Home nation England and Switzerland battled to a 1-1 draw to open Group A play at a packed Wembley Stadium in London. Alan Shearer opened the scoring for England in the 23rd minute, but Swiss striker Kubilay Turkyilmaz hit back with a late penalty to see the spoils shared.
Terry Venables ‘Christmas Tree’ formation is a strong memory of this tournament for so many, but England lined up in a traditional 4-4-2 for the opener. Paul Ince and Paul Gascoigne were the only two players in the England squad who plied their trade outside the English Premier League and the pair featured together in central midfield here.
Alan Shearer led the England attack, and despite good club form, the Blackburn Rovers striker was entering the tournament on a 21 month streak of not scoring an international goal. Teddy Sheringham partnered Shearer in attack, with Robbie Fowler and Les Ferdinand omitted despite combining for 65 goals in all competitions of the recently completed season.
Switzerland coach Artur Jorge was without suspended duo Marc Hottiger and Raphael WIcky for this game. Turkyilmaz led the Swiss attack in tandem with Marco Grassi, while Ramon Vega anchored the backline in a 4-4-2 diamond for Switzerland.
England fired a shot on goal as early as the 2nd minute, when a Stuart Pearce long throw was half cleared by Vega, and Darren Anderton hit a shot that forced Swiss goalkeeper Marco Pascolo into an early diving save.
Switzerland showed their attacking threat in the 6th minute when Turkyilmaz stretched the England backline in behind. Right back Sebastien Jennaraet launched a long ball over the top, and Turkyilmaz shrugged off England captain Tony Adams before Gary Neville came inside to slow him down, and center back Gareth Southgate stepped over to clear the danger. Turkyilmaz was in behind again soon after, when Paul Ince was dispossessed and a chipped through ball found the striker to square the ball across goal. Fellow striker Grassi was waiting in front of goal, only to see Southgate intervene and clear the threat once more, this time conceding a corner.
England had a corner of their own in the 10th minute, Darren Anderton caught the Swiss defense off guard by driving a pass to the penalty spot, where Sheringham met it with a volley that flew wide.
England had another attacking set play four minutes later when Shearer was fouled by Stephane Henchoz out wide. With the Swiss defenders expecting a cross, Gascoigne cut the ball back to Pearce who fired high and wide from the edge of the area.
A sign of England’’s positive start was shown by TV graphics in the 18th minute, showing that the home side had 71% of the ball in the opening stages. England showed an emphasis on getting the ball wide within their 4-4-2, with wingers Anderton and Steve McManaman being key figures in the English attack.
While also lined up in a 4-4-2, the Swiss midfield was in a diamond formation, with more layers and possession among the central players.
Despite his team having the upper hand in possession, England coach Terry Venables will have had some concern about his team’s vulnerability on the counter, with Switzerland finding consistent penetration on the occasions they did go forward.
Turkyilmaz was played in behind down the right, only to see Southgate come over to challenge him, conceding a corner in the process. Turkyilmaz took the corner, andthe ball found its way all the way to the back post area where Ciriaco Sforza to shoot high over the bar.
England turned up the pressure going forward, and were denied twice in the 28th minute by Pascolo. First, Anderton cut inside and had his shot parried away, then when the rebound found its way to Neville, the fullback hit a fierce effort that was turned over the bar.
England continued to knock at the door, and opened the scoring courtesy of star striker Shearer in the 23rd minute. Gascoigne received possession in midfield and glided by one opponent before finding Shearer, the target man set the ball back to Ince, who slid through a nice through ball for Shearer to blast the ball home at Pascolo’s near post. The goal ended Shearer’s long international drought and cued wild celebrations among the home crowd.
With their tails up, the Three Lions continued to pour forward, and McManaman cut in off the left wing to feed Gascoigne, and the Glasgow Rangers midfielder drew a foul from Swiss captain Alain Geiger. Gascoigne stepped up to take the free kick, but his effort was drilled straight into the wall.
Mercurial playmaker Gascoigne was a major influence throughout the game for England, and he once again showcased his ability to beat players off the dribble in the 30th minute, ghosting by several players before having his cross intercepted by Vega. Throughout the game, the ability of Gascoigne to beat Swiss players off the dribble and drive forward, created a lot of overloads on the attacking end.
Fellow central midfielder Ince also played well, and drew a shooting range free kick for England when he was fouled by Yvan Quentin. Pearce stepped up to take the free kick, but his effort was saved comfortably by Pascolo.
Gascoigne continued to pull strings, and a neat one touch pass released McManaman, who was felled changing direction, but the ball rolled to Pearce who put in a high cross from deep that Shearer headed wide.
Switzerland remained a threat on the counter, and won a 37th minute free kick when Pearce brought down Christophe Bonvin on the edge of the area. The ever impressive Turkyilmaz took the free kick, but his effort was deflected away by the English wall. Despite England having the upper hand in terms of possession, they did find themselves constantly threatened in behind, with Turkyilmaz doing an impressive job of spearheading the attack.
The Swiss spurned a golden chance to equalize minutes later, when Turkyilmaz threw a neat dummy to beat Pearce before racing to the byline and squaring the pall across the goalmouth. Grassi met the ball two yards out but inexplicably lifted his finish against the crossbar with the goal gaping.
England won a dangerous wide free kick late in the half when Quentin was booked despite his protestations for a foul on Shearer. Pearce swung over the free kick to the back post area, where Sheringham’s header was saved before a referee’s whistle ended the attack.
Gascoigne was the fulcrum of England’s attack by now, and picked the ball up in his own half before driving forward,bouncing passes off three different teammates and beating several defenders to win a corner. Southgate met the corner with a header that was blocked, only for the referee to once more cut an attack short, this time for offside.
England went into half holding a deserved one goal lead, but Switzerland, and Turkyilmaz in particular had done more than enough to keep the Wembley crowd nervous.
It was Switzerland who registered the first shot after the break, when with all England midfielders occupied man marking, Vega strode out of defense unopposed before lashing a shot over the bar. England responded when Ince won possession and fed Shearer, who advanced to the edge of the area before pulling a shot wide.
In the 51st minute, TV graphics showed England’s dominance of possession was continuing, with the home team having 61% of the ball. In most of those possessions, Gascoigne played a key role, and he was soon driving forward again, teeing up Shearer to fire a shot just wide of the post.
Switzerland continued to swing back, and striker Grassi bulldozed his way through two challenges to force a chance inside the 18 yard area, before a strong sliding tackle by Pearce took the chance away.
As Swiss coach Jorge chased the game, he made two changes to his midfield, bringing on Marcel Koller and Stephane Chapuisat for Bonvin and Geiger.
England made a double switch of their own, bringing on Nick Barmby and Steve Stone in place of Sheringham and McManaman. By bringing on Barmby over prolific striker pair Fowler and Ferdinand, Venables displayed a commitment to pairing Shearer with a skilled playmaker who could drop deep and link play between midfield and attack, over a second out and out front runner.
The weaker wide of Gascoigne’s game, namely man to man defending was exposed in the 74th minute, when Swiss midfielder Johann Vogel blew by him with ease on halfway before driving into the area. A Tony Adams challenge saw Vogel go down inside the 18 but Spanish referee Manuel Diaz Vega ruled no foul on the play, the attack came to an end when Chapuisat collected the loose ball and fired high and wide of the target.
Venables made his final substitution in the 77th minute, and it would be a surprising one, as the heavily influential Gascoigne was replaced by David Platt. Gascoigne was not renowned for his fitness, so it was possible that his fitness played a role in the extra rest during a tournament scenario. Another possible reason was the veteran experience of Platt steeling the midfield defensively as England defended their one goal lead going into the final stages.
Switzerland substitute Chapuisat was making an immediate impact, and won his team a free kick after being fouled out wide by Neville. Sforza took the set play but his poorly hit cross floated harmlessly out of play.
A pair of England substitutes almost combined to double the lead in the 79th minute, when Barmby escaped down the right, but his cross to Stone at the back post was denied by a strong defensive play from Quentin.
Teenage Swiss midfielder Vogel was starting to exert real influence in the latter stages of the game, and burst forward with another energetic run, winning a free kick when first having his shirt pulled, and eventually being drought down just outside the area by Adams. Another poor dead ball effort from Sforza was hit straight into the wall, before the rebound fell for Vogel to blaze a shot inches wide.
The Swizz pressure finally paid off in the form of an 83rd minute penalty kick awarded by referee Diaz. Henchoz launched a long ball forward that was redirected by a weak header from Southgate, the ball fell to Grassi who attempted to lift the ball over the defense, only to see the arm of Pearce block it. Turkyilmaz stepped up to calmly send Seaman the wrong way and level the scores.
Stung by the Swiss equalizer, England pushed forward with urgency as they strived to claim all three points. Neville animatedly waved his teammates up into the area before launching a long throw, the ball was half cleared and fell to Ince who hit a dipping shot from distance that was well saved by Pascolo. Pascolo’s rebound was strong enough to give Neville another long throw, but this time the attack was snuffed out when a foul was given against England.
At the other end, Switzerland came very close to netting a winner, to the horror of the home crowd. Quentin sent a throw in down the line that was latched onto by Chapuisat, the Borussia Dortmund playmaker faked Adams one way, then the other before cutting the ball back to Grassi who lashed a shot to the near post, forcing a lightning reflex save from Seaman.
England received an injury time free kick inside the Swiss half, and Pearce launched it into the danger area, only for Pascolo to collect well in the crowd. England found time to launch a couple more balls into the danger zone, but the Swiss stood strong and time ran out on a hard fought draw.
Switzerland were the happier of the two teams after grabbing a point, as they celebrated with their traveling fans as England left the field, led by a visibly frustrated Gascoigne.
England created enough chances to win, but it would not have been the full truth to say they were hard done by with a draw here. While Gascoigne put in an exciting performance, and Shearer will have been delighted to break his tournament duck so early, issues did exist on the defensive end.
Adams in particular struggled at times with the pace and power of Turkyilmaz in behind, and Gascoigne was exposed on the defensive end. Leaving runners and being dribbled by, something that may have played a role in him being subbed off. Both issues that would have been noted by England’s next opponent Scotland, who would need no motivation when going up against the Auld Enemy.
Switzerland were visibly pleased with a point, and showed themselves to be a likely tough out for future opponents. Center back pairing Vega and Henchoz played well, and Turkyilmaz put in a menacing display up front, proving a real scoring threat. Another tough matchup loomed against the Netherlands, and midfielder Chapuisat will have been hoping his impressive late cameo was enough to earn a place in the starting lineup.
23’ ENG Alan Shearer (Paul Ince) 1-0
83’ SWI Kubilay Turkyilmaz PK (Marco Grassi) 1-1
MAN OF THE MATCH
#14 CF Kubilay Turkyilmaz – The fast, strong forward was a never ending source of runs in behind and creative play for the Swiss, capping off his performance with a crucial late equalizer from the penalty spot.
3: CM Paul Gascoigne – The dynamic midfielder showcased both his passing range and dynamic ability to carry the ball forward into the attack. The heart and soul of most England’s attacks, he looked to be a key player for the home nation going forward.
2: CF Alan Shearer – Full of pace and power, Shearer’s well timed run and finish opened the scoring, and he created several more chances throughout the game.
1: CM Paul Ince – A tough tackling high energy display from Ince, his passing ability showcased most when threading the assist through to Shearer for England’s goals. Also showed himself to be a shooting threat from distance.
3: CF Kubilay Turkyilmaz – Man of the Match.
2: CM Johann Vogel – Took a real hold on the game in the final quarter, dynamically bursting forward to join the attack and create overload situations for his team.
1: CM Ramon Vega – Showed strength both in the air and on the ground in a tough matchup against England star Shearer.