Bierhoff the hero of Germany's EURO '96 final win against Czech Republic
Monday, October 6, 2003
Czech Republic 1-2 Germany
Oliver Bierhoff climbed off the bench to inspire injury-ravaged Germany to EURO '96 glory.
Article top media content
Oliver Bierhoff climbed off the bench to inspire injury-ravaged Germany to EURO '96 glory, as Berti Vogts' side came from behind to beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in extra time.
Bierhoff was introduced with Germany 21 minutes from a surprise final defeat after Patrik Berger's penalty before the hour. The Udinese Calcio striker wasted no time, equalising to take the game into extra time before somehow squeezing in a 95th-minute winner – senior international football's first golden goal.
A few wheels came full circle here. Twenty years earlier Germany had lost to Czechoslovakia, underdogs then as now, in the UEFA European Championship final; they were beaten by dark horses Denmark in 1992; and in the 1966 FIFA World Cup final, also at Wembley, they lost to a contentious goal. Payback time.
The omens were not too promising, even discounting the history described above. While the Czechs were able to bring back Berger and three of their suspended players, Germany's injury list had grown so long that Jürgen Klinsmann played despite a calf problem – and they were allowed to add two new players to their squad.
The first half was largely uneventful. Germany pressed, with Stefan Kuntz missing two chances; the Czechs defended in numbers and broke from the back, most notably when Pavel Kuka went clear but shot straight at the keeper. The rest was a trial of patience.
A penalty awarded when Mattias Sammer brought down the lively Karel Poborský took the Czechs ahead. Berger thumped the ball into the net, and it seemed a shock was on the cards. But then Vogts sent on Bierhoff, and he demonstrated his power in the air almost immediately.
Christian Ziege's free-kick from deep on the right was in the air a long time, but Petr Kouba did not come out, allowing Bierhoff to tower over him and head in. Vladimír Smicer, who had returned home to get married two days earlier, almost repeated his last-minute goal against Russia, but Andreas Köpke made a diving save.
At last, after all the extra time earlier in the tournament, there was a golden goal. On the edge of the box with his back to goal, Bierhoff turned and struck a left-foot shot which hit Michal Horňák on its way through to Kouba. Somehow the keeper allowed ball to slip through his fingers and drop in off the far post. Sudden death for the Czech Republic's unexpected run.
After defeat in the showpiece last time, it was Vogts' finals. Or perhaps his wife's. "Take Oliver Bierhoff with you," she is said to have told him. "He will repay you."
Matthias Sammer, Germany defender: "It was great for Oliver Bierhoff that he scored those two goals since he did not play that much and everybody said it is not so easy for Oliver. He was a typical centre-forward: not the best player technically, but he was an incredibly nice guy and he deserved it so much. We all gained from it, but he deserved it."
Czech Republic: Kouba; Suchopárek, Kadlec (c), Horňák,; Nĕmec, Rada, Bejbl, Berger, Nĕdved, Poborský (Šmicer 88); Kuka
Substitutes: Nĕmeček, Drulák. Frýdek, Kubík. Srníček, Kotůlek, Novotný, Kerbr, Maier
Coach: Dušan Uhrin
Germany: Köpke; Ziege, Helmer, Sammer, Babbel, Strunz; Hässler, Eilts (Bode 46), Scholl (Bierhoff 69); Klinsmann (c), Kuntz
Substitutes: Kahn, Schneider, Reck
Coach: Berti Vogts
Referee: Pierluigi Pairetto (Italy)
Man of the Match: Karel Poborský (Czech Republic)