A tournament on home soil!
You meant FIFA gave it to us, despite no corruption?
Yes, it did once happen.
It was the year of the England shirt with the three lions on the centre – that shirt sold now as a classic. My eight-year-old self used to live in my replica shirt, whilst doodling in my Euro 96 notepad.
Around the outside of the pitches were adverts for JVC. Do they even exist anymore? They were the kings of the VHS tapes – in fact, I believe I recorded some of the Euro 96 game on my blank JVC VHS tapes.
Zola played for Italy. Van Der Sar was still a young Netherlands goalkeeper who hadn’t been rectuited by Man Utd yet. A Schmeichel was in goal for Denmark – but not the one a younger generation of Leicester fans are used to.
It was a better time for England fans, where hopes of winning a tournament were actually realistic.
Gazza even had blond hair.
And we kicked it all off at Wembley.
England Vs Switzlerand
Terry Venables’ England time opened with a draw against the Swiss.
Shearer put the goal in the top corner, despite it being twenty-one months since he had last scored for England – and despite the goal looking like it should have actually been offside!
Stuart Pearce later on handballed, giving away a penalty that led the equaliser.
England Vs Scotland
An old international rivalry, that ended up in favour of the English.
A cross from Neville let to a Shearer headed goal, with a typical celebration – the raised arm as he runs across the pitch.
Then that famous goal from Gazza, one of the best of the tournament, if not all time Euro history – a chip over the defender and volley into the corner. The resulting celebration was that famous image of Gazza lying down with his arms in the air.
England Vs Netherlands
One of the most famous victories of English football history – one you can still buy on DVD.
A penalty, and our number 9, Shearer, puts the ball in the net and raises his arm into the air.
A Gazza corner, and the aging number 10, Teddy Sherringham, nods it in off his head.
Gazza to Sherringham, assist to Shearer, and its another goal from the Blackburn striker.
When have we ever had a front three like this? Gazza, Sherringham and Shearer.
Sherringham gets a rebound for number 4, puts it past Van Der Sar.
Then we concede, as Bergkamp assists Kluivert.
4-1 against one of the best teams in the tournament. Comfortable quarter finalists.
England? As if!
Quarter Final England Vs Spain
Zidane has already beaten Van Der Sar from a penalty shootout, and it takes us spot kicks to get past a Spain without Iniesta to lead them.
David Seaman’s multicoloured top obviously puts the Spanish kicker off as they hit the cross bar. Boos ring out on the fourth Spanish penalty as Seaman saves Nidal’s short.
Pearce has scored, burying the demons of the 90s, celebrating his redemption with a huge scream at the crowd.
Then we get through to the semi-final, beating Spain 4-2 on penalties.
The last team to knock us out of a semi was Germany.
So surely we won’t end up with them again…
Semi-Final England Vs Germany
We face Germany, who beat Croatia 2-1 with a winning penalty.
Czech Republic have already beatn France on penalties, Laurent Blanc scoring the fifth penalty, using sudden death to get through to the final.
England, in the grey away strip, draw 1-1.
Gazza corner on a Shearer header after two minutes, is cancelled out by an equaliser from Kuntz.
Shearer sends to the keeper’s right, goal.
Germany score, against a David Seaman wearing an outfit like a child’s colouring book threw up on him.
Platt puts the ball in the top corner.
Pearce drives it in, strutts away in celebration.
The ball grazes Seaman’s fingers, and Germany score.
Gazza gets it in.
Sherringham, still wearing a wedding ring, something you can not do under today’s laws of the game, scores.
Germany get their fifth.
It’s sudden death.
The current England manager, Gareth Southgate, steps up for his country. He shoots. It’s saved.
If only he’d sent the ball the other way, maybe I’d be typing a different story.
Germany go through to their eleventh competition final so far, and beat Czech Republic 2-1 in Golden Goal extra time. The scorer removes their shirt in celebration.
Germany win on English soil.
Our hearts break once again.
Still, there’s 1998, right?