England sealed their progress into the Euro 96 quarter finals with a famous win over Holland at Wembley Stadium. English strike pair Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham netted two goals each, while Patrick Kluivert netted a late goal that sealed progress for Netherlands in dramatic fashion despite this heavy defeat.
Recent history gave little clue of what was to unfold here, given England were winless in their previous five games against Netherlands, and had not beaten the Dutch ever at an international tournament.
Terry Venables fielded the same 11 for the third straight game, but made a tactical adjustment in reverting back to the 4-4-2 shape used against Switzerland in the opening game. A likely reason for this, was a back four would allow for extra cover and deal better with the high and wide attacking wingers that the Dutch 3-4-3 system presented. This would be an important factor for England, given that wide pair Jordi Cruyff and Peter Hoekstra did such damage when Netherlands beat Switzerland 2-0 in the previous game.
Interestingly, this would be the first game all tournament when both teams fielded the same starting 11 from the previous game. Hiddink fielding an unchanged lineup, and continuing with his 3-4-3 diamond system. Midfield playmaker Clarence Seedorf retained his starting role despite being subbed during the first half against Switzerland, while Edgar Davids was not even on the bench. Ajax midfielder Davids was sent home from the tournament just days after the Switzerland win, with Hiddink citing disciplinary reasons.
Netherlands started fast and won a dangerous free kick in the second minute when Aron Winter raced forward before teeing up Dennis Bergkamp, who was brought down within shooting range by Paul Ince. Richard Witschge took the free kick but blasted a rising shot over the bar.
England won a corner in the 7th minute when Gary Neville burst forward and had his cross blocked by Hoekstra. This method of English attack was notable as Neville joining the attack forced Hoekstra into a 50 yard defensive sprint, serving the dual purpose of putting him under defensive pressure while simultaneously blunting him on the attacking end positionally.
From the corner, England ran a set play routine they had also tried in the opener against Switzerland. Darren Anderton drove a pass to Shearer near the penalty spot, and the striker’s well hit shot was blocked by Cruyff on the goalpost.
The Dutch won a corner of their own in the 9th minute when Michael Reiziger played a ball in behind to Winter, and Gareth Southgate intervened to head it behind. Winter met Witschge’s corner at the near post but headed the ball well over the bar.
WInter found himself under pressure on the defensive end in the 20th minute, first receiving a yellow card for tugging the shirt of Anderton after being nutmegged. Then from the resulting free kick, Gascoigne drove a pass to Sheringham, but no penalty was given as the striker went down under contact from Winter.
Netherlands won a corner in the 22nd minute when Cruyff drove down the right flank and his cross was blocked by Stuart Pearce. England headed the corner clear before Sheringham launched a counter attack with a magnificent long range pass to lead Steve McManaman down the right wing. Liverpool winger McManaman drove forward before cutting inside and feeding Ince, who produced a lovely first touch past Danny Blind before being brought down by the Dutch captain for a penalty kick.
Blind was booked for his foul, before Shearer stepped up to take what would be the first penalty of his England career. Shearer smashed an excellent shot past Edwin van der Sar, who guessed the right way but could only watch as the powerfully struck spot kick found the net.
Netherland, and Blind responded immediately when the defender drove a long pass in behind the English back line for Dennis Bergkamp to run onto. David Seaman was quickly off his line to deflect the ball away and concede a corner. The deep corner was swung over and headed away by the heavily involved Sheringham at the back post.
A key feature of England’s tactical game plan in this game was the role of Sheringham. He consistently dropped deep into central midfield areas in order to give England a 5-4 numerical advantage against the Dutch diamond midfield.
The Dutch emphasized spreading out and getting wide in possession of the ball to stretch the field, something they did to great effect so far in the tournament. However, this did leave large gaps in moments of transition, and Sheringham proved himself to be particularly adept in exploiting these areas and linking the English defense and attack in possession. In addition to his clever possession play, Sheringham also showcased a long range passing ability that could put England in behind at any moment.
England won a 29th minute corner, and once again the attack was sparked by Sheringham dropping deep to trouble the Dutch. McManaman fed Sheringham before bursting forward and receiving a return pass that released him down the wing. McManaman’s long dribble was ended by Witschge, who won the tackle and knocked the ball behind for a corner.
Sheringham continued to torment the Dutch, and won a free kick out wide then challenging Winston Bogarde for a Seaman clearance. Gascoigne’s bouncing cross found its way to Ince who teed up Sheringham, and the Tottenham Hotspur striker had his sharp half volley saved by Van der Sar.
Netherlands continued to pose a threat at the other end, and a deflected long range shot from Bergkamp wrongfooted Seaman before going behind for a corner. A Witschge corner was met for a second time by the head of Winter, but once again the ball was directed over the crossbar.
Another corner followed in the 37th minute, and saw Seedorf’s corner punched away by Seaman, the ball falling to Bergkamp who struck a volley wide from the edge of the area.
In the group’s other game, Ally McCoist scored to give Scotland a 1-0 lead over Switzerland. This meant that the Scottish would now move level on points with the Dutch as things stood.
Back at Wembley, Bergkamp was in the thick of the action once again minutes later when he out jumped Tony Adams on the end of a Reiziger cross, only for his header to go wide of the goalpost.
Reiziger won the header from the resulting goal kick, sending the ball forward. England defender Southgate played a weak header intended to go back to Seaman, and Bergkamp latched onto it and raced forward, only to be denied by an excellent Seaman save.
As half time approached, England carved out a chance from a throw in when Gascoigne raced in behind to collect a Neville throw. Playmaker Gascoigne whipped over a first time cross, and Sheringham laid out to get a foot to it, only to see the ball float agonisingly across the goalmouth before Anderton reached it outside the back post and fired wide.
There was bad news for England manager Venables on the stroke of half time, when Ince was booked for a foul on Dutch winger Cruyff. The card was Ince’s second of the tournament, meaning he would miss the quarter final through suspension should England qualify. That was a scenario that looked likely, given England needed a draw to secure progress and headed into the half time interval with a 1-0 lead.
As things stood at the break, Netherlands would also qualify for the last eight even with the defeat, beating out Scotland on goal difference. Manager Hiddink knew an equalizer would guarantee progression into the knockout rounds, and made his first substitution at half time, sending Johan de Kock on for Witschge.
England won the first corner of the second half after Reiziger sliced a McManaman cross behind and out of play. It was to prove an important one, as Sheringham headed home Gascoigne’s cross to double the England lead.
Netherlands continued to put up a fight, and Hoekstra’s cross was cleared to Seedorf who’s dipping shot was saved by Seaman. The Dutch were proving very vulnerable to the counter though, and England would soon exploit that to go 3-0 up with a delightful goal in the 57th minute.
Adams stepped up to intercept a Dutch pass, playing the ball to Gascoigne before the star midfielder exchanged passes with Anderton and McManaman before bursting into the penalty area and squaring to Sheringham. With the Dutch defense closing in, Sheringham shaped to shoot before playing a cleverly disguised pass to Shearer who sliced an excellent finish into the top corner beyond Van der Sar.
The goal not only gave England a comfortable lead on the night, but it put the Group A qualification landscape on a knife edge. The Dutch were now level with Scotland on both points and goal difference, ahead only by the thin margin of goals scored.
Netherlands once again responded to conceding by launching an attack, and Bogarde strode forward down the left before his low cross was cleared by Pearce at the back post.
The home crowd entered dream land, if they were not there already when England went 4-0 up in the 62nd minute. Good hold up play from Shearer set up Anderton to shoot from the edge of the area, Van der Sar saved the shot, but Sheringham was first to the rebound and nestled a one touch finish into the corner of the net.
The goal had massive ramifications for the Dutch, meaning they now fell behind Scotland as things stood. Netherlands would be eliminated from the tournament without clawing a goal back here, or Switzerland finding an equalizer in the group’s other game at Villa Park.
Netherlands continued the pattern of carrying out an attack in response to conceding, and Cruyff was tackled by Pearce to win the Dutch a corner. Given the 4-0 England lead, it was somewhat surprising that this now gave the Dutch a 10-3 advantage in corners won.
While a comeback to draw the game seemed unlikely ,one Dutch goal could be enough to stay in the tournament, and they continued to press forward. Ronald de Boer played in Bergkamp behind the England backline, but the striker took a huge divot out of the Wembley turf while shooting straight at Seaman.
In the 68th minute, Venables made a double substitution that likely had the now inevitable quarter final against Group B runners up Spain in mind. Midfielder Ince would be suspended against Spain, and was withdrawn here to give David Platt his second runout of the tournament in central midfield.
Netherlands created yet another chance when a Hoekstra cross was missed by both Seaman and De Boer, before England fullback Pearce beat Cruyff to the ball at the back post. England did not rest on their laurels and soon carved out a chance of their own when Anderton narrowly failed to make contact with a McManaman cross at the back post.
With the Dutch desperately searching for a goal that would change their tournament destiny, if not the result of this game, Hiddink made his final substitutions in the 73rd minute. Striker Patrick Kluivert and Philip Cocu were introduced, with De Boer and Hoekstra making way.
Kluivert made an instant impact after his introduction, having a 75th minute shot deflected behind for a corner after being teed up by 15 yards out by Bergkamp.
Venables continued to make changes with the upcoming quarter finals in mind, and gave his strike partnership a rest by replacing them with Nick Barmby and Robbie Fowler in the 77th minute. By pairing front runner Fowler with Barmby, a player capable of dropping deep and linking play, the tactical philosophy behind the Sheringham/Shearer partnership remained in place.
The Dutch continued to fight for their tournament lives, and scored a vital, and beautifully crafted goal in the 78th minute to bring the score back to 4-1. Seedorf played forward to Bergkamp, who held the ball up well before threading a beautiful pass to Kluivert who placed a good finish through the legs of Seaman. The goal meant Netherlands would now edge out Scotland by virtue of goals scored as things stood.
England’s replacement front pair linked up when Fowler played a one-two with Barmby and surged into the penalty area. However, no foul was given when Fowler went down under a challenge from De Kock.
The final whistle blew and England celebrated a famous win, while the Dutch players nervously awaited confirmation of Scotland’s result against Switzerland. The result from Villa Park would eventually confirm that the Dutch had progressed to a quarter final against France by the skin of their teeth.
England would enter the quarter finals riding a wave of positive emotions after one of their greatest performances in recent history. Shearer was set to enter the quarter finals round as the tournaments leading goal scorer, and his strike partner Sheringham had got off the mark with two goals and a Man of the Match performance in this game.
One concern was the suspension of influential central midfielder Ince, and it was likely the experience of Platt would replace him to partner Gascoigne in central midfield for England. Jamie Redknapp, who had played well as a substitute against Scotland remained an injury doubt.
Netherlands manager Hiddink faced the fall task of rallying his team for a quarter final against a powerful French team. In addition to this heavy defeat, the locker room faced a potential divide after the dismissal of Ajax player Davids for disciplinary reasons. Many club teammates of Davids would have to put the issue aside and focus on a tough upcoming fixture.
23’ ENG Alan Shearer PK (Paul Ince) 1-0
51’ ENG Teddy Sheringham (Paul Gascoigne) 2-0
57’ ENG Alan Shearer (Teddy Sheringham) 3-0
62’ ENG Teddy Sheringham (Darren Anderton) 4-0
78’ NET Patrick Kluivert (Dennis Bergkamp) 4-1
MAN OF THE MATCH
#10 CF Teddy Sheringham (England) – Sheringham’s constant involvement in central midfield areas tipped the balance in favor of England, and was capped off with two goals and an assist on the attacking end of a masterful performance.
3: CF Teddy Sheringham – Man of the Match.
2: CF Alan Shearer – Two goals and another strong front running performance from the tournament’s leading scorer as the group stage ended.
1: CM Paul Gascoigne – Another performance full of skill and quality passing fron England’s mercurial playmaker, his set play assisted Sheringham’s first goal.
3: CF Dennis Bergkamp – Denied an equalizer in the first half by an excellent Seaman save, Bergkamp later provided the assist on the goal that kept Netherlands alive in the tournament.
2: RM Jordi Cruyff – A consistent source of service into the area, Cruyff impressed in a losing cause for the Dutch.
1: CM Aron Winter – Missed two first half chances and also drove forward well to spark the Netherlands attack before the game began to get away from them.