England vs Spain

England advanced to the semi finals of Euro 96 with a nerve wracking and somewhat fortunate victory over Spain at Wembley Stadium.  After a scoreless, but not uneventful draw over 120 minutes, a David Seaman save secured a 4-2 penalty shootout victory for the Three Lions.

England manager Terry Venables made a change to his starting lineup for the first time in the tournament, and it was an enforced one.  Veteran midfielder David Platt was drafted into central midfield of a 4-4-2 to replace the suspended Paul Ince.

Striker Alan Shearer entered the quarter finals as the tournament’s top scorer, and was partnered in attack by Teddy Sheringham, who got off the mark with two goals and an outstanding performance last time out against the Netherlands.

Spain boss Javier Clemente replaced defender Juan Manuel Lopez with Alberto Belsue for this game.  In midfield, Guillermo Amor was handed a start after coming off the bench against Romania to net the dramatic winning goal that qualified Spain for these knockout rounds.  Julio Salinas was also handed a start here, with Jose Emilio Amavasca and Juan Antonio Pizzi dropping to the bench.

Spain lined up in a 3-5-2 for this game, with Kiko and Salinas serving as the attack partnership.

French referee Marc Batta was involved far earlier than he would have expected, booking Abelardo within the first 30 seconds of the game for a foul through the back of Shearer.  The early card meant Abelardo would be suspended for the semi final round if Spain made it that far.

England took the free kick short and Paul Gascoigne fed Darren Anderton who played the ball wide.  Gary Neville charged onto the pass and swung over a low cross that was punched away by Andoni Zubizarreta.

An error by Spain almost opened the door for England in the 5th minute, when an errant header back from Fernando Hierro was latched onto by Shearer, before Zubizarreta palmed away the strikers shot with an excellent save.

Spain won a 9th minute corner when Sergi charged forward and his cross was blocked by England winger Steve McManaman, who had tracked him step for step.  Javier Manjarin’s corner was cleared at the back post by England, before a second ball into the box was headed wide by Abelardo.

England had a chance in transition when Platt intercepted a Spanish clearance and fed Gascoigne 25 yards out, but the midfielders shot was saved by Zubizarreta.

Spain were playing their part in an entertaining opening to the game, and Sergi was soon on the attack again down the left wing.  The left wingback swapped passes with Kiko before swinging over a cross that was knocked behind at the back post by Anderton.

McManaman’s corner was cleared by Hierro, but the pressure was soon back on as Sergi pumped in another cross that Tony Adams sliced clear.  Sergi was a key figure in the opening stages of the game, and cut inside after being fed by Amor soon after to shoot just wide.

England received a lucky break in the 23rd minute, when Salinas robbed Gascoigne of possession and fed Manjarin, who drove forward before sliding a well weighted pass through to Kiko.  The striker raced clear and guided a one touch finish past David Seaman, only for the linesman’s flag to cut shirt his celebrations.  TV replays later showed that the decision was marginal, and Kiko was just onside as the pass was played.

Spain was finding joy down the left flank, and another Sergi cross was cleared by Adams, before England countered and McManaman’s dribble was brought to a halt illegally by Abelardo.

Throughout the game, Spain had no problem stringing together quality phases of possession, and Amor played to Kiko, who crossed against Adams to win another corner.  Manjarin drove the corner deep to the edge of the penalty area where it was cleared by Anderton, before Belsue looped a high cross into the arms of Seaman.

England won a free kick in the 31st minute when Shearer was impeded by Rafael Alkorta out wide.  Gascoigne found Adams from the free kick, but the header on goal was tipped over the bar by Zubizarreta.

In England’s previous game against the Netherlands, forward Sheringham had dropped deep into central midfield positions to tilt the game in England’s favor.  But in this game, it was his opposite number Kiko playing that role, influencing the game and allowing the Spanish to link play seamlessly between defense and attack.

Kiko picked up possession near the center circle before finding the feet of Salinas, who set the ball back to Manjarin.  Midfielder Manjarin threaded a pass to the onrushing Hierro, who’s falling, mishit shot rolled to the feet of Salinas.  The referee’s whistle sounded immediately after Salinas beat Seaman, only for TV replays to show that Spain had again suffered at the hands of an unjust decision.

Spain were undeterred by being on the wrong end of the officiating, and Hierro passed to Amor, who split the England defense with a forward pass to Sergi, who took a touch before firing wide.

Kiko made his presence felt in the middle third of the field yet again, dropping deep to intercept a Gascoigne pass, before feeding Salinas who released Manjarin with a nice through ball.  Seaman came well outside his area, making a save with his feet before Stuart Pearce recovered to clean up.

Struggling to cope centrally, England did find some room out wide for a late first half attack.  McManaman drove past Sergi before playing in Neville, who’s cross was headed clear at the back post by Belsue.

The half time whistle blew and England manager Venables would likely be relieved to be heading into the interval with the score locked at 0-0.  Spain’s 3-5-2 against England’s 4-4-2 gave the Spanish an extra man in central  midfield, and that was only amplified by Kiko dropping deep and linking play.  Something that showed through in Spain dominating the run of play for long spells, and having two seemingly legitimate goals flagged incorrectly for offside.  Sapin also forced a good 1v1 save from Seaman on Manjarin.

Spain manager Clemente made two half time substitutions, but the fresh legged introductions were hardly downgrades.  Salinas was replaced by the hard running Alfonso, who scored Spain’s equalizer in their opening game against Bulgaria with his first touch off the bench.  Manjarin was replaced by Jose Luis Caminero, who had made a case for being Spain’s best player in the opening two games, and scored their late equalizer against France.

England defender was having a tough matchup against the impressive Spain wingback Sergi, and found himself booked early in the second half for a foul on the Spaniard.  The card meant that Neville would be suspended for the semi finals if England made it that far.

Spain fired the first shot of the second half in the 50th minute, when Amor was stopped in his tracks by Gascoigne, but Hierro picked up the ball and fired wide from distance.  Soon after, substitute Alfonso was involved when he picked up a throw in from Sergi, dribbling past Gareth Southgate before taking a touch past Gascoigne and going to ground.  No penalty was given and referee Batta booked the Spaniard for diving.

England’s first chance after the interval came when McManaman cut in off the left wing, exchanging passes with Sheringham before curling a shot wide of the goalpost.

England carved out their best chance of the game so far from a long throw in the 58th minute.  Neville’s throw reached McManaman at the back post, and the winger headed back across goal where Sheringham could only get a slight touch into the hands of Zubizarreta.

Spain were quickly down the other end, and in their next possession Alfonso fed Kiko, who advanced on goal before sending a poor finish well wide of the target.

England were awarded a 59th minute indirect free kick inside the penalty area, and it came from one of their best phases of play.  McManaman found the feet of Shearer, who showed good strength back to goal by riding a foul and passing to Gascoigne, who sent the ball wide,  McManaman received the pass and his high cross was spilled by Zubizarreta, who then picked up a backpass by Sergi while under pressure.

Gascoigne dragged the free kick back to Neville on the edge of the area, but his shot was blocked by Sergi, who immediately released Belsue on the counter attack.  Belsue dribbled down the left flank, before finding the overlapping run of Sergi, and a cross found Alfonso, who won a corner under a challenge from Adams.  The corner failed to beat the first man, and was headed away by Platt at the near post.

England were finding more joy going forward in the second half, and Neville cut back to Shearer, who crossed for Anderton to direct a powerful shot wide of the goal.

A long spell of Spanish possession won them a 69th minute corner when Amor was tackled by Platt.  The buildup included impressive wingback Sergi being roundly booed every time he touched the ball by the Wembley crowd, for the apparent sin of being fouled by Neville.  Caminero’s corner was half cleared at the back post, before Miguel Angel Nadal fired a shot miles over the bar.

England created a good chance minutes later, after forcing a turnover in the attacking half.  Platt intercepted Nadal’s clearance before chipping forward to Sheringham, who headed down to Shearer.  Striker Shearer beat Nadal off the dribble before his low cross was deflected behind by Alkorta.

The impressive Kiko initiated Spain’s next attack, when he picked up a pass on the edge of the English penalty area and sprayed a pass wide to Amor.  The cross found Caminero in front of goal, who chested it down before being denied by an excellent sliding tackle from Adams.

The tackle from Adams started an England counter attack that ended in a glaring miss by Shearer.  Sheringham played a pass wide to McManaman, who charged forward before playing a pass out to the left.  Gascoigne picked up the pass and cut inside onto his right foot that Shearer diverted over the bar from just two yards out.

Spanish manager Clemente made his final substitution in the 72nd minute, bringing off Alkorta and replacing him in defense with Lopez.

Spain continued to possess well, and carved out an 86th minute chance when Hierro fed Kiko inside the penalty area, but the ball got caught under the strikers feet, allowing Southgate to make a last ditch sliding tackle to rescue England.  

Minutes later, Spain won a free kick 25 yards out, but Hierro fired the dead ball well over the bar.  With Spain looking the more dangerous team in the final minutes, Alfonso played to Kiko outside the area, Seaman produced a save from the resulting shot.

There was room for one final Spanish chance in regulation time, when Caminero curled a teasing ball behind the English back line leading Kiko, only for Seaman to come off his line well and make the save.

The final whistle blew with the score still locked at 0-0, and this game would become the first in major tournament history to go to Golden Goal extra time.  The newly implemented rule dictated that the game would immediately end should either team score during the additional period.

Alfonso won Spain a dangerous free kick in the 96th minute, when he drove forward before being tripped on the edge of the area by Adams.  Hierro stepped up to take the free kick, but his effort was hammered into the wall.

England carved out a chance of their own in the 99th minute, when Sheringham swung over a cross and Shearer headed wide.  Sherignham was involved again soon after, when he laid the ball off to Shearer, who played in Gascoigne before Zubizarreta stifled England with a save.

England began to put significant pressure on Spain, and won a wide free kick when Lopez brought down Shearer.  Gascoigne curled in the free kick, but Zubizarreta was quick off his line to claim the ball.

Spain won a corner when the irrepressible Sergi charged forward and had his shot deflected out for a corner.  Pearce half cleared the corner at the back post before a spectacular overhead kick by Alfonso sailed over the bar.  The half time whistle blew in extra time, with still nothing to separate the teams.

A slick Spain move stretched the England back line in the 109th minute.  Hierro finding Kiko, who played Caminero with a one touch pass before a backheel fed Alfonso to tee up Hierro.  A combination of a sliding Pearce and Adams blocked the shot to end the threat.

WIth the game entering its final stages scoreless, Venables made a bold triple substitution in the 110th minute.  Robbie Fowler, Nick Barmby and Steve Stone all entered the game for England, replacing McManaman, Anderton and Sheringham  With a goal at any point capable of ending the game, this was the first time that Venables had deployed two out and out front runners in the attack all tournament.

It was Spain however, who were on the attack soon after and Sergi found Alfonso with a long pass that switched the point of attack.  Alfonso took the ball down before splitting Stone and Adams off the dribble before Pearce stepped over and knocked the ball behind for a corner.  The deep corner cleared everyone before finding Amor, who curled a shot wide of the target.

Throughout the game, England caused Spain problems with the lateral movement of wingers Anderton and McManaman.  The pair swapped sides and floated into central areas throughout the game, making it hard for the Spanish to keep them tightly marked.   Sometimes, the pair even ended up on the same wing during an attack.

That pattern of movement would continue after the substitution, and Stone fed Shearer before moving central from his left midfield position.  Shearer passed to Barmby who headed pass back to Stone who was now running past a central defender, but no foul was called when Stone went to ground under a challenge from Nadal.

Spain gave the home crowd a fright in the final minute of extra time, when Caminero was fed by Kiko on the edge of the area, before releasing Alfonso with a backheel.  A perfectly timed sliding tackle by Adams denied Alfonso, and the ball looped dramatically up into the air and wide of the goal for a corner.

A short corner was played to Kiko and he cut the ball back for Lopez, only for Stone to intervene and concede another corner.  Caminero’s corner eventually ended up in the hands of Seaman, and clock ticked down and sent the game to a dramatic penalty shootout tiebreaker.

Shearer took the opening penalty, and nervelessly converted before Hierro crashed his effort against the crossbar.  The next two rounds of kicks were successful for each team before Gascoigne stepped up to fire England into a 4-2 lead and pose before the Wembley crowd.  Nadal stepped up knowing he needed to score to keep the shootout alive, but his kick was saved by Seaman who dived to his left and deflected it away to spark wild celebrations for the English team.


After a tough game, England will have been relieved to survive and advance in the tournament, courtesy of a dramatic shootout.  They would need a better performance in the next round, and would have to do so without right back Neville who was suspended after a yellow card in this game.  Platt had performed very well here in a central midfield role, but would face a battle to start the next game as Ince would be eligible again after suspension.

Spain would consider themselves unlucky to be go out, and would technically return home defeated after four games in the tournament.  They were very unfortunate to have two goals ruled out for offside here, either of which could have seen them progress to the final four.    Clemente will have likely been pleased with his team when the disappointment of elimination died down, as they had given host nation England all they could handle here, and performed well in the group stages.



ENG Alan Shearer (scored) 1-0

SPA Fernando Hierro (missed) 1-0

ENG David Platt (scored) 2-0

SPA Guillermo Amor (scored) 2-1

ENG Stuart Pearce (scored) 3-1

SPA Alberto Belsue (scored) 3-2

ENG Paul Gascoigne (scored) 4-2

SPA Miguel Angel Nadal (saved) 4-2


#12 LD Sergi (Spain) – The wingback was a dominant force throughout the game at both the attacking and defensive ends of the field for Spain.  Contributing a significant number of crosses and passes at the attacking end, while simultaneously charged with the tough assignment of marking England winger McManaman.



3:  CD Tony Adams – A colossal performance at the heart of the England defense for the captain.  Strong in the air, and a number of crucial sliding tackles denied Spain of goal scoring opportunities.

2:  2 GK David Seaman – Another key figure in England holding up under extended spells of pressure.  Seaman made a decisive save in the shootout, and also important, if unconventional block way outside of his area during the first half.

1:  1 RM Steve McManaman – A bright spot for England in the attacking half, the incisive dribbling of McManaman stretched Spain and also pinned back one of Spain’s key players in Sergi for spells.


3:  LD Sergi – Man of the Match.

2:  CF Kiko – A scoring threat throughout, the physical forward also dropped into midfield well to influence the game.

1:  GK Andoni Zubizarreta – An impressive game for the captain, strong in the air and made a number of quality saves to keep the games scoreless.

About the Author

Picture of Stewart Flaherty

Stewart Flaherty

Stewart is a native of Middlesbrough, England, and is a graduate of Loughborough University with a master's degree in sport psychology. Stewart has an extensive background in football, working with a variety of NCAA college soccer programs, as well as working with several leading youth clubs in the USA. Stewart is currently serving as Technical Director within a men's professional soccer club.

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