England pay a bitter penalty

Click to follow
The Independent Online
England's 30-year jinx against Germany continued last night when they were knocked out of the semi-finals of Euro 96 in a nerve-wracking re- run of the 1990 World Cup semi final.

It was a heroic effort from England, who were the better side over 90 minutes and thirty minutes of sudden-death extra time. But, just as they did in 1990, they lost in an agonising penalty shoot-out.

Both teams scored their first five penalties but Darren Southgate, one of the stalwarts of the campaign, missed England's sixth. There were no recriminations, only thanks for a team that gave us more joy and hope than we dared expect.

It had been heart-stopping stuff. After 90 minutes - the first half dominated by the Germans, despite a third-minute England goal, the second half by England - the game went into extra time. With the new first-goal-wins rule, England came close to winning when Darren Anderton struck a post. Then the Germans had a shot saved and a goal disallowed. Most frustrating of all, Paul Gascoigne, hero of millions of England fans, failed to tap in a winner.

The frenzy had been building up all day. As early as 1pm, fans decked in the flag of St George began gathering in Trafalgar Square in London, finding occasional respite from the sun by wading in the fountains.

Many employers joined in the Europhoria by allowing workers to finish work early, start late or take regular breaks in front of television sets. Carmakers Nissan allowed 1,350 nightshift workers at its Sunderland factory to start work an hour later than normal at 9.45 pm.

And, at German-owned Siemens electronics factory in Wallsend, German and English staff overcame the xenophobia whipped up in the tabloid media to hold a barbecue at their boss's home. "There was a good atmosphere of friendly rivalry," said a spokesman.

Roads out of London began clogging up mid-afternoon as fans took the opportunity to leave work early, eat early and get together with friends. With a London Underground strike due today, one personnel manager said: "It's the ideal time for people to work up a hangover and then say they can't get into work. I've got a feeling the weekend is starting early."

For those wanting to see the game at Wembley, tickets were like gold dust, with touts asking - and getting - pounds 300 for pounds 50 seats. One man who did not get to see the game at Wembley was Wolfgang Kiesteiner, 36, from Venlo on the Dutch-German border. He was arrested by police after being caught with 330 tickets he was offering on the black market for pounds 200 each.

Those of us without a ticket had to be contented with watching the occasion on television. Early estimates pointed to a record football audience tuning in - that would mean more than the 25.21m who watched the July 1990 World Cup semi final between England and West Germany.

In comparison, the viewing figures for the Princess of Wales's Panorama interview were 22.8m.

Before the game, Ladbrokes had England at 5-6 to win but hedged its bets with similar odds on Germany.

In all the excitement, there was one man who calmly put the event into perspective.

George Barlow, 39, of Wetherby, West Yorkshire, recently underwent a two hour operation to donate bone marrow to an anonymous German leukaemia victim.

"Borders and nationalities don't count for a thing in a situation like this," he said. "That's just football, this is serious."

Betting madness, page 18

Full reports, pages 26,28

Comments