Euro 96 - 10 Facts you’ve (probably) forgotten
Euro 96 – England plays host to the European Championships for the first time. The home nation is entering its second summer of Britpop; lad culture is booming, the Spice Girls and the dawn of “girl power” are mere weeks away. Plus, England have a lovely grey away kit – it’s just smashing; it looks like denim.
But before we crack open a case of alcopops and get maudlin with nostalgia, let’s take a nose at the more specific details from the tournament.
Can you remember…
- Which song was the official Euro 96 anthem? (Clue: it wasn’t Three Lions)
- Which team came within 17 minutes of winning the tournament, only to lose in extra time?
- What Gazza’s “dentist’s chair” celebration was really about?
- Which four future icons made their tournament debuts?
Here are ten facts you might have forgotten about Euro 96…
1. Three Lions WASN’T the official anthem
It’s very easy to forget that Baddiel, Skinner and The Lightning Seeds’ terrace anthem was not the official song of the tournament. It really wasn’t. The official choice was Simply Red’s soporific We’re In This Together. Have a listen below (and see if you can stay awake)…
Despite being sung wholeheartedly by the Wembley crowd, Three Lions didn’t dominate the number one spot in the charts. The Fugees’ version of Killing Me Softly was number one for four weeks during the tournament.
2. Switzerland got there thanks to Roy Hodgson
England’s Roy Hodgson was responsible for guiding Switzerland to their first–ever European Championships in 1996. He wasn’t in charge during the tournament, having left for Inter Milan once qualification was secured the previous year.
Bonus facts: Roy led the Swiss to USA 94 World Cup, and also to third in the FIFA Rankings. Third! Not bad for a country with the same population as London…
3. The Czech Republic were 17 minutes away from winning the tournament
In 1996, Czech Republic were making their first appearance at a European Championships. The country was only formed in 1992, when Czechoslovakia reformed as Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The Czechs hit the ground running. No doubt you remember midfielder Karel Poborský’s sensational scoop/lob that helped knock Portugal out in the quarter-finals…
The Czechs then defeated France on penalties in the semi-final and, in the final against Germany, were just over a quarter of an hour away from winning Euro 96.
Patrik Berger’s 73rd-minute penalty put them 1-0 up but two goals from Oliver Bierhoff – the second in extra-time’s “golden goal” period – dashed their hopes of a first title.
As it turned out, Bierhoff chose his moment expertly; they were his only goals of the tournament.
4. What Gazza’s celebration was actually about
Who can fail to remember this iconic moment? Paul Gascoigne’s wondergoal against Scotland…
Not bad. But what was the celebration about? Well, it’s not exactly appropriate by today’s standards; it’s a simulation of a brutal drinking game that the squad played on their pre-season tour of Hong Kong.
Somehow, we can’t imagine Roy Hodgson would allow his players a rowdy night out like that. Imagine how well it’d go down on Snapchat, though.
N.B. Gazza’s celebration has now been immortalised in Subbuteo figures by artist Terry Lee. Amazing.
5. The holders didn’t make it out of their group
Denmark, the 1992 Champions, finished third in Group D. Failure to beat Portugal in their opening match coupled with a 3-0 defeat to surprise package Croatia effectively sealed their fate before the final match was played. Though the Danes did manage to beat Turkey 3-0, they were eliminated.
6. England won a penalty shoot-out!
Let’s take a moment to indulge in the glory of England actually beating someone on penalties. In your face, Spain.
7. Holland weren’t actually very good
Listen. We’re not being naysayers, here. England’s 4-1 demolition of the Netherlands in their final Group A match was exciting. It was also a continuation of the feel-good factor, started by Gazza’s wondergoal against the Scots, that spurred Terry Venables’ side all the way to the semi-finals. It really did make everyone feel like football was coming home.
Even so, check out some of this defending…
Put simply, Holland weren’t very good at Euro 96. Weakened by the in-fighting that saw Edgar Davids sent home and Patrick Kluivert consigned to the bench, that night they fielded an uncharacteristically mediocre team; Jordi Cruyff and Winston Bogarde were playing, for goodness sake.
Still, don’t let miserable facts get in the way of the memory; however troubled the Dutch were, thrashing them felt like an awakening for England. Suddenly, anything seemed possible…
8. Four icons made their major tournament debuts
France’s Zinedine Zidane, Portugal’s Luis Figo, Czech Republic’s Pavel Nedvěd and Italy’s Alessandro Del Piero all made their first International tournament appearances at Euro 96.
Figo and Nedved both weighed in with goals for their countries. However, Zidane’s contribution for France - who reached the semi-finals - was muted, with only a hint of the brilliance that was to come two years later at the 1998 World Cup.
All four players were selected in the FIFA 100, a list of the greatest living players chosen by Brazil legend Pelé in 2004.
9. Steve Howey was there
If you’ve ever tried to name the whole England Euro 96 squad from memory, there are a few faces you may have forgotten. Goalkeepers Ian Walker and Tim Flowers, defenders Steve Howey and Phil Neville, and striker “Sir” Les Ferdinand were the men who stayed on the bench throughout the tournament.
And if you remember any of Steve Stone’s three sub appearances, congratulations.
10. Baddiel & Skinner made great telly
David Baddiel and Frank Skinner were heroes in the charts during Euro 96. But they were also heroes on telly.
The pair’s late-night round-ups of the tournament as it progressed were easy to watch and casually hilarious. Have a watch (or re-watch) of the first episode – it includes a sensational ‘Opening Ceremony’ where Angus ‘Statto’ Laughran does a version of Mick Hucknall’s rival Euro 96 anthem.