ITV’s Euro 96 retrospective is going some way to compensate for the cancellation of this summer’s European Championship.
It’s a reminder of a glorious summer when football truly came home and England so very nearly ended 30 years of hurt.
On Wednesday night, ITV4 will be replaying England’s 4-1 win over Holland at Wembley in their third and final group game.
ITV will be showing England’s 4-1 win over Holland at Euro 96 on Wednesday evening
England vs Holland
The match will be screened in full from 6.30pm on ITV4 tonight as part of ITV’s Euro 96 flashback
As well as being a resounding victory that ensured they topped their group, it ranks as one of England’s finest performances of the modern era.
With that in mind, Sportsmail counts down five of the finest England displays since they lifted the World Cup in 1966.
5. Spain 2-4 England, Friendly 1987
The years following England’s triumph in 1966 were pretty miserable. After throwing away a two goal lead to lose 3-2 to West Germany in the quarter-finals at Mexico 1970, England didn’t even make it to the next two World Cups.
The 1980s saw much-needed improvement but England were stymied by a tricky second group stage in 1982 and Diego Maradona’s infamous contribution in 1986.
By 1987, Bobby Robson’s team were starting to show glimpses of the qualities – a washout Euro 1988 aside – that would take them within touching distance of glory at Italia ’90.
Gary Lineker (centre) was the hero of the hour with four goals in England’s 1987 win over Spain
Lineker became known as the ‘Matador of Madrid’ after his inspired display in the Bernabeu
One such glimpse was the evening Gary Lineker earned the nickname the ‘Matador of Madrid’ after demolishing Spain in one of the all-time great individual England performances.
Everything Lineker touched in the Bernabeu seemed to find the net and it was made all the sweeter by the fact he was a Barcelona player at the time.
‘That is the first time I have scored four in my career, but I should have had six,’ Lineker said. ‘It was a night the chances fell for me.’
England fell behind early on but proceeded to tear apart a Spanish side that matched England by reaching the quarter-finals of the previous summer’s World Cup.
Lineker won the Golden Boot out in Mexico and it wasn’t difficult to understand why as England surged into a 4-1 lead by the hour in pouring rain.
It was a glorious night for Bobby Robson’s England as they built up towards World Cup 1990
Barcelona man Lineker (behind defender) was on fire at the home of their rivals Real Madrid
Lineker smashed home the third of his four goals during a memorable England display
‘He has to be arguably the best finisher in the world,’ enthused Robson. ‘He gets a chance and it’s a goal. That’s what makes him a world class player.’
Defender Viv Anderson, who played that night, recalled: ‘He just had a sixth sense of when and where the ball might land in the penalty area. He was certainly the best predator I ever played with.’
Lineker said of that night: ‘I became an adopted Catalan when I scored a hat-trick against Real Madrid and followed it a month later with four goals for England.
‘Barca fans couldn’t have been happier after this match – I woke up to headlines in Barcelona along the lines of: ‘Catalan player scores four goals against Spain.”
4. Italy 0-0 England, World Cup qualifier 1997
A tale of English heroism on a bruising night in Rome that ensured safe passage to the 1998 World Cup.
England’s nip and tuck battle with Italy to secure the one automatic qualifying spot from their group had been fascinating with Glenn Hoddle’s side needing a point on the final night to make it.
But against an Italy side that bursted with talent from front to back – Vieri, Inzaghi, Zola, Del Piero, Maldini, Nesta, Costacurta, Cannavaro – there weren’t any guarantees.
But England’s lion-hearted performance was epitomised by Paul Ince, who played most of the game with blood pouring down his face after being elbowed by Demetrio Albertini.
A bleeding Paul Ince produced a lion-hearted performance as England made the World Cup
Taking on the Italians at their own game, an England side featuring (left to right) David Beckham, Paul Ince and Paul Gascoigne made it to the 1998 World Cup
Getting properly patched up had been an ordeal. ‘The dressing rooms were locked and I was stood there with blood spurting out everywhere,’ recalled Ince, who had his hair shaved and two stitches inserted in a 10-minute delay.
‘The two medics couldn’t speak any English and our physio Gary Lewin had to race back to the dug-out for the key. I was so relieved it was 0-0 when I got back.’
As England’s travelling fans were baton-charged by Italian riot police in the stands, their team matches the Italians blow-for-blow on the pitch.
‘It was really physical,’ said striker Ian Wright. ‘But we played them at their own game and did an Italian job on them.’
Wing-back Graeme Le Saux recalled: ‘I was rabbit-punched by Alessandro Costacurta and had to stop myself and count to 10.’
England boss Glenn Hoddle celebrates the best goalless draw of his career back in 1998
There was carnage in the stands at the Stadio Olimpico as riot police fought England fans
England managed to keep Italy at arm’s length as they searched for the winner they needed. In the second-half, Ince’s wound re-opened and he needed three more stitches.
‘Perhaps I should have had it bandaged the first time, but I thought I’d look silly,’ said Ince. ‘People are calling me a black Terry Butcher.’
Or as Paul Gascoigne put it in his own inimitable way: ‘He looked like a pint of Guinness running around.’
The hosts resorted to every dirty trick in the book, but England were wise to it.
‘The Italians were shirt-pulling, looking to dive whenever you touched them. We beat them at their own game,’ said Gazza. ‘It was great to see them on the receiving end for once.’
In the fourth minute of stoppage time, Wright broke and stuck the post, only for Italy to counter and Christian Vieri head inches wide in a heart-stopping moment.
The final whistle sparked jubilant England celebrations, they’d gone into the lion’s den and got the job done.
Glory for England and despair for Italy as they booked their passage to World Cup 1998
Paul Gascoigne celebrates England’s goalless draw in Rome to carry them to the finals
3. Croatia 2-4 England, Euro 2004
The summer of 2004 and the nation hoped the so-called ‘Golden Generation’ could deliver that long-awaited success.
Looking back now, you appreciate just how much talent England had.
A central defensive pairing of John Terry and Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole at left-back, a dreamy midfield of David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes. Up front, the proven goalscorer Michael Owen and an emerging 18-year-old called Wayne Rooney.
Of course it wasn’t to be, but after this outstanding win over Croatia that swept England into the knockout stages of Euro 2004, optimism soared.
England had started the tournament with a very good performance against France, only to collapse late on and lose 2-1. Rooney had then inspired a 3-0 demolition of Switzerland.
18-year-old Wayne Rooney was inspired as England defeated Croatia at Euro 2004
Paul Scholes equalises for England in the decisive group stage game in Lisbon in 2004
It meant England needed a point against Croatia to make it through in the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, which was turned into a home game by tens of thousands of travelling fans.
Niko Kovac gave Croatia an early lead, but England were ahead by half-time thanks to a close-range Paul Scholes header and a 25-yarder from Rooney that keeper Tomislav Butina could only help in.
England dominated the match but could only breathe easy when Rooney raced clear to smoothly slot home on 68 minutes.
Or so we thought. Igor Tudor replied for Croatia and it took Lampard’s smart body swerve and finish to ensure a fine display earned England full reward.
‘I don’t remember anyone making such an impact on a tournament since Pele at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden,’ said England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson.
England’s star-studded team for the game (from left) David Beckham, goalkeeper David James, Paul Scholes, John Terry, Gary Neville, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole.
Rooney announced himself on the international stage with two goals in this crucial match
And what did Pele think? ‘Wayne’s emerged as one of Euro 2004’s best players. He’s a very exciting talent who shows maturity and composure beyond his young years.’
‘I think we have for the best young player this country has seen in the past 30 years,’ said Sir Alex Ferguson, who acted on his instincts by signing Rooney for Man United a few months later.
England would suffer an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat to hosts Portugal in the quarter-finals with the tournament ultimately won against all odds by Greece.
It would become a familiar tale of exasperation for one of the best collections of English players every put together.
Frank Lampard celebrates scoring the goal that confirmed England’s win on a dramatic night
2. Germany 1-5 England, World Cup qualifier, 2001
Undoubtedly the most jaw-dropping England scoreline of modern times.
Not only did this handsome victory come against old rivals Germany, it featured an individual finishing masterclass from Michael Owen and transformed what had been a tricky qualification group for the 2002 World Cup.
It also suggested England were ascending to great things in the years ahead and, after plenty of misery at their hands in the past, they were a long way ahead of decaying Germany.
‘I played three or four games in my career when absolutely everything clicked, everyone had confidence and every chance we got we scored,’ said Owen.
Michael Owen scored a famous hat-trick as England demolished Germany in Munich in 2001
David Beckham and Owen celebrate during a jaw-dropped result in the World Cup qualifier
‘This was one of them. We felt fantastic. That game was one of those freaks when everything we touched turned to gold.’
It certainly did for Owen – well, England in general – as they replied to Carsten Jancker’s early opener by comprehensively playing Germany off the field at Munich’s Olympiastadion.
Owen equalised a few minutes later, before his Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard rattled a shot into the bottom corner on the stroke of half-time.
Owen made it 3-1 just after the break and then raced clear to complete his hat-trick. Emile Heskey, also of Liverpool, rattled in the fifth to cap a dream night.
‘Five-one, even Heskey scored,’ is a song still sung by England fans to this day.
Germany’s humiliation is written large on the scoreboard as England fans celebrate the win
Steven Gerrard drills home the goal to put England ahead on the stroke of half-time
‘Beating the Germans in Germany and the way we beat them was incredible,’ recalled England’s captain David Beckham. ‘I think about that game almost every day.’
Nick Barmby said of that night: ‘For a while, we just sat down and said to ourselves: ‘Did that just happen?’ Did we just beat Germany 5-1 on their own turf? To be honest, it was just surreal.’
While England celebrated, the results left German football scarred. Goalkeeper Oliver Kahn described it as a ‘catastrophe’.
‘The impact of this is like what we call a Super-GAU, a nuclear explosion,’ he said. ‘There is no shame in losing to England but there is when you lose like that.’
Michael Owen adds to Germany’s humiliation on a night that won’t quickly be forgotten
Though England would top the qualifying group, forcing Germany to beat Ukraine in a play-off, the tables were turned at the following year’s World Cup.
While England were beaten by Brazil in the quarter-finals, this apparently awful Germany team made it through to the final, themselves losing 2-0 to Brazil.
1. England 4-1 Holland, Euro 96
Which takes us to No 1 and the reasons why everyone should be tuned in to Wednesday night’s rerun of the finest England performance of modern times.
This was not only an excellent England performance brimming with flair and brilliantly-taken goals, but it came in the context of a tournament staged on home turf.
It’s doubtful expectations of an England side have been so euphoric following one single result since that golden summer of ’66.
England celebrate on their glory night at Euro 96, a 4-1 demolition of Holland at Wembley
Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham were the heroes of the hour, both scoring two goals
Having drawn with Switzerland and beaten Scotland 2-0, Terry Venables’ team were well placed to make the quarter-finals, but a Dutch team containing the likes of Dennis Bergkamp and Clarence Seedorf would be a tough proposition.
‘Before we played Holland, Terry Venables gave us the most brilliant team talk,’ recalled Gascoigne. ‘He made it clear this was going to be one of the biggest games in any of our lives.’
In front of a jubilant crowd of over 76,000 at Wembley, England dominated the Dutch in every area of the park, recording a true victory for the ages.
Alan Shearer buried a first-half penalty to set England on their way before a devastating 11-minute period just after half-time blew Holland away.
Shearer hammers home England’s fourth goal as they swept Holland aside to advance
The result had England fans up and down the country dreaming that football could come home
Teddy Sheringham headed home the second and then supplied the delightful lay-off for Shearer to rocket home the third. Sheringham then pounced to make it 4-0.
‘So when you are 4-0 up against Holland under the Wembley lights on a warm evening, with 80,000 people signing ‘Football’s Coming Home’, you do allow yourself a moment to enjoy it and relish the occasion,’ said Darren Anderton.
Patrick Kluivert scored a consolation for Holland which proved fatal for Scotland as it knocked them out the tournament despite a win over Switzerland the same night.
‘We didn’t know at the time but when we found out in the dressing room it was hilarious, said Sheringham of Scotland’s exit.
‘I played international football for 12 years and the best game I’ve ever been involved in was the Dutch game,’ said Stuart Pearce. ‘It was sensational.’
Sheringham fires home England’s second goal to spark a devastating 11-minute spell
Sheringham, Shearer and Paul Ince celebrate one of England’s finest nights
‘We annihilated them, with one of the best England performances I have been party to. One of our great nights,’ said Tony Adams.
Manager Venables later recalled: ‘It still gives me goose-pimples when you realise how much you can give back to your country. We thrashed them.’
That national fever pitch was sustained by a penalty shoot-out win over Spain in the quarters before that agonising loss to Germany in the semi-finals.
But for one night at least, we did all believe football was about to come home.https://amedpost.com/