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View from Germany: Why Euro 1996 was the greatest-ever tournament

View from Germany: Why Euro 1996 was the greatest-ever tournament

03/06/2016 at 15:50Updated 03/06/2016 at 16:16

In England the story of Euro '96 is a familiar tale of woe, but that's far from the case elsewhere as Florian Bogner of Eurosport Germany explains.

I can still see Paul Gascoigne lying there.

The short, pot-bellied man lying on the ground in disbelief that he'd missed.

It would have been the first Golden Goal in European football history, scored for England against Germany in a dramatic semi-finals injury time.

He didn't make it. England lost.

Oh, Euro '96...

England's Paul Gascoigne (l) narrowly fails to connect with a cross during golden goal extra time, watched by Germany's Andreas Kopke (c) and Steffen Freund (r)

England's Paul Gascoigne (l) narrowly fails to connect with a cross during golden goal extra time, watched by Germany's Andreas Kopke (c) and Steffen Freund (r)PA Photos

For me it was the best ever European Championship. But that's not because Germany won it, via Oliver Bierhoff's Golden Goal in the final against the Czech Republic.

Nor was it because we beat England thanks to the penalty by Andy Möller, after which he celebrated his shot cockily before the energized German fans at Wembley.

It was because of the sound of the whole tournament, the euphoria created by fans not just from England, but the vibrant vitality which spilled over the Channel from England into living rooms across Germany.

One of those living rooms was inhabited by a 13-year-old football nut wanting to watch every match: me. The remote control grew into my hand, my arse put down roots in the couch, the screen was mine for several weeks, I didn't go out in the evenings. Friends having a barbecue? No thanks. The Euros were on. And so was I.

I was tied to it, I sucked in every moment. For me Football truly did Come Home - to me, my living room, my TV. And it felt completely different then the tournaments before. It was moving, exciting, crazy.

Although it's 20 years ago now, I can still remember lots and lots of scenes from this tournament. I see Gascoigne brilliantly lobbing the ball over Scotland's Colin Hendry, getting his "booze" from team-mates Darren Anderton and Steve McManaman after the goal, which came only a minute after McCoist missed his penalty.

FOOTBALL Paul Gascoigne Euro 1996

FOOTBALL Paul Gascoigne Euro 1996 Imago

I see Jordi Cruyff sprinting down the line, Michael Laudrup making magic, Peter Schmeichel going down like a felled tree after being beaten by Davor Suker, Hristo Stoichkov scoring, Radek Bejbl shocking the Italians, Karel Poborsky lobbing over Vitor Baia, Alan Shearer raising his hand again and again, and Fernando Couto's hair.

Fernando Couto of Portugal at Euro '96

Fernando Couto of Portugal at Euro '96PA Photos

I still feel the energy now.

And of course, best of all: Germany won it.

Remember: We were still ugly back then. Hairy men with a lots of "ers" at the end: KohlER, SammER, ReutER, HäßlER, MöllER, SchneidER, HelmER and so on. And of course we had Kuntz.

We knew were hadn't the best players. And we made jokes about our coach Berti Vogts like English fans would one day laugh about Steve McClaren. And then the players got hurt: Kohler, Bobic, Freund couldn't play the final; Klinsmann picked up a hamstring injury during the quarter-final, but magically got fit for the final which saw Eilts going down at half time and Helmer and Sammer limping all through it.

The story goes that Vogts even handed out outfield jerseys for goalkeepers Oliver Reck and Oliver Kahn in case of other injuries in the final. He had only six players left, including the two Ollies.

But they fought through it. They made it. They fulfilled the myth of "Die Mannschaft" long before it became the official slogan for the team. They won it with fervour, strength and willpower - and got our not-so-patriotic nation behind them. Still not playing great, of course, but playing honestly.

And of course they created special moments, too. I still see Köpke denying Zola, Klinsmann's beautiful goal against Russia, copying Beckenbauer's effort 30 years ago at the world cup against the same opponent, Sammer's double strike against Croatia, Kuntz's quick feet against England - and of course the normally introverted Möller, standing there like a boss to celebrate Germany beating England after Southgate's miss.

But the image that's most connected to my brain the most is Gascoigne lying there. Oh, Euro '96...

Florian Bogner

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