Reliving Three Lions on the Shirt, but Germany Wins Euro 1996

“Three Lions on the Shirtresounded around Wembley Stadium during Euro 1996. It was a catchy song but had an undercurrent that echoed the decades of disappointment for England fans. The line,Thirty years of hurtresonated with English supporters.

Three Lions On The Shirt Echoes English Optimism

England Disappointments Under Graham Taylor

One of the favourites for Euro 1992, England crashed out in the group stage following a 2-1 loss to hosts Sweden. Three Lions boss Graham Taylor was targeted in particular.Swedes 2 Turnips 1was a headline in the Sun. The same newspaper included a photo of Graham Taylor’s face superimposed on a turnip on its front page. Captain Gary Lineker’slast act in an international shirt was to toss away his armband after being substituted.

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England then didn’t qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the USA. However, the Three Lions could count themselves unlucky to be on the receiving end of some contentious refereeing decisions against the Dutch.

But, leading up to Euro 1996, there was optimism. Even though competition was set to be fierce, with an enlarged tournament from eight teams in 1992 to sixteen for Euro ’96.

Gascoigne Returns, Venables In Charge

Paul Gascoigne was back. The progressive Terry Venables was manager, with Bryan Robson, aka Captain Marvel during his England playing career, as his assistant. The inspirational Tony Adams would be captain, and England would play with two exciting young wide players, Steve McManaman and Darren Anderton. The inventors ofthe beautiful gamewere at home, and all their games would be at Wembley. Also, the last time the Three Lions hosted a major tournament, the 1966 World Cup, they were victorious.

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For decades, the 1966 World Cup win had seemed like an albatross around the neck of successive England teams. It seemed hard to explain why so many good players had come and gone, yet England had not reached a major final in thirty years.

Gazza Brilliance

In their opening game at Wembley, England drew 1-1 with Switzerland in Group A. A disappointing start, but at least Alan Shearer scored to end his barren goalless run in a Three Lions shirt. Next up were the oldest rivals, Scotland.

The Scots gave England a harder game than maybe the hosts were expecting. With the Three Lions leading 1-0, Scotland had the chance to equalise through a penalty. But Gary McAllister’s spot kick was saved by David Seaman. Shortly afterwards, Paul Gascoigne reminded the home fans of what they had been missing.

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Gazza flicked a pass over the head of Scottish centre-back Colin Hendry and volleyed in the second. It was impudent and a stroke of genius. Gascoigne’s dentist chair celebration was a nod at pre-tournament media outrage. Along with several other England players, Gascoigne had been seen drinking alcohol in a dentist’s chair. But genius is often forgiven – and the media changed their tune.

A Spectacular Victory Against The Dutch

In their final group game, England made the rest of Europe sit up and take notice. Against a Dutch side still revered for its achievements and traditional panache, the Three Lions were irresistible.

In a 4-1 win, the performance by the hosts was as good as by any England team since the War. The combination of Shearer and Teddy Sheringham was really beginning to click. Three Lions fans started to believe, andThree Lions on the shirtwas sung even more loudly, and It’s coming home.”

On The Right Side Of A Penalty Shoot-Out

England would meet Spain in the quarter-finals. The two great underachievers of international football – in the last thirty years could not be separated in a tight game. It finished 0-0, though the Spanish had shaded things.

It was to be a penalty shoot-out. Memories of the World Cup semi-final defeat to West Germany in Turin six years earlier were still fresh in the mind. Three Lions left-back Stuart Pearce, who had missed one of the spot kicks in Turin, would take one of the penalties. This time, he buried it and celebrated wildly, like a man who had freed himself of any personal demons still haunting him. England won the match on spot kicks.

More Heartbreak At The Hands Of Germany

A semi-final against Germany was England’s reward. The hosts scored early through a Shearer header, but Stefan Kuntz equalised not long after for the visitors. It was an absorbing game. Neither side deserved to lose, and Gascoigne nearly scored a second for the Three Lions. But he was just inches away from connecting with the ball in front of an open goal. Unsurprisingly, it would come down to penalties.

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Stuart Pearce scored again in the shoot-out. England seemed nerveless, as did the Germans. Then defender – and current England boss Gareth Southgate stepped up. But his penalty was saved by Andreas Köpke. Andreas Möller, never lacking in self-confidence, blasted home his penalty to send Germany through to the final.

Golden Goal History For The Germans

In the final, Germany met the Czech Republic, who, after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, were in their first major finals. The Czechs took the lead in the second half through a Patrik Berger penalty. With less than twenty minutes to go, they were still ahead. It looked as if, after Denmark four years earlier, there could be another surprise winner of the European Championship.

Oliver Bierhoff, though, would break Czech hearts. He first scored to send the game into extra time. This was the first Euros to feature the golden goal rule, and it would be Bierhoff – who would score it five minutes into the extra period. It was Germany’s first major trophy since reunification, and it went some way to make up for the Euro 1992 final defeat in Sweden four years earlier.

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