Euphoria 96 for Pearce the brave

England come suddenly to life in sudden death as a penalty victim turns hero and a cool keeper has glory in his hands

Wembley Stadium has seen nothing like it since the Live Aid and Nelson Mandela concerts of a decade ago. David Seaman's save from Miguel Angel Nadal's penalty in the shoot-out provoked an instant mass party to the background of the song "Three Lions" that has become an alternative national anthem.

Amid all the celebrations, however, questions will have to be asked about the introduction for the first time in an international of the sudden- death element to extra time, and later, about the precise merit of England's win.

But one question that was emphatically answered was whether Stuart Pearce had the bottle to take part in another international shoot-out. Six years ago, in the sultry heat of Turin, England's World Cup semi-final against West Germany went to penalties, with Stuart Pearce being the first to miss, thereby opening the door to a German triumph.

With Chris Waddle also missing his kick, nobody was very likely to pillory Pearce - who would be brave enough to try? - but public pity can be an equal burden, not to mention whatever demons the full-back had bottled up as a consequence. So it was an act of astonishing bravery for Pearce to accept his coach's nomination for one of the kicks knowing that a second fateful miss would leave a terrible legacy.

In the event, after Alan Shearer and David Platt had comfortably tucked their shots away, and Fernando Hierro had hit the bar for the Spanish, Pearce was less pressurised than he might have been. Even so, there was a potent sense of tension as he placed the ball and then retreated for his run-up, and this time he was rewarded for his courage.

The powerful low shot, hammered by his anvil of a left foot zipped into the bottom corner, clear of any fateful deflection of the sort which German goalkeeper, Bodo Illgner, had produced in Turin. Pearce, usually a stoic celebrator of his goals, this time allowed himself a roar of exultation and a clench-fisted gesture as he rewrote a chapter of his professional career.

What will concern the England coach, Terry Venables, after the raw thrill of victory has subsided, will be how close to the edge his team came in a game which not only carried the natural pressures of cup football, but also the new torture of the prospective sudden-death goal in extra time.

It had seemed from the first half that the two well-matched teams were destined to fall into this experimental phase, almost as rabbits are lured into headlights. Indeed, the knowledge that this novelty was lurking seemed to colour a good deal of the match.

The fluency that England had generated to destroy the Dutch was largely absent, apart from a spell early in the second half, but here even the now-deadly Shearer spurned a close-range chance, as too did Darren Anderton and Teddy Sheringham.

Spain, who competed at every level throughout the game, were denied two goals by offside decisions, the second of which was the very epitome of what they term "hair-line". And they certainly finished the normal period of the game in full cry for another of the late goals which had enabled them to qualify from their group.

Indeed, Spain's performance - penalty-taking apart - gave the lie to all the knockabout stereotypes which some of our tabloids have been peddling in the run-up to this game. One can only imagine that, far from ridiculing the Spanish into timidity, this coverage actually inspired them into giving the most determined of performances yesterday.

England's supporters and their ringmasters may wish to consider the insidious counter-effects of gloating triumphalism if they wish their team to progress to the final next Sunday.

The repetitive playing of "Three Lions", and the exhibitionist displays of its composers, David Baddiel and Frank Skinner, is in danger of overshadowing the efforts of the players, and you fear the worst if England have to entertain their expected visitors, Germany, in the semi-final this Wednesday.

Let us instead hear a little more about the "Five Lions", the four players who strode up in this cauldron to execute their successful penalties - Shearer, Platt, Pearce and Paul Gascoigne - and an extraordinary goalkeeper, David Seaman. It has gone past the stage of considering him to be a lucky goalie, such is the consistency not only of his all-round keeping, but also of his defiant ability to banish the goalkeeper's fear of the penalty. Seaman, in contrast, seems to thrive on them. And, just as Pearce laid his own personal ghost to rest, Seaman will now be able to hear the name Nayim without twitching.

England player-by-player assessment By Norman Fox

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
Sport
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
News
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
music
News
i100
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea