Wembley Stadium, London, 26.06.1996

6-5 PSO (1-1, 1-1, 1-1 aet)
Kuntz 16. / Shearer 3.
Penalties: Shearer 0-1; Häßler 1-1; Platt 1-2; Strunz 2-2; Pearce 2-3; Reuter 3-3; Gascoigne 3-4; Ziege 4-4; Sheringham 4-5; Kuntz 5-5; Southgate SAVED; Möller 6-5.

Having disposed of Croatia in a hard-won and highly physical contest that had resulted in the early departure of skipper Jürgen Klinsmann, the Mannschaft would then face the hardest task of all: the host nation England, in front of the own supporters on the famous Wembley turf. Nobody had any idea what England team would turn up, but any game against Germany in front of an enthusiastic Wembley crowd was always going to be a classic. Awaiting the winner would be the Czech Republic, who earlier in the day had ground out a penalty shootout victory over France after a goalless draw that made watching paint dry exciting.

The hosts had made their way through to the semi-final on the crest of a wave, though not without the one banal performance and a heady dose of luck. A depressingly ordinary 1-1 draw with Switzerland in their opening game had been followed by a 2-0 win over an unlucky Scotland side, but this was all forgotten as the much-feared Dutch were completely destroyed as Terry Venables’ side adminstered a 4-1 thrashing to the hapless Oranje. The quarter-final however against Spain however offered a complete contrast, as the home side crept through on a penalty shootout after the Spaniards had had a completely valid goal disallowed in a dull goalless draw.

No sooner had it been confirmed that England would play Germany the English media went into complete crazy overdrive: lurid banner headlines, amateurish images of England players in tin helmets and asinine references to the Second World War that had nothing to do with football were the order of the day. If anything, this silliness probably strengthened the resolve of the injury-ravaged German team.

Given the importance of the fixture and the strength of the opposition, Berti Vogts nominated his fittest available starting eleven while at the same time applying the most conservative formation thus far. Both Markus Babbel and Thomas Helmer started in front of sweeper Matthias Sammer as they had done against Croatia, and the versatile Steffen Freund was drafted into a new four-man defensive midfield unit alongside Stefan Reuter, Dieter Eilts and Christian Ziege.

With Thomas Häßler only partially fit Mehmet Scholl started alongside Andreas Möller, with Stefan Kuntz as the sole man up front. In the absence of both Klinsmann and Häßler, Möller would be leading out the team for the first time. Five of the starting lineup were on one yellow card: Möller, Reuter, Sammer, Ziege and Kuntz.

On what was a dry and pleasant midweek evening, Hungarian referee Sándor Puhl led the teams out onto the field where they were met by an expectant crowd of 75,862. Germany had won the toss and were wearing their traditional Schwarz und Weiß, while England took to the field in what could only be described as a bizarre two-tone grey-indigo ensemble. Led by musician Paul Young the England team led the crowd in what was a stirring rendition of God Save the Queen, while apart from an irritating chorus of whistles from a small portion of the crowd the Deutschlandlied was also met with a welcome respect by the home supporters.

The game could not have started off any worse for Germany. England stormed forward from the off, and within the first ninety seconds Torhuter Andy Köpke was being tested by Paul Ince, whose well-struck shot was turned over the bar. The resulting corner was swept in by Paul Gascoigne, flicked on by Tony Adams, and met at the near post by the tournament’s top scorer Alan Shearer who had been left completely unmarked. Shearer got plenty on it, and powered the ball past the prostrate Köpke with his head.

After just two minutes and fifteen seconds, Germany were behind.

While the commentators geared up for a repeat of the 4-1 victory over the Netherlands, Berti Vogts’ side quickly regained their composure – and started to work their way back into the game by applying that age-old tried and trusted German method: pass, pass, pass; probe, probe, probe. The game went into something of a lull as Germany set about restablishing themselves, but with so much time to go in the game there was little sign of panic as they concentrated on keeping the ball and starving the home side of possession.

On sixteen minutes came the equaliser. It was beautifully yet simply crafted: Thomas Helmer advanced smoothly out of defence, taking the ball to the edge of the opposition box where he found Andreas Möller. With Helmer continuing his run down the left, the languid Möller skipped past Paul Gascoigne before deftly dinking a left-footed return pass. Helmer took one neat touch before laying a neatly-angled ball that sliced through the England defence, finding the unheralded Beşiktaş striker Stefan Kuntz who stole a march on Stuart Pearce before stabbing the ball home past the helpless David Seaman.

Stefan Kuntz steals in front of the England defence to stab the ball past David Seaman, and the game is back in the balance

At one goal apiece, both teams knuckled down to what was to become yet another classic clash, played with the usual mix of sportsmanship, skill and commitment; with their somewhat depleted side Germany adopted a more defensive approach than had been the case earlier in the tournament, but there was none of the sterility that had reduced the first semi-final between the Czech Republic and France to little more than a gentle afternoon amble in a neatly-manicured garden.

After Germany’s equaliser both teams seemed to cancel each other out: England, playing in front of an expectant home crowd, were slightly more adventurous but most of their moves were quickly snuffed out; Germany meanwhile continued to be patient and content to catch a chance on the break. Having looked wobbly in their quarter-final against Croatia, the German defence were quick to close down their opponents and stifle their opponents; the tackling was crisp and accurate, and Matthias Sammer in particular was making things look easy in mopping things up at the back.

Sheringham did get a shot on target on the half-hour mark which was easily cleared by Reuter, Mehmet Scholl scuffed a shot well wide of the target after a powerful surge towards the edge of the England penalty area and Shearer headed just narrowly wide after an excellent right-wing cross from Darren Anderton, but as half-time approached there had been little for either of the two goalkeepers to worry about.

When the whistle blew to bring an end to what had been an intriguing forty-five minutes, Berti Vogts would have been satisfied with the overall performance of his side. The game had been played at a decent tempo and had been well contested, helped in no small part by the Hungarian official who exercised a firm authority without resorting to any of the card-waving fussiness that had plagued Germany’s earlier matches in the tournament.

Someone must have had a harsh word with the referee during the break, as within seconds of the restart he produced the first yellow card of the game as Stefan Reuter was cautioned for a tug-back on Steve McManaman. Reuter’s indiscretion would prove costly, in that it would rule him out of the final should Germany make it.

The second half started in the same way as the first had finished, with both teams controlling the ball well without creating any real danger in the final third of the opposition half. The first real opportunity of the half for either side would come just short of the hour mark, when a rare foray forward down the left from Dieter Eilts produced a fine cutback that was curled over the crossbar by Thomas Helmer. Helmer would be the hero at the other end ten minutes later, as a perfectly-timed challenge prevented Gascoigne from getting a shot on goal.

The lack of goalmouth action was complemented by drama elsewhere on the pitch: Gascoigne deservedly made his way into the referee’s notebook for a late and clumsy challenge on Kuntz, and with twelve minutes left Andreas Möller suffered what could only described as a mental lapse as he lashed out at Stuart Pearce. Möller had been sent tumbling at the edge of the England penalty area and Pearce had offered a helping hand, but the German skipper completely misjudged his counterpart’s motives and flapped his arms about like a spoilt child as he remained sitting on the grass. This ridiculous act of petulance would earn Möller a yellow card, ruling him out of the final. Sitting behind the touchline, the stone-faced Berti Vogts was clearly not impressed.

Chances were few and far between as neither side gave an inch, and when the whistle blew after the end of the ninety minutes the score remained deadlocked at one apiece. After their troubles against Croatia it had been an impressive defensive display by the Mannschaft: Matthias Sammer had been outstanding, and Dieter Eilts had delivered a performance worthy of Berti Vogts himself. As had been the case six years earlier in Turin, the match would go into extra-time – though this time with the added drama of the Golden Goal.

While the first semi-final had provided a poor advertisement for the Golden Goal method with one side clearly playing for a penalty shootout during the thirty minutes of extra time, it was at this point where what had been a tense but not overly dramatic Germany-England encounter turned into yet another classic. Both sides set off in search of the winning goal as the game sparked into life, with opportunities coming at both ends. Darren Anderton hit the post for England, with the ball not rebounding back into open play but – expressed in woeful strains by BBC commentator Barry Davies – back into the arms of Andreas Köpke. Kuntz was close but not close enough, and a cracking shot from Möller called David Seaman into action as he tipped the ball over the bar.

From the resulting corner, Stefan Kuntz rose magnificently to head the ball into the back of the net – and in a blur it was all over. But no. Some waving of the arms, the shrill peep of the Schiri’s whistle. No goal, and it was still 1-1. Kuntz had been penalised for a push, though the replay should little to support that view. He had simply risen above the defender and buried the chance; at the very worst it was a fair fifty-fifty challenge. For a moment one got the distinctly stale whiff of 1966, but rather than remonstrating with the Hungarian official Vogts’ side simply dusted themselves down and got on with it.

Then it was England’s turn. Sheringham’s long ball found his strike partner Shearer out on the right, and the Blackburn Rovers man’s first time cross looked to be falling perfectly for the advancing Gascoigne. With Köpke rooted to the spot, Gascoigne came agonizingly close to sealing the win for the home side as he desperately swung out his right foot. He missed by mere centimetres, the ball went wide, and the chance had gone. Christian Ziege then should have done better in front of goal as he scuffed his shot wide with only Seaman to beat, but it was yet one more missed chance in a match that was always destined to go to distance.

Berti Vogts had made two changes in extra-time, with Marco Bode coming on for Thomas Helmer and Thomas Strunz – a recognised penalty-taker – replacing Steffen Freund. The final whistle blew. The two teams could not be separated after more than two hours of open play, and once again it would be the dreaded Elfmeterschießen.

England would take the first kick, and Alan Shearer’s effort was cracked high into the top right-hand corner with Andy Köpke going the wrong way. 1-0 England. The scores would be levelled by Thomas Häßler, who drilled his kick low and firm into the bottom left-hand corner, beating David Seaman who dived the right way but was still nowhere near stopping it. David Platt found the same part of the net as Shearer to put the home side back in front, and Thomas Strunz smashed Germany’s second kick into the top left-hand corner to level the scores once more.

Both sides were now in well and truly in the zone: Stuart Pearce found the bottom left-hand corner with a firm shot, Stefan Reuter found the top right-hand corner as his shot skimmed off Seaman’s glove, Paul Gascoigne nonchalantly placed England’s fourth kick into the right inside netting, and Christian Ziege levelled things up again as he too found the right inside netting with a beautifully struck left-foot shot. 4-4.

It was now effectively sudden death, and Teddy Sheringham slammed the ball into the right-hand roof of the net to put the home side back in front. The pressure was now on Stefan Kuntz to keep Germany in it, and the first-half goalscorer delivered what was probably the best penalty of the ten as he rifled it into the top right-hand corner.

Up then stepped Aston Villa’s Gareth Southgate, whose only other spot-kick had resulted in a miss for his previous club Crystal Palace against Ipswich Town four years earlier; his weak shot was easily saved by Andy Köpke, who had been nowhere near any of the first five.

After ten perfect penalties from both sides, Andreas Köpke dives to keep out Gareth Southgate’s effort

Germany were now just one kick away from the final, with the responsibility given to stand-in skipper Andy Möller. Many Germany fans would have been sitting on their hands as Möller prepared himself: less than a month earlier he had taken a spot-kick in a friendly in Belfast against Northern Ireland, and had blasted the ball high into row Z. He lashed at the ball, which again flew high – but this time into the roof of the net. Having been ruled out of the final following his silly self-inflicted booking, it would be the last part Möller would play in the tournament.

The strutting Andy Möller after smashing home the winning penalty. A classic moment

Möller would charge to the touchline to deliver his strutting, chest-puffing celebration – and yet another classic encounter had come to a glorious end for the Nationalmannschaft. The hosts had been vanquished on their own turf, and Germany were in their fourth European Championship final.

Germany: Köpke – Sammer – Babbel, Helmer (110. Bode) – Reuter, Freund (119. Strunz), Eilts, Ziege – Möller (c), Scholl (77. Häßler) – Kuntz

England: Seaman – Adams, Southgate, Pearce – Anderton, Platt, Ince, Gascoigne, McManaman – Shearer, Sheringham

Referee: Sándor Puhl (Hungary)
Assistants: Laszlo Hamar (Hungary), Imre Bozóky (Hungary)
Fourth Official: Sándor Piller (Hungary)

Yellow Cards: Reuter, Möller / Gascoigne
Red Cards: – / –

Attendance: 75,862

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