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EURO Classics: Scotland 0-2 England

This tension-packed EURO ’96 group game hinged on an incident-packed one-minute spell – watch in full on UEFA.tv after reading this.

Paul Gascoigne celebrates scoring against Scotland
Paul Gascoigne celebrates scoring against Scotland

Terry Venables’ England were under pressure after an opening draw as EURO ’96 hosts; could Scotland turn a wobble into a full-pelt catastrophe?

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Context

EURO '96 top scorer: All of Alan Shearer's goals
EURO '96 top scorer: All of Alan Shearer's goals

With expectations high, EURO ’96 hosts England had kicked off their campaign with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Switzerland, with the media increasingly scornful of Venables’ team – partly due to reports of players drinking heavily during a pre-tournament trip to Hong Kong. Craig Brown’s Scotland had held the Netherlands to a 0-0 stalemate in their opening game, and if they lacked England’s star names, they knew that – with determination – they could rattle the Auld Enemy at Wembley.

Key players

Paul Gascoigne: An erratic genius, Gascoigne was playing in Scotland with Rangers at the time of EURO '96 – with Scottish goal ace Ally McCoist one of his team-mates. His skills and power made him phenomenal on his day, but his aggression could get the better of him.

Alan Shearer: The great England centre-forward of his age, Shearer was superb with his head, and eager to underline his prowess after a 12-month barren spell with England ended with a strike against Switzerland.

Colin Hendry: The craggy defender was Shearer's team-mate at Blackburn Rovers so knew what he was up against. The pair won the Premier League together in 1994/95, but friendships were on hold for the duration of this game.

What happened

EURO '96 highlights: Spotlight on Paul Gascoigne
EURO '96 highlights: Spotlight on Paul Gascoigne

Brown's plan to contain England and plant seeds of doubt in their minds seemed to be going well, but Venables' half-time decision to bring on Jamie Redknapp to support Gascoigne in midfield changed the complexion of the match. Within eight minutes of the restart, Gary Neville had crossed for Shearer to nod England in front.

However, the hosts were still on edge; David Seaman had made one great save from open play before a foul in the box left him facing Gary McAllister from the penalty spot. The Arsenal keeper saved that effort, and within seconds England had doubled their lead, Gascoigne lifting the ball over centre-half Hendry before volleying past Andy Goram. It remains an era-defining strike for England fans.

Reaction

Darren Anderton, England winger: "Gazza and the limelight were made for each other. It was a hot afternoon, a difficult afternoon, and the Scots were pushing us back, so that minute between the penalty save and going 2-0 up did not just change the course of a football match. It probably changed the course of EURO '96 because it lifted the pressure off the host nation."

The best goals of EURO '96
The best goals of EURO '96

Teddy Sheringham, England forward: "The atmosphere was as close as you will get to a derby match in international football. England are the team any of the other 'home nations' want to beat. We knew that. In the dressing room Terry [Venables] said: 'They say this match means more to Scotland than it does to us. Let’s show that isn’t the case.'"

Craig Brown, Scotland boss: "It went wrong in the first ten minutes of the second half – that was the only time we were inferior. All credit to the team for fighting back into the game and the penalty was clearly the turning point. Had we scored the penalty, we were the more likely to go on and win the game. England got the lift instead.”

Elsewhere that night

In Group B, France and Spain met at Elland Road, home of Leeds United; both sides were protecting long unbeaten runs – 17 games for Spain and 24 for France. It was a tight contest, Les Bleus going ahead just after the break as Youri Djorkaeff finished from Christian Karembeu's chipped pass. However, Spain replied five minutes from time, José Caminero beating Bernard Lama.

Aftermath

EURO ’96 highlights: England 4-1 Netherlands
EURO ’96 highlights: England 4-1 Netherlands

While Scotland battled to a 1-0 win against Switzerland in their final Group A game, their chances of progress were dashed in agonising fashion as England conceded a late goal in a 4-1 thrashing of the Netherlands. That Dutch strike meant the Oranje pipped Brown's men to the quarter-finals on goals scored (the teams finished level on four points with an identical -1 goal difference).

Venables' England made it to the semis where a Germany side coached by future Scotland boss Berti Vogts eliminated them on penalties en route to winning the competition.

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