Arnold Furious: Adventures in Football #3: Euro ‘96
EURO ‘96: ANFIELD
June 16, 1996
Czech Republic vs. Italy
When I say I’ve sat in the Kop, as an Evertonian, that makes me a bit sick. I remember very clearly walking out at the Kop end and having to squeeze into this ridiculous little seat. There’s no leg room at all at Anfield. I’m six feet tall and I was crushed into this tiny seat. How did this come to be? Well, my Dad’s mate had bought four tickets to a game in Euro ‘96, which ended up being Czech Republic vs. Italy. I tagged along for two reasons. 1. I wanted to see a game at Euro ‘96 live and had not planned for it at all. 2. My mate Kev lived in Liverpool at the time. So I was going to drive up with my dad and his mates and then stay in Liverpool for a few days with Kev before going back home.
Liverpool was a strange experience for me in 1996. Most of my mates had gone to university and I myself had gone to Wolves. So, most of them were further afield. I’d been to Bournemouth and Southampton to see my friends down there but Liverpool was a place I was itching to see. My first time there was just weird. There were scallys everywhere. These kids who hang around in the streets and talk shit at everyone. You’d have us uni kids. All 19, 20 years old getting verbally battered by 9 year old scouser kids. I’ve never seen it anywhere else. It was unreal. I also vividly remember popping into the off licence to get a four deck of Breaker and literally everything in the shop was behind glass. They had a serving hatch and you asked for what you wanted through it. Unreal.
I have fond memories of going out drinking and hanging around in Liverpool. I went to see my mate a couple of times. Once when he was in the dorms on campus and then later when he’d moved into a place on Penny Lane. The road the Beatles sang about. The local council had long given up on replacing the Penny Lane road signs that must have been stolen a hundred times and Penny Lane was literally painted onto the wall. I’ve not seen Kev in a long, long time and last I heard he’d got married and was living in Swindon. Not quite as romantic sounding as Penny Lane.
Back to the game.
Italy had been in the World Cup final two years earlier. The Baggio Final where he’d carried Italy on his back and then missed the key penalty against Brazil. The thought of seeing Baggio excited me a great deal. One obstacle here; Arrigo Sacchi. The boring bastard sent out the worst possible Italian team. No Robbi Baggio. No Zola. No Del Piero. This is the Italian team for the game;
Peruzzi, Maldini, Apolloni, Costacurta, Mussi, Albertini, Fuser, Donadoni, D Baggio, Chiesa, Ravanelli. Carboni, Casiraghi and Zola got on as subs.
The Czechs were relative unknowns ahead of Euro ‘96 but their team had some incredible players in it. Ones that would become famous after the competition. Especially Pavel Nedved, Patrick Berger and Karel Poborsky. Here’s the Czech line up;
Kouba, Hornak, Kadlec, Suchoparek, Nedved, Nemec, Bejbl, Latal, Berger, Poborsky, Kuka. They only used two subs; Smicer and Nemecek.
Poborsky made mincemeat of Paolo Maldini. Had him on toast. He crossed for Nedved for the opener inside five minutes. There was a sense Italy weren’t ready for the hustle and aggression of the Czechs. Just inside 18’ Italy were level on the counter attack. Chiesa exchanged passes with Fuser and then fired into the net. The Italians didn’t play well though and Czechia could have gone ahead before they did. Matters got worse for Italy when Apolloni got sent off for a second booking on a very late challenge. It was a dirty foul and he deserved to be sent off.
Everything seemed to come from Czechia’s right side. They actually went after Maldini. Kuka went by him for the cross and Bejbl scored after 35’. Apart from the Chiesa goal all this took place in front of the fabled Kop.
Despite the silver fox Ravenelli being on the field Italy succumbed to a 2-1 defeat. It was an upset and it was nice to be a part of the crowd that enjoyed that. It is, to date, the only International game I’ve ever been to. And the only time I’ve ever set foot in Anfield. Probably will remain one and out. That seating was painful.