Day: May 20, 2008

The European Championships – 2000

So, a new millennium, and a new concept for UEFA – for the first time, the finals of the European Championships would be jointly hosted between two countries. This was an excellent tournament, freed from much of the defensive football that had blighted the previous two competitions in England and Sweden, and would end with a Golden Goal winner that would see France become the first country to be the reigning European and World champions at the same time. Before the tournament, the familiar concerns. Would the Belgian and Dutch police be able to cope with the familiar spectre of English hooliganism? The answer was, “not really, but why should they have to?”. Many people rightly criticised the hosts for putting on the match between England and Germany at Charleroi, where the stadium held just 30,000 people, but the vast majority of the trouble occurred outside of the area immediately surrounding the stadium, by people that probably had no intention of going to the match itself. Plus ca change. The rest of Europe gave a sigh of relief when the England team was knocked out in the first round. England’s qualification had been by the skin of their teeth, winning just three of their eight matches, and being reliant on a Swedish win against Poland to get them through to a two-legged play-off against Scotland. A 2-0 win at...

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The European Championships – 1996

Time, then, to debunk a couple of old myths about Euro 96. First of all, the tournament was not the stunning success that many of the history books would tell you that it was. It was certainly a success when compared with the worst, most doom-laden prophecies that the media could come up with, but there were vast numbers of empty seats at other matches with reports that the FA were over-stating the figures – a crowd that looked like about 5,000 at St James Park for the match between Romania and Bulgaria was reported as 19,000. Very few of the stadia were full for matches that didn’t include England or Scotland. The perception of the tournament as a massive success has been overstated since 1996. Secondly, England were not an absolute revelation at Euro 96, playing exceptional football that swept all before them. Having played so badly since the 1990 World Cup finals, there were considerable concerns that England might not even get beyond the group stages of the competition. The team returned from a pre-tournament trip to Hong Kong in disgrace after the infamous “dentist’s chair” incident, which led to calls in the press for Paul Gascoigne to be dropped. There were plenty of question marks over England’s temperament and ability before it all started, and not all of these had been answered by the time that...

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