Eight things you didn’t know about Euro 96
- Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images
With 20 years having passed since the last international football tournament on English soil, memories may be starting to get hazy.
Few will forget England's brilliant 4-1 win over Holland or Paul Gascoigne's goal and celebration against Scotland, but here are eight things which may have fallen off your radar.
1. It was a little light on goals
All of those warm, fuzzy memories about the tournament come in spite of the fact that it was largely dominated by defences. With 64 goals in 31 matches the goals-to-game ratio was just 2.06. That has been bettered in every subsequent tournament and the three that preceded it.
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In the knockout stage, there were only eight goals in seven matches inside 90 minutes.
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2. It was the first major tournament decided by a 'golden goal'
The golden goal was ratified by FIFA in 1993 but took its time to filter into the upper echelons of the game. The first golden goal came in the subsequent year's World Youth Championship, with Birmingham's Paul Tait scoring the first one to decide a final against Carlisle in the Football League Trophy. That left it Germany's Oliver Bierhoff to complete the list of firsts, settling the Euro 96 showpiece against the Czech Republic with his second of the game.
3. It was the European Championship's sweet 16
Having originally started as a four-team tournament and expanded to eight from 1980, the dissolution of the eastern bloc persuaded UEFA to double the number of places again. That meant 16 teams contested the trophy for the first time in England. Of those Switzerland, Turkey, Croatia and Bulgaria were appearing for the first time.
4. The referee in the final became a controversial figure
Italian official Pierluigui Pairetto may have fulfilled the old adage about good referees going unnoticed when he got the gig at Wembley. But 10 years later, while serving as his country's vice-chairman of UEFA's referees' committee, he was banned from football for three and a half years after being implicated in the Calciopoli scandal that exposed corruption in Serie A.
5. It caught the attention of HR departments across the land
Such was the fevered interest in the football, a growing trend of workplace absenteeism started to rear its head – on the day of games and afterwards.
As a result protocols were in place by the time the World Cup two years later rolled around. The Institute of Personnel and Development advised at the time: 'It's highly probable that absenteeism will rise during the World Cup as football fans decide to take a sickie or two. Employers who were burnt during Euro 96 may react by tightening up their absence control policies.'
Meanwhile, in a pre-smartphone era around 15 per cent of companies were estimated to have ringfenced windows for employees to listen or watch games during the work day, which many people were happy to take advantage of.
6. The star-studded team of the tournament
A total of seven different nations were represented in the official all-star XI. Winners Germany contributed three men – Andreas Kopke, Matthias Sammer and Dieter Eilts – but also present were handful of the era's most compelling talents. Laurent Blanc, Marcel Desailly, Paolo Maldini, Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer, Hristo Stoichkov and Davor Suker all brought their 'A' games to the big stage. For Manchester United-bound Karel Poborsky, inset, though, things never got this good again.
7. Merchandise and marketing
The Adidas Questra Europa was the first official ball to utilise colours at a major tournament.
Although it was manufactured in Germany, it was imprinted with interlinked lions and red roses to connect with the English team. Meanwhile, the British Royal Mint issued a commemorative £2 coin, showing a football and 16 rings to represent the competing nations. The official Mascot, 'Goaliath', was an apparent update of 1966's World Cup Willie donning full kit and clutching a ball.
8. The fans poured in
Until the 2012 edition in Poland and Ukraine, Euro 96 held the record for the best attended event in the tournament's history. It was not a complete sell-out, but an aggregate of 1.276 million came through the turnstiles, averaging out at 41,158 per game.
•See today's Pink Un for plenty more coverage of the Euros.