Nine weeks on from England’s Second Round exit at France ’98, England’s first international fixture since their disappointing exit and the public vitriol aimed at David Beckham for his sending off in the Argentina game, came away in Stockholm.  England however had failed to secure a win against the Swedes since May 1968, a total of six games without victory.  In the interim, things were far from cordial within the England camp.  Paul Gascoigne’s England career had ended with his non-inclusion in England’s France ’98 squad.  The indication was that the door was firmly shut on Gazza when a book by England boss Glenn Hoddle chronicling his World Cup campaign had revealed an altercation which followed the meeting where he was told that he wasn’t on his way to France with the squad.

Hoddle stated that: ‘I thought about trying to talk to him but knew I couldn't, not while he was in this state.  He would never take it in. He had snapped. He was ranting, swearing and slurring his words. He was acting like a man possessed….He was a different person now. He had snapped…I stood there and he turned as if to go again, then came back with a barrage of abuse’.  Hoddle himself however came in for criticism, not least for his tell all revelations of meetings between himself and senior players.  Tony Adams in his autobiography titled ‘Addicted’ – already disappointed at being passed over for the England captaincy in favour of Alan Shearer - blasted the England boss for treating players like children.

 

Adams described an England training session during France ’98: ‘we were practising a free-kick routine where one player flips it back to Becks to volley. He was struggling and Glenn, to the disquiet of the boys, said: 'Obviously, you're not good enough to do that skill’.  Tony Adams, years after the even described that: ‘It was a moment that shocked many players and I think that Glenn lost the respect of some that day, something that may have continued into the subsequent Euro 2000 campaign’.  The cloud certainly did hang over the squad into the autumn of 1998, though in Stockholm England grabbed an early lead with Alan Shearer putting them ahead in the first minute.

 

Within half an hour however, the Swedes scored twice in two minutes to put them ahead and secure all three points with a 2-1 win with goals from Andreas Andersson and Johan Mjallby.  In this game, attracting the attention of Arsene Wenger - the boss of reigning Premiership and FA Cup holders Arsenal – was Freddie Ljungberg.  Arsenal scouts had been tracking Ljungberg for over a year, though Wenger took the unusual step of authorising his signing without seeing him play live.  Ljungberg went on to become an integral part of the Arsenal side which won a second double four years later and the famous invincible season of 2003/04, where Arsenal went the whole campaign unbeaten. 

England’s disappointment however continued a month on, with a 0-0 home draw with Bulgaria at Wembley.  Four days on however, England finally got off the mark with a 3-0 away win over Luxembourg. 

One month later, England won a friendly fixture with the Czech Republic at Wembley 2-0 however – unbeknown at the time - this would be Glenn Hoddle’s final game in charge of the England side.  Another major criticism Glenn Hoddle had been the growing influence of his religious beliefs into management of the English national side.  Steve McManaman had criticised that Hoddle’s training camps were becoming akin to that of a religious cult, as the involvement of faith healer Eileen Drewery who Hoddle had known since he claimed that she had healed him from a Knee injury he suffered early on in his career.   Hoddle hired her as a consultant during the World Cup to cure the players of a range of physical and psychological ailments, despite her lack of sporting or even medical qualifications.

Allegedly, Ray Parlour’s non-inclusion in the squad for France ’98 was due to sarcastically asking her for a short back and sides before a faith healing session which Hoddle had arranged for him with Drewery.  Things however came to a head prior of a prestige friendly with World Champions France at Wembley in late January 1999, as a result of comments made in an interview with the Times Newspaper.  Hoddle was quoted as saying that people were reincarnated: 'to learn and face some of the things you have done - good and bad….You and I have been physically given two hands and two legs and half-decent brains. Some people have not been born like that for a reason. The karma is working from another lifetime. I have nothing to hide about that. It is not only people with disabilities. What you sow, you have to reap’.

 

The previous year, Hoddle had made similar comments on the subject in an interview with BBC Radio Five Live, stating that: ‘the physical body is just an overcoat for your spirit. At death you take the overcoat off and your spirit will go on to another life in a spirit dimension….I think we make mistakes when we are down here and our spirit has to come back and learn. That's why there is an injustice in the world. Why there's certain people born into the world with terrible physical problems and why there's a family who has got everything right, physically and mentally’.  In the fall out that followed, Hoddle was relieved of his post as England boss.  Here, in the early days of the internet blog, Gavin Willacy of Football365.com discussed the outage on Sky News.

Howard Wilkinson took charge of the England side as a caretaker manager for the France match.  In the event, France were simply too good for England and secure their first ever win at Wembley in a 0-2 defeat for the English, with two goals for Arsenal’s Nicolas Anelka (who was denied a third goal, which clearly crossed the line but not given by the referee).  

On Hoddle’s exit came a clamour for Kevin Keegan, at that time resurrecting his managerial career with Fulham in the third tier after walking out on Newcastle United two years prior.  Fulham had been engaged in a promotion battle at the time and England initially took Keegan on a part time basis until the end of the season.  His first game would come at the end of March, with a home Euro 2000 qualifier against Poland.  England sailed through with a 3-1 win over Poland, secured with a hat-trick for Man United’s Paul Scholes.

By the time of England’s next round of qualifiers, Keegan had finished his role at Fulham by winning the third tier title with 101 points and fourteen points clear of second place Walsall.  In June, Sweden came to Wembley to play England, however England failed to capitalise with a 0-0 draw.  Four days later, England travelled to Bulgaria where Alan Shearer put England ahead after a quarter of an hour.  The Bulgarians however equalised three minutes later and another two points were ultimately dropped as the sides played out a 1-1 draw. 

The following September, England managed a 6-0 win over Luxembourg at Wembley, with goals for Michael Owen, two for Steve McManaman and a hat-trick for Alan Shearer.   This goal-fest turned out to be all-important for England with regard to goal difference, as they were vying for the runners up spot with Poland.

The two sides met in Warsaw for England’s away fixture four days later, where Kevin Keegan’s side secured a 0-0 draw to conclude their qualifying fixtures, leaving them on level points with Poland though the Poles had a game in hand over England with an away fixture in Sweden the following month.  England were therefore reliant on a Sweden win to secure their passage to the play-offs.

The Swedes however duly delivered with a 2-0 win, secured by goals from Kennet Andersson (the only player in Sweden’s side that day to have never played for a British side) and Celtic’s Henrik Larsson.  England finished the group runners up on goal difference, though as far as nine points behind the Swedes – one of England’s worst qualifying campaigns, which included just three victories and four draws.

Joining England in the play offs would be Scotland, who came runners up to the Czech Republic in Group Nine.  Scotland managed a 3-2 win over Estonia at Hampden.  Trailing 1-2 with just fourteen minutes left, two late goals in the last ten minutes gave the Scots a 3-2 win. 

The following March however, Scotland lost 1-2 to the Czech Republic at Hampden Park and an embarrassing 1-1 draw with the Faroe Islands in June.

Four days later, the Scots would take a two goal lead over the Czech Republic in Prague.  Three goals in the last twenty five minutes for the Czechs however inflicted a 2-3 defeat on the Scots.  Scotland however secured their place in the Play-offs with a 3-0 win over Lithuania in October, finishing six points clear of Bosnia and Herzegovina who finished their first ever Euros campaign in third place.

Eire meanwhile would compete against Yugoslavia and two other former Yugoslavian republics in the shape of Croatia and Macedonia.  Eire kicked off their campaign with a 2-0 win over the Croats at Landsdowne Road in September 1998, with goals for the Man United pair Dennis Irwin from the penalty spot and Roy Keane.  In November however, Eire would crash to a 0-1 defeat to Yugoslavia in Belgrade.

Group matches however took place under the backdrop of the Kosovan War, which involved air strikes from NATO, which commenced from the end of March 1999 to the start of June of that same year. 

The following September, Yugoslavia visited Dublin to play the Irish.  Eire took all three points with goals from Robbie Keane and Mark Kennedy giving the Irish a 2-0 win.  Four days on, a late winner from Davor Suker gave Croatia a 1-0 win over Eire in Zagreb.  

Group eight therefore was heading for a tight finish, with just two points separating Yugoslavia at the top and Croatia in third with Eire in between. Yugoslavia travelled to Zagreb to play Croatia in the final fixture – their first visit since the Civil War at the beginning of the decade.  The match ended in a 2-2 draw. 

Meanwhile that same evening Eire travelled to Macedonia for their final fixture.  The Irish managed just a 1-1 draw, after taking the lead on eighteen minutes with a goal from Niall Quinn, the Irish fell to a last minute Macedonian goal which denied them automatic qualification as group winners though secured a play-off spot as runners up.

The Welsh however missed out on qualification again, finishing second bottom of Group one.  Due to the redevelopment of Cardiff Arms Park, the Welsh were forced to play their opening fixture with Italy across the border at Liverpool F.C.’s Anfield Road Stadium in September 1998.  The Welsh however suffered a 0-2 defeat with goals for Diego Fuser and Christian Vieri.

A month later however, the Welsh picked up all three points with a 2-1 away win over Denmark in Copenhagen.  Three days later, the Welsh made it two in a row by coming back from 1-2 down to secure a 3-2 victory over Belarus at Cardiff’s Ninian Park. 

The following June, the Welsh suffered a 0-4 defeat to Italy in Bologna.  The Italians automatically qualified for Euro 2000 as group winners.  The play-off spot was taken by Denmark, who achieved a 3-2 away win over Italy in September 1999.    

Northern Ireland also finished second bottom in Group three, where Germany won automatic promotion, losing just one game which was a 0-1 defeat to Turkey in October 1998.  Qualification would be secured with a 4-0 win over Northern Ireland in Dortmund, with a hat-trick from Christian Ziege. 

In Group Two, Norway took the top spot and automatic qualification, eight points clear of group runners up Slovenia whom they defeated with a 2-1 away win in October 1998.

Meanwhile, World Champions French endured a tight group battling out with Russia and Ukraine.  In September 1998, Ukraine defeated Russia 3-2 in Kiev.  One month on, France visited Moscow and took a two goal lead with goals for Arsenal’s Nicolas Anelka and future Gunner Robert Pires – then of Marseille.  The Russians however pulled level before Alain Boghossian bagged a winner for France nine minutes time to secure a 3-2 win.

In the return fixture in June 1999, the French were leading 2-1 nine minutes into the second with goals from Arsenal’s Emmanuel Petit and future Arsenal star Sylvain Wiltord, then at Bordeaux.  Two goals for the Russians in the last quarter of an hour at the Stade De France however gave the Russians a shock 3-2 away win.

In the final round of fixtures, Iceland visited the Stade De France to play the French.  France were two goals up at half time, however in the first eleven minutes Iceland pulled level (imagine failing to beat Iceland?).  David Trezeguet however secured a win for the French with a goal nineteen minutes from time and a 3-2 victory for the French. 

Russia and Ukraine went head to head in Moscow that same evening.  The Russians took the lead fifteen minutes from time, however an Andriy Shevchenko equaliser three minutes from time meant that the points were shared with a 1-1 draw and that Ukraine would progress to the play offs instead of Russia. 

Spain would progress as winners in Group six, however got off to a disastrous start falling to a 2-3 away defeat to Cyprus in September 1998.  In month on, Spain visited Tel Aviv to play Israel and fell a goal behind, however two second half goals for the Spaniards a 2-1 away win. 

Spain would win their remaining six group games, scoring forty two goals in total and conceding just one further goal.  In March 1999, Spain inflicted a 9-0 hammering on Austria in Valencia.  The Spaniards would make it back to back 9-0 home wins after drubbing San Marino in June 1999.

That same day, Israel dished out a 5-0 thrashing to Austria in Tel Aviv.  The following September however, Israel would suffer the same fate away in Cyprus falling to a 2-3 defeat.

Spain however would enact their revenge three days later, inflicting an 0-8 defeat on Cyprus in Badajoz.  Despite enduring a 0-3 loss to Spain Albacete, Israel would still progress to the playoff after finishing above Austria on goal difference, albeit eight points behind group winners Spain. 

Meanwhile in Group Seven, Romania progressed as Group winners by pipping Portugal by one point.  The Romanians stole three points with a 1-0 win over Portugal secured with a last minute goal in October 1998.  While eleven months on, the two sides played out a 1-1 draw in Bucharest.  Portugal meanwhile automatically progressed to the finals of Euro 2000 on account of being the highest placed runners up.

In the play-off round England were drawn against the Auld Enemy from north of the border, playing Scotland for the first time since the group phase of Euro ’96.  The first leg would be the first time England played at Hampden Park in over a decade.  Two first half goals from Paul Scholes gave England a 2-0 win in the first leg.

First days on, Scotland would grab a small piece of consolation in that a Don Hutchinson goal would ensure Scotland would be the last international side of the twentieth century to win at Wembley.  However, a 0-1 defeat for England would not be enough to claw back the defeat as England progressed to the Finals in Holland and Belgium the following summer.  A Channel 4 documentary called ‘Cheer up Kevin Keegan’ covering the two leg play off and a rise in Scots Nationalism since devolution a year can be seen here.

Eire were drawn against Turkey and took the lead with eleven minutes to go with a goal from Robbie Keane.  Four minutes later however, the Turks snatched an important away goal to steal a 1-1 draw.  In the second leg four days on Eire were held to a 0-0 draw, meaning that Turkey progressed to the finals on away goals. 

Also progressing to the finals would be Slovenia, who beat Ukraine 2-1 at home, as well as holding them to a 1-1 back in Kiev.

The last place taken by Denmark with an emphatic 8-0 aggregate victory over Israel, which included a 5-0 away win In Tel Aviv and a 3-0 home win in Copenhagen.

The finals would be jointly held by Belgium and Holland – the very first instance of hosting duties being shared in a major international football tournament, under the banner of ‘Football Without Frontiers’.  The opening fixture would be held at what was now the King Baudouin Stadium – formerly the infamous Heysel Stadium and first major event held at the stadium since the disaster fifteen years earlier.  Belgium’s opening game would be against Sweden, with the hosts achieving a 2-1 win.

The following day, in the same group Italy achieved a 2-1 win over Turkey in Arnhem with future Chelsea manager Antonio Conte on the scoresheet for the Italians. 

Three days on Italy also beat the hosts Belgium 2-0 in Brussels.  Twenty four hours on, Sweden and Turkey drew 0-0 over the border in Eindhoven. 

In the final round of fixtures of Group B, Turkey ensured a first round exit for joint hosts Belgium, as well as their passage to the Quarter Finals with a 2-0 win secured by two goals from Galatasaray’s Hakan Sukur.  Meanwhile, Italy were confirmed as group winners with a 2-1 win over Sweden.

The other host nation – Holland – would be drawn in a group of death alongside reigning World Champions France, as well as the Czech Republic and Denmark in Group D.  France kicked off proceedings with a 3-0 win over Denmark in Bruges with goals from Laurent Blanc, Thierry Henry and Sylvain Wiltord. Later that same evening, Holland secured three points with a 1-0 win over the Czech Republic and a last minute penalty from Frank De Boer in the Amsterdam Arena. 

Five days on, France secured their passage to the Quarter Finals with a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic.  That same day, the Dutch also booked their place in the last eight with a 3-0 win over Denmark with goals from Patrick Kluivert, Ronald De Boer and Bolo Zenden. 

The last round of fixtures in Group D saw a 2-0 win for Czech Republic over Denmark.  That same day, in what many thought would be a prelude to the Final, Holland defeated France 3-2 in the Amsterdam Arena.

England meanwhile would be drawn in Group A alongside, Portugal, Romania and arch enemies Germany in Liege.  The latter two sides kicked off the group with a 1-1 draw. 

Later that same day in Eindhoven, England raced into a two goal lead with Paul Scholes and Steve McManaman on target for the English.  England however saw a collapse which allowed Portugal to come back defeat them 2-3, with goals for Luis Figo, Joao Pinto and Nuno Gomes.  Despite turning in a decent performance, David Beckham (still largely unpopular for his sending off two years prior) bore the brunt of much of the fans’ anger. 

 

Becks was pictured giving the finger to the England support, however reports alleged that fans had been shouting abuse aimed at members of his family, which included wishing cancer on his young son, Brooklyn.  Also in the line of fire was goalkeeper David Seaman, referred to in a Spanish newspaper as ‘like a piece of meat with eyes’.  England boss Kevin Keegan however received much in the way of criticism further to his side’s collapse against Portugal, accused of being tactically inept and also allegedly approached by senior members of his side in light of this. 

The following Saturday, Portugal met Romania in Arnhem and stole all three points with a goal four minutes into injury time from Costinho, which gave Portugal a 1-0 win.

Later in the evening, in the Belgian town of Charleroi, England were about to meet a German side whom they had failed to beat in a competitive fixture since the 1966 World Cup Final (the last friendly victory had been a World Cup preparation tie in Mexico in 1985).  Ahead of the game however, over five hundred England fans were arrested by Belgian police for their involvement in riots in the town of Charleroi.  UEFA took the unprecedented step of threatening the England side with expulsion. 

There was however also disarray within the German camp, as German boss Eric Ribbeck who had taken over from Bertie Vogts in 1998 had decided to recall thirty nine year old Lothar Matthaus to the German squad despite now plying his trade in the MLS over in America with the NY/NJ Metrostars.  His inclusion was much to the displeasure of the current squad, the main protagonists allegedly being Oliver Bierhoff, Oliver Kahn, Jens Nowotny and Mehmet Scholl.  England were also emboldened by the fact that Oliver Bierhoff – two goal hero of the Euro ’96 final – would be missing through injury. In the game itself, England finally got a win over the Germans, as an Alan Shearer goal secured a 1-0 win. 

This result put England in the runners up spot and only needing to avoid defeat in the final fixture against Romania to progress to the Quarter Finals.  England however went a goal behind on twenty two minutes, though drew level with a penalty from Alan Shearer four minutes before half time and just ahead of the break, Michael Owen put England 2-1 ahead.  Romania however levelled three minutes into the second half with a goal that resulted from a Nigel Martyn error.  England however were hanging on for a passage to the knockout stage until the last minute, when Phil Neville brought down Viorel Moldovan despite him being quite some distance from goal.  A penalty from Ionel Ganea gave Romania a 3-2 win, which sent England home early.  A small consolation however would be that they would not finish bottom of the group.  That same evening, over in Rotterdam Portugal hammered Germany 3-0, with a hat-trick for Sergio Conceição.

In Group C, Spain would be drawn alongside Yugoslavia, Slovenia and Norway – their opening fixture being against the latter in Rotterdam.  The Norwegians however took all three points as a goal from Steffen Iversen secured them a 1-0 win.  Later than same evening, Balkan rivals Yugoslavia and Slovenia played out a 3-3 draw, as the Yugoslavs pulled off a point after being three goals behind. 

Five days later, Spain managed to get their first points on the board after a 2-1 win over Slovenia in the Amsterdam Arena.  Meanwhile, later that same day a goal from former Aston Villa striker Savo Milošević gave Yugoslavia a 1-0 win over Norway in Liege. 

In the final round of fixtures, Spain took on Yugoslavia in Bruges and were trailing 2-3 in injury time, before goals for Alfonso Perez and Gaizka Mendieta gave the Spanish a 4-3 win and the top spot within the group.  Yugoslavia however remained in the tournament as group runners up, as the best Norway could manage would be a 0-0 draw with Slovenia in Arnhem.

Into the knock-out phase and two goals from Nuno Gomes gave Portugal a 2-0 Quarter Final win over Turkey.  Later that same day, goals for Francesco Totti and Fillipo Inzaghi gave Italy a 2-0 win over Romania. 

The only host nation left in the tournament would be Holland, who managed a 6-1 win over Yugoslavia, with goals from Arsenal’s Marc Overmars and a hat-trick from his soon to be club mate at Barcelona – Patrick Kluivert.  The French would also progress to the last four with a 2-1 win over Spain, with goal from Zinedine Zidane and Youri Djorkaeff.

Into the Semi Finals, as with the last time the French reached the semi-final of the European Championships, France would play Portugal in Brussells.  Portugal took the lead with a goal from Nuno Gomes on nineteen minutes.  Thierry Henry however would equalise five minutes into the second half.  The game went into extra time, before a handball from Everton’s Abel Xavier gave France a penalty and secured their passage to the final with a 2-1 win. 

The following day, Holland went on to meet Italy at the Amsterdam Arena.  The game finished 0-0 after 120 minutes before, Holland missed three penalties out of four, while all but one of Italy’s penalty takers converted to put them through to the Final.  

The Final took place in Rotterdam, with the French overwhelming favourites.  Despite this, Marco Delvecchio put Italy ahead ten minutes into the second half.  The Italians held the lead until three minutes into injury time.  A goal from substitute Sylvian Wiltord saving the French with a last gasp equaliser.  It turned out that all three French substitutes would have a hand in deciding the destiny of Euro 2000.  Thirteen minutes into extra time, one sub in Robert Pires provided the chance for another sub in David Trezeguet to bury the chance and win the Championship for the French.  

This would be an international 'double' for the French who were crowned World Champions on home soil two years later.  However it would mark the peak of French international dominance, as from the 2002 World Cup onwards the French would not be quite so formidible as the one around the turn of the millennium.  As will be seen tomorrow, triumph at Euro 2004 in Portugal would come in the shape of a surprise package.

 

*Follow me on Twitter@upstart_footbal     

*Published 13th July 2017