With Euro 2020 postponed for 12 months due to coronavirus, ITV have decided it's time to relive the iconic Euro '96 tournament. Monday May 11th, the ITV Hub will start airing all 31 matches, and ITV4 will broadcast all of England's games.
Euro 96 was hosted in England - the first major tournament held in the country since their famous World Cup win in 1966 - and there was a real excitement about "football coming home", as comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner, and band the Lightning Seeds, sang in their now-iconic song Three Lions, which recognised the nation's hosting of the Euros.
If you missed Euro 96 first time around, then check out this handy preview about which teams were expected to flourish, which players had high expectations on their shoulders, and what was going on behind the scenes before a ball was kicked…
The Netherlands, Italy and Germany were the main three favourites to win the competition, followed by hosts England and Spain. Boasting world class players such as Patrick Kluivert, Dennis Bergkamp, Edgar Davids, and Clarence Seedorf, the Dutch were also expected to be a tough opposition at this tournament. The groups were announced six months ahead of the Euros and while England were placed in the same group as the Oranje, it didn't deter the bookies from installing Holland as 5/1 favourites at the time. But they have been replaced by 7/2 faves Germany as the tournament nears.
While England were also among the bookies' likely winners, they come into the tournament after failing to qualify for the World Cup in USA two years prior. But with Terry Venables in charge and the likes of David Seaman, Tony Adams, Alan Shearer and the majestic, maverick Paul 'Gazza' Gascoigne pulling the strings in midfield, plus home advantage, they were still real contenders.
Germany and Italy - led by legendary managers Berti Vogts and Arrigo Sacchi respectively - were also in the same group as each other, but depending on how things pan out, the tournament was structured so if both teams progressed from Group C they could not meet again before the final.
France and Portugal are both double figure odds to go all the way at Euro ’96, but there are a few shocks on the cards for the French team, known then Les Bleus - without their star man Eric Cantona after he was dropped in 1995 for an infamous kung-fu kick at a fan during a Premier League game, which saw him banned from football for nine months.
Other potential upsets could be caused by the likes of Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania, who were between 12/1 and 16/1 to do the business. But Czech Republic - who had a tough task of progressing through Germany and Italy's group - were the rank outsiders at a massive 80/1 to win the tournament.
The Ones to Watch
Germany’s team had one of the potential stars of the tournament in no-nonsense Borussia Dortmund defender Sammer. The 28-year-old centre-back was in his prime, with great strength and the potential to chip in with the odd crucial goal for his nation.
Another solid performer was French centre-half Blanc, who was be looking to provide some vital experience for Les Bleus. If France were to go anywhere near the final, then the Auxerre star needed to be on his game.
The forward was one of many Netherlands players with a real Dutch of class. And there was plenty of eyes on him from British-based fans after he starred in his debut season for Arsenal just months earlier. He went up against his club mates David Seaman and Tony Adams when the Netherlands played England in Group A.
At just 27 years of age, AC Milan defender Maldini captained Italy in the tournament. The Italians - who finished runners up at the World Cup just two years previous – needed to be even tighter than usual at the back in this tournament as manager Arrigo Sacchi has left out star strikers Roberto Baggio and Gianluca Vialli, resulting in some concerns about the Azzurri's firepower.
England mainly relied on 25-year-old Shearer to bang in the goals to end 30 years of hurt. His partnership with Teddy Sheringham was seen to be vital if the Three Lions are to see off the threat of favourites Netherlands and local rivals Scotland in Group B. However, at the start of the tournament the pressure was on as Blackburn Rovers star Shearer hadn't scored in his past 12 caps for his country.
Background Bits and Pieces
As well as Shearer being out of form, England hadn’t had the best of preparations for Euro 96.
The squad went to Hong Kong for a pre-Euro 96 warm-up and some of the players had one too many on their last night out before flying back to London. That included taking part in the 'Dentist's Chair', an antique seat in the China Jump club in which revellers lay back and have vodka and tequila poured into their mouths.
The England squad's flight back was also controversial, with airline Cathay Pacific later filing a complaint to the FA. No one owned up to the estimated £5,000 damage caused and the FA later said the squad had "accepted collective responsibility for what happened". Not ideal preparation.
Off the pitch, the country was in the throes of Britpop - with the likes of Oasis, Blur and Pulp regularly doing battle in the charts - and there was a real sense of Cool Britannia, a feeling of increased pride about the UK's culture.
While we don't want to give you any spoilers if you didn't manage to catch Euro 96 the first time around, we can promise you there are some memorable moments to come.
Keep your eyes peeled for some great Gazza magic, a Czech Republic wonder goal, some iconic celebrations, and a player missing a crucial penalty shoot-out spot kick, which months later will see him land a comical role in a pizza advert.
Check out the matches on ITV Hub or ITV4 to see how the action unfolds.