THE MAIN EVENT: Gazza's moment; gives England momentum

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The Independent Online
Scotland 0 England 2

HT: 0-0 Shearer 52

Att: 76,864 Gascoigne 78

He shook hands and embraced Craig Brown, paused to ask Gordon Durie about his head wound, then strolled across the Wembley turf, shaking hands, offering congratulations and condolences all round. As he reached the tunnel, the crowd roared their approval. Just before he disappeared inside it, Tony Adams ran past and with a grin ruffled his hair.

Terry Venables' exit from Saturday's 2-0 victory over Scotland could not have been a greater contrast to that of the previous week. Then he had departed head down, face like thunder, with barely an acknowledgment to anyone. This time he was a man vindicated.

His enfant terrible, Paul Gascoigne, had scored the goal of the tournament; a half-time tactical adjustment had helped turn the game; the striker he had persevered with was coming good when it mattered; and England were all but through to the quarter-finals of Euro 96. Venables had every reason to feel pleased.

A night's sleep and a couple of irritating injuries meant his joy was tempered with realism by the time training had finished at Bisham Abbey yesterday, but the England coach remained satisfied, but not smug.

The main worry is the injury to Jamie Redknapp's ankle ligaments, sustained when he landed awkwardly after a midfield header on Saturday. "He's definitely out on Tuesday [when England play the Netherlands]," Venables said. "After that, we'll have to wait and see. The doctor is not too pessimistic."

The injury is a blow as Redknapp did well when he came on on Saturday, knitting together a midfield which had struggled to find its rhythm.

Adams and Paul Ince also sat out training. Adams was troubled by scar tissue on his knee following his operation in January, while Ince has a swollen ankle. Neither have yet been ruled out of Tuesday's game. David Platt, whose rib injury kept him out on Saturday, did train.

Venables had not been so chirpy at half-time on Saturday. Although the best chance had fallen to Teddy Sheringham when he headed Gareth Southgate's cross wide, Scotland had been the better side. Stuart McCall, the English Scot, was the best player of either nationality and England too often chose the wrong option. Gascoigne was a particular culprit, being regularly caught in possession and only Southgate's many interventions were giving England a semblance of parity.

The biggest problem was lack of space for Gascoigne to flourish and lack of support for the man on the ball. Thus Venables moved Gascoigne wider on the left, withdrew the impressive Southgate to defence, brought on Redknapp to provide a midfield fulcrum and, at last, freed Steve McManaman from the left wing.

They were crucial interventions. While there remain those who believe the game is simply about players and performances, this tournament, like the World Cup, has underlined the role of the coach.

Modern defences are too well-organised to be broken down by simple virtuoso ability, which has to be given a foundation on which to flourish. There is still room for individual heroes, as Gascoigne and David Seaman showed, but, with rare exceptions like Diego Maradona, they can only succeed within the context of the team.

The importance of tactical planning has reached the stage where even Germany's first goal against the Czech Republic last week, scored by Christian Ziege cutting in from the left, was a pre-planned move from open play.

But the importance of systems does not preclude the old ways, and the manner in which England began the second half suggested a good old-fashioned rollocking had been involved. Ince, Gascoigne, Sheringham and McManaman had each threatened within the first five minutes before a patient 13- pass move unlocked Scotland seven minutes into the half.

It ended with Darren Anderton and Ince finding McManaman on the right, he fed the outstanding Gary Neville, whose cross was forcefully met by the resurgent Alan Shearer.

Anderton shot over, Sheringham brought a good save from Andy Goram but then, as last week, England began to be pushed back. They were warned when Durie forced a stunning save from Seaman, but took no notice. Then their luck turned.

It did not look like it at first as the generally excellent Italian referee mistakenly gave a penalty. It was an understandable error, Adams' challenge on Durie, although fair, was rash enough and strong enough to suggest a foul. But he did poke the ball away before Durie tumbled over him.

Seaman, however, guessed the right way and reacted alertly to McAllister's kick. Within a minute, Anderton had played an excellent first-time ball to Gascoigne. His finish was breathtaking. Having chipped the ball over Colin Hendry with one foot, he volleyed in with the other, all the while watching the ball as intently as Sachin Tendulkar does in cricket. Textbook stuff and unlikely to be matched all tournament.

Neither, for the English, will the occasion. Although they should qualify for the quarter- finals, only semi-final victory will bring the same delight and that may be beyond them.

For now, however, the success is there to be enjoyed. The team could have been out all night on Saturday without complaint and it was heartening, after early problems, to see English and Scottish supporters dancing together on the fountains in Trafalger Square at midnight.

SCOTLAND (3-5-2): Goram (Rangers); Calderwood (Tottenham Hotspur), Hendry (Blackburn Rovers), Boyd (Celtic); McKimmie (Aberdeen), McCall (Rangers), McAllister (Leeds United), Collins (Celtic), T McKinlay (Celtic); Spencer (Chelsea), Durie (Rangers). Substitutes: McCoist (Rangers) for Spencer, 66; Burley (Chelsea) for McKinlay, 81; Jess (Coventry City) for Durie, 84.

Scotland statistics: Bookings Collins, Spencer, Hendry. Free-kicks conceded 19. Goal attempts 6. On target 4. Corners 8. Caught offside 3.

ENGLAND (3-5-1-1): Seaman (Arsenal); G Neville (Manchester United), Adams (Arsenal), Pearce (Nottingham Forest); Anderton (Tottenham Hotspur), Gascoigne (Rangers), Southgate (Aston Villa), Ince (Internazionale), McManaman (Liverpool); Sheringham (Tottenham Hotspur); Shearer (Blackburn Rovers). Substitutes: Redknapp (Liverpool) for Pearce, h-t; Stone (Nottingham Forest) for Ince, 79; Campbell (Tottenham Hotspur) for Redknapp, 86.

England statistics: Bookings Ince, Shearer. Free-kicks conceded 21. Goal attempts 13. On target 5. Corners 2. Caught offside 1.

Referee: P Pairetto (Italy). Man of the match: Seaman.

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