasn’t much golden about how Bierhoff’s second goal went in, after a deflection from a Czech defender as well as a goalkeeping fumble. The Germans therefore became Champions of Europe on the back of a 2-1 win in extra time.
One thing about the outcome of the Euro ’96 final was what a badly conceived and anti-climactic idea the concept of the ‘Golden Goal’ was as it had, if anything, destroyed a potentially good game of football with such a premature outcome.
The Germans however secured their record third European Championship - this their first major tournament win as a unified nation and rather cheekily, on their home coming return to the fatherland stole the chant of ‘Football’s Coming Home’ for their victory parade.
Regardless of England’s failure to win Euro ’96, as shown here from ITV’s tournament wrap up, most people at the time knew the tournament was something special. In contrast to Cast and ‘Walkway’, German TV viewers were treated to a compilation of their side’s highlights over another Britpop anthem - ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ by Oasis.
Often, folk memory has it that Italia ’90 was the moment when English football’s Post-Heysel nightmare ended. Euro ’96 however is more likely the moment when the English Disease went into remission and ‘Nouveau Football’ was born. The leap in average top flight football attendances between the season prior to Italia ’90 and the season after Italia ’90 was only around 1,000 higher. Between the season before Euro ’96 and the season after it was a leap of around 4,000 and kept rising exponentially thereafter. Football not only came home, but actually stayed home too. Though overseas football stars were becoming increasingly common just prior to Euro ’96, they didn’t really become the norm until after it (Arsene Wenger’s appointment as Arsenal manager around just six weeks after Euro ’96 finished).
Most of the World’s greatest players and the attention of the World’s football fans was focused on Italy and Serie A with the ‘Lure of the Lira’. Most of the players that English Premiership clubs were able to poach from Serie A were those that were (often wrongly) considered past their best (Ruud Gullit) or a flop (Dennis Bergkamp). A symbol of the shift in power came in the following year’s FA Cup Final, when Italian Serie A stars Gianfranco Zola and Fabrizio Ravanelli lined up for Chelsea and Middlesbrough respectively.
However, as will be seen next week, though the World’s talent increasingly centre on England, not much of the glory would rub off of on the England national side. Particularly so at Euro 2000, where hosting duties were for the first time shared between two separate Nations - Holland and Belgium.
*Published July 5th 2017