As England prepare for a European Championships by welcoming the Netherlands to Wembley, it’s natural to reminisce over arguably the best home Three Lions performance since Bobby Moore lifted the World Cup.
Everyone remembers the isolated incidents of Euro 96; Paul Gascoigne’s Scotland wonder goal, David Seaman’s penalty save against Spain, the heartbreaking penalty shoot002Dout with Germany and the 4-1 win over Holland.
But what were the finer details of that incredible Oranje triumph during the group stages?
Going into the game, Terry Venables’ squad needed only a draw to qualify for the quarter finals and, against a star-studded Dutch side, would have probably taken a point had it been offered before kickoff.
But the manager had other ideas and sent an unchanged side out to not only win, but outplay a formidable opposition in every department. He got his wish.
Gascoigne had already illuminated the tournament with his Scottish strike three days earlier, but here put in a complete midfield performance to which the Dutch had no answer.
Taking control of the game and never letting go, the then-Rangers star dictated England’s tempo with the ball at his feet; passing, moving and creating.
It was his central midfield partner, Paul Ince, that gave Alan Shearer the chance to open the scoring though, bursting into the box and conning Danny Blind (now in charge of the Netherlands) into tripping him with a superb drag back.
Shearer hammered home the resulting spot kick and England were up and running. The one-goal lead remained at the break, but in a flurry of action in 17 second-half minutes the hosts added three more.
First, Teddy Sheringham guided Gascoigne’s corner home, then, that pair combined to set up Shearer for his second and one of England’s most iconic strikes.
Gascoigne broke in behind the Oranje midfield on a one-two with Steve McManaman, shrugged off Aron Winter as he entered the penalty area and cut back to Sheringham. Without looking, the striker feigned to shoot and moved the ball on to his partner, stood unmarked at the back stick, both arms aloft.
Moving on to the pass to thunder a strike past a diving Edwin van der Sar, Shearer was almost celebrating with the fans before he’d swung his boot.
When Sheringham followed in Darren Anderton’s shot to slot the fourth, England had all but completed the biggest win in recent history.
After a Patrick Kluivert consolation brought an end to proceedings, the media waxed lyrical about the achievement of Venables’ squad. So did their opponents.
Kluivert called England’s 4-4-2 “well-balanced” while reserving praise for Ince and Gascoigne. Guus Hiddink, the Dutch manager, told Venables it was the first time he’d ever been completely tactically outworked.
The hysteria surrounding that side grew uncontrollably after the win. Some 20 years on, it could do so again with another Dutch decimation.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.