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Euros Classic Moments: Bierhoff and the first golden goal

We witnessed the first ever golden goal at a major international tournament in 1996, and it was a goal that saw Germany lift the trophy at Wembley.

The rule was brought in as an attempt to bring an end to the days of tedious extra-time periods and to reduce the chance of matches being settled by a penalty shootout.

Initially the ruling led to more exciting passages of play, but with two of the quarter-finals going to penalties and both semi-finals following suit, we were still awaiting the first golden goal at Euro 96.

The final pitted Euro 1992 runners-up Germany against Czech Republic and what followed was one of the most dramatic conclusions to a game of football.

Route to the Final

Germany and Czech Republic were drawn together alongside Russia and 1994 World Cup runners-up Italy in a competitive-looking Group C.

The two finalists met in the opening game of the group and pre-tournament favourites Germany were comfortable 2-0 winners.

Berti Vogts’ side then dispatched Russia 3-0 courtesy of a second-half brace from Jurgen Klinsmann and a goal from sweeper and player of the tournament Matthias Sammer, while Czech Republic produced a shock as they beat Italy 2-1.

Czech Republic needed to match Italy’s result in their final game to progress to the quarter-finals and they managed it in dramatic circumstances.

Italy and Germany finished goalless at Old Trafford and Czech Republic were coasting with a two-goal advantage against Russia inside 19 minutes.

But Russia hit back with two goals early in the second half before Vladimir Beschastnykh completed the turnaround in the 85th minute. 

There was one final twist, however, as Vladimir Smicer scored two minutes from time to send Czech Republic through at Italy’s expense.

Germany and Czech Republic both negotiated tough quarter-final clashes as Germany overcame Croatia 2-1, while a delightful chip from Karel Poborsky helped Czech Republic see off Portugal.

The Czechs then went one better as they overcame France on penalties after a non-eventful and goalless 120 minutes.

There was nothing drab about Germany’s semi-final though, as they overcame hosts England via spot-kicks on a nail-biting and drama-filled evening.

The emergence of Oliver Bierhoff

The German team was plagued by injuries and suspensions ahead of the final, to such an extent that substitute goalkeepers Oliver Kahn and Oliver Reck were given outfield shirts on the bench.

In attack, striker Fredi Bobic was a long-term absentee and captain Jurgen Klinsmann started alongside Stefan Kuntz despite not being 100% fit.

The injury issues increased the likelihood that fellow frontman Oliver Bierhoff would be needed off the bench during the game.

Bierhoff arrived at Euro 1996 as back up to Kilnsmann after his debut season at Udinese saw him contribute 17 goals from 31 games.

He had previously spent three years in Serie B with Ascoli and he was winning a lot of plaudits in Italy due to his ability in the air and capability as a target man.

Bierhoff had made his international debut in a friendly against Portugal just four months prior to the European Championship, before a brace against Denmark and a goal against Liechtenstein in further friendlies ahead of the Euros.

His appearances in the tournament had been limited to one start and one substitute appearance in the group stage, however, as injury and the preference to pick Klinsmann and Kuntz ahead of him hindered his chances.

Euro 96 would turn out to be Bierhoff’s big break and he would eventually go on to captain his country and seal a lucrative move to AC Milan. 

The golden goal

England was still in mourning by the time the Euro 96 final came around on 30th June 1996.

The hosts had blown a golden opportunity to end 30 years of hurt as they were edged out by Germany, and there was a sense of anti-climax at Wembley for the showpiece event.

A repeat of the group stage encounter was expected, where an efficient German display was too good for the Czechs.

After a tense first-half, the script was torn up as Patrik Berger’s penalty gave Czech Republic the lead on the hour.

Within minutes, Bierhoff was introduced from the bench and his impact was immediate as he headed in a Christian Ziege cross to level matters in the 73rd minute.

The game went into extra-time after neither side could find a winner during the 90 minutes, with the prospect of a golden goal to settle the final on the cards.

This time we wouldn’t have penalties as the game reached its sudden conclusion in the 95th minute.

Bierhoff received the ball from Klinsmann before firing a shot at goal which took a deflection off a Czech Republic defender.

The deflection shouldn’t have been enough to deceive goalkeeper Petr Kouba but it somehow squirmed through his hands and found the back of the net.

It was a surreal moment as the referee’s whistle confirmed the end of the game. Germany had wiped out the ghost of their  shock1992 final defeat to Denmark and Bierhoff had sealed his place in history.

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