If Gazza’s goal against Scotland was, well, typical Gazza, then Alan Shearer's second goal against the Dutch was typical of the way most England fans view Euro 96. Glorious football, beautiful sunshine, Wembley having never looked so good and an unashamed patriotism that would normally be a source of retrospective embarrassment.
Rose-tinted spectacles? Almost certainly. Terry Venables’ team were neither that good throughout the tournament, nor that good for the whole game against a Guus Hiddink Holland outfit that were in disarray. But when they were good, they were very very good. And for 11 minutes of their final Group A game, they were out of this world.
Already leading 2-0 through a Shearer penalty after “a bit of Incey magic” and Teddy Sheringham’s header from an early second-half corner, England entered dreamland in the 57th minute when they made it three with a goal that had everything – dribbling, passing, vision, movement, finishing, the lot.
First the irresistible Paul Gascoigne, buoyed after his goal against Scotland, played a slick one-two with Steve McManaman down the left. Gazza then burst past former Lazio teammate Aron Winter, committed the hapless Danny Blind and slid ball the ball to the edge of the penalty area, where Teddy Sheringham was waiting as the crowd yelled “Shooooot!”
“I thought about it!” he told FourFourTwo. “It was on a plate but as I ran toward the ball I could see the fella running from Alan [Shearer] to me to block my effort.”
“I was bloody screaming at Teddy to play me in!” said Shearer in the same interview.
Sheringham: “I feinted to shoot and just knocked it wide.”
Shearer: “Then it was just a case of picking your spot and hitting it.”
And hit it he did, right into the top corner with a shot that was clocked at 77 km/h.
Dutch chasing shadows
“That goal was perfect,” says Sheringham. “We overloaded and found the extra man. That’s what you look for in a team with Macca, Darren [Anderton], Gazza, Alan. It was an attacking formation that wanted to interact, to pass and move. That was the beauty. You can’t just go head to head with defenders, you have to ask questions. If I drop here are you going to come with me and leave space, or are you just going to stand there? If Gazza beats his man are you going to go to him or are you going to pass him on? If Darren comes inside, who will overlap and fill in wide? Terry always wanted questions asked.”
Indeed, Venables had asked so many questions of Hiddink’s team with the most fluid of 4-4-2 formations – adding a fourth through Sheringham and allowing the Dutch a consolation goal to send Scotland out, just for for good measure – that at the final whistle his opposite number could only say: “Congratulations. This is the first time I have ever been tactically outwitted.”
Who cares that England were lucky to scrape past Spain in the quarter-finals? Or that they were unlucky not to beat Germany in the semi-finals? Watch this goal back again and nothing else seems to matter. As Steve McManaman put it to FFT: “Wow.”
Shearer rounds off a fine team move
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