Euro 1996 and Bierhoff’s Golden Goal.
The Czech team of 1996 were hard not to love, they played some exciting football with some ill-advised haircuts defying the odds to make the final. But the fairytale story would be brought to an abrupt halt by German striker Oliver Bierhoff.
The 28 year-old striker had not so much as made the bench for a single qualifier but played in some pre-tournament friendlies and scored twice, against Denmark, on just his second international appearance.
Legend has it that manager Berti Vogts’ wife Monika then suggested that he be brought to England. The Udinese forward made the plane but the notion that Vogts wasn’t entirely convinced is evidenced by the fact that, despite a long list of injuries, he still didn’t make the starting line up for the final.
No matter, within four minutes of coming on for Mehmet Scholl, he had headed home a Christian Ziege free kick to cancel out Patrik Berger’s penalty and then five minutes into extra time he made sure of his place in the history books when his turn and shot was helped into the net, first by a deflection, and then by some rather poor goalkeeping from Petr Kouba.
The Germans behind that that goal knew exactly what the strike meant but at the other end of the ground there seemed to be a momentary hint of confusion before the awful truth sank in. Under the ‘golden goal’ rule then in use at major football championships, Bierhoff’s strike had ended the proceedings and a strange sense of anti-climax engulfed half of Wembley.
The Czechs’ dream was over but Bierhoff’s, oddly enough, was only beginning. Within two years he was Germany’s captain and by the time his international career was finishing six years later, he had scored 37 goals in 70 appearances for the nationalmannschaft.