Old Trafford, Manchester, 16.06.1996
Sammer 56., Klinsmann 77., 90.+1. / –
Having started the tournament in confident fashion against the Czechs, Berti Vogts side would take to the field at Old Trafford a week later to face a Russian side that had put up a good show in narrowly losing 2-1 against the much-fancied Italians. With defender Jürgen Kohler now out of the tournament the Nationaltrainer continued where he had left off the previous week by starting with Markus Babbel, but he was also able to welcome back skipper Jürgen Klinsmann, back in the side having served his one-match suspension. Leading the attack alongside Klinsmann would be Oliver Bierhoff, who replaced Stefan Kuntz.
Germany had played the CIS four years earlier in Sweden, and four of those that had starred in Norrköping would start for the Mannschaft at Old Trafford – Thomas Häßler, Andreas Möller, Stefan Reuter and Klinsmann. Their opponents would also feature four players that had made the CIS side in 1992: ‘keeper Dmitri Kharine, Andrei Kanchelskis, Igor Kolyvanov and Viktor Onopko.
Once again my trusty car had managed to get us up to Manchester, and I took my seat next to my friend Michael amongst a friendly and highly vocal bunch of Schalke 04 supporters – this time in the racing green away Trikot. The crowd was substantially larger than it had been the previous week, coming in at 50,760. The weather was once again excellent, and Danish referee Kim Milton Nielsen got things underway under bright sunshine, with the Russians in red and white and the Mannschaft in their new traditional Schwarz und Weiß. I drew out my Nationalfahne with “FC Bayern” emblazoned across the red band – eliciting friendly smiles from the Schalke boys, who must have found it strange to have this bellicose English-speaking Münch’ner in their ranks. By the same token, the sight of the gang from Gelsenkirchen singing Jürgen Klinsmann’s name would also take some getting used to.
Right from the start Germany went on the offensive, and without even a minute on the clock a Ziege throw into the box was nodded on by Oliver Bierhoff for the unmarked Thomas Helmer who hit his shot narrowly wide of the target. Just three minutes later Thomas Häßler outwitted his marker to play a neat reverse pass to Stefan Reuter, whose nice-weighted cross into the Russian box for Andreas Möller whose well-placed diving header was brilliantly parried by Kharine.
The Russians could very well have been a goal down, but it was they who came even closer in the eighth minute when the German defence failed to clear, allowing Ilya Tsymbalar to hit a left-footed shot from the edge of the box that took a nasty deflection, looped in towards the German goal and hit the base of the upright. The rebound in turn looped straight back out onto the head of the advancing Igor Kolyvanov, but with the goal at his mercy the Russian striker only succeeded in heading it straight into the arms of the grateful Andreas Köpke.
The Danish referee produced his first yellow card of the afternoon on the fifteen minute mark when Markus Babbel was involved in a tangle with Kolyvanov, a harsh decision that meant that the German defender would miss the next match against Italy. The official had allowed the game to flow however, and the tempo was in marked contrast to the encounter that had taken place four years earlier when Berti Vogts’ side met the CIS in Nörrkoping.
It was the Germans who continued to create the better opportunities: Bierhoff sent a glancing header wide of the target with nineteen minutes gone following some smart work down the right by Häßler, and ten minutes later Klinsmann hit the ball high over the bar. In what had been a fairly evenly balanced period it was the referee who would take centre stage, first booking Russian skipper Viktor Onopko for a soft challenge before then waving the yellow card at the unlucky Bierhoff for winning the ball with a clean tackle.
After what had been a good fifteen minutes of German dominance Oleg Romanstev’s side once again showed their speed and strength on the break, as Dmitri Khokhlov sprinted down the right before sending in a delightful low pass towards Aleksandr Mostovoi, who took one touch too many before diving theatrically as Köpke charged forward to meet him.
No further chances would be made by either side before half-time, and both teams headed off after what had been an open and highly entertaining first forty-five minutes. Germany had been the better side, had dominated the possession and had created far more opportunities, but it had been the Russians that had actually come closest to breaking to opening the scoring.
The Russians started the second half with positive intent, and it was the men in red that made most of the running for the opening ten minutes. However for all of their possession Oleg Romantsev’s side were unable to threaten Andy Köpke’s goal, and Berti Vogts’ side were easily able to deal with the threat. As always Germany were content to bide their time, and out of nowhere and against the run of play they broke the deadlock on fifty-six minutes.
Some patient build-up play saw the ball move back and across the field, as a long looping ball back from Christian Ziege found Matthias Sammer in his own half. Sammer played it back inside and across to Andy Möller, and charged into open space down the right. Quick to spot Sammer’s burst forward, Möller delivered the perfect ball into the Russian box, where it was met first time on the half-volley by the fast-moving libero. Dmitri Kharine in the Russian goal managed to get his body behind the ball but was unable to hold onto it, allowing Sammer to stab the rebound into the net.
Matthias Sammer charges in front of the Russian defence to open the scoring at Old Trafford
Having gone behind the Russians found themselves having to chase the game, but the German defence remained firm. Igor Kolyvanov was robbed of possession by Reuter and then caught marginally offside as the men in red continued to press, and with sixty-six minutes gone midfielder Dmitri Khokhlov was replaced by forward Igor Simutenkov as Romantsev decided to throw caution to the wind. Germany meanwhile brought on the more defensively-minded Steffen Freund for Thomas Häßler.
With just under twenty minutes left events took a turn for the worse for the Russians, as central defender Yuri Kovtun – a man well-known for his rash play and indiscipline – flew in on Dieter Eilts with the ball nowhere in sight. Eilts went down clutching his shin, Kim Milton Nielsen flashed the red card with little hesitation, and Kovtun marched off the field without a word of complaint. If the task of getting back into the game had already been difficult for Oleg Romantsev’s side, it would now be next to impossible.
With the Russians down to ten men and having to throw everything forward in search of an equaliser, spaces soon started to open up for Berti Vogts’ side. On seventy-seven minutes Oliver Bierhoff found Jürgen Klinsmann just outside the opposition penalty area, and the German skipper left defender Yuri Nikiforov for dead before almost nonchalantly lashing the ball with the outside of his right foot into the top left-hand corner of the net from the edge of the box. It was Klinsmann at his best, and one of the best goals of the tournament.
Jürgen Klinsmann and Oliver Bierhoff celebrate the skipper’s spectacular strike that would double the Mannschaft’s lead
With the score at 2-0 there would be little more to worry about for the Mannschaft, and they started to work the ball around the park with ease. Bierhoff could very easily have scored a third before he was replaced by Stefan Kuntz with five minutes remaining, and within moments of coming on the substitute launched an audacious effort that just few high of the target.
Things were rounded off nicely in the final minute of the game, as Klinsmann’s header found Kuntz just outside the Russian box. The Beşiktaş striker was able to evade the unfortunate Nikoforov’s clumsy challenge, leaping over the Russian defender and holding the ball up nicely before playing it back inside the box and into the path of the unmarked Klinsmann. Klinsmann had more than enough time and space to settle himself, and calmly rolled the ball with his right foot past the advancing Kharine and into the bottom right-hand corner to make it three.
The final action of the game saw a well-directed Kuntz header held by the Russian ‘keeper, and when the final whistle blew the Mannschaft would have one foot firmly in the quarter-finals. It was also be the first time that they had won their first two group phase games at the European Championships since 1980 – when they went on to claim the trophy.
Germany: Köpke – Sammer – Babbel – Reuter, Eilts, Helmer, Ziege – Häßler (67. Freund), Möller (87. Strunz) – Klinsmann (c), Bierhoff (85. Kuntz)
Russian Federation: Kharine – Nikiforov – Onopko, Kovtun – Kanchelskis, Khokhlov (66. Simutenkov), Tetradze, Radimov (46. Karpin), Tsymbalar – Mostovoi, Kolyvanov
Referee: Kim Milton Nielsen (Denmark)
Assistants: Carl-Johan Christensen Meyer (Denmark), Torben Siersen (Denmark)
Fourth Official: Lars Gerner (Denmark)
Yellow Cards: Babbel, Bierhoff / Kanchelskis, Onopko
Red Cards: – / Kovtun 70.