Alan Shearer is fondly remembered by the viewing public as having been a ‘proper’ striker. Strong in the air and with a no-nonsense finish on him, his England career ended with an excellent 30 goals in 63 games. Of those 30 goals though, five in particular stand out.
Euro ’96 was the first major tournament England had hosted since 1966, and with it came expectation. England boasted a fine squad, with talents such as Shearer, Sheringham, Gascoigne, Adams, Neville and Seaman providing hope. With Baddiel and Skinner’s collaboration with the Lightning Seeds whipping fans into a frenzy, England needed to deliver, and did so through their most potent postman, Alan Shearer.
Shearer’s first goal was a fine one indeed. In England’s group opener against Switzerland, Ince found the Geordie front man with a clever pass, and Shearer obligingly lashed the ball into the roof of the net at the near post. Unfortunately for England the Swiss drew level late on with a penalty, giving extra meaning to the Three Lions’ next fixture against Scotland.
After a dour first half against a well-organised Scotland side, it was Shearer who crucially broke the deadlock. Eight minutes into the second half Gary Neville burst down the right hand side of the box and floated an inch-perfect ball over the head of Andy Goram, right onto the bonce of Mr Shearer. The rest of the half unfolded in dull fashion, with just a David Seaman penalty save followed by Paul Gascoigne scoring one of the great Wembley goals to speak of.
The result however did not leave England on easy street. With England and the Netherlands tied on four points and Scotland and Switzerland on one point, England’s final group game against the Oranje could still see them knocked out. Fans needn’t have worried though, as Shearer and Sheringham put on a masterclass.
Shearer opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the first half, but it wasn’t until the second half that the mayhem commenced. First Sheringham’s superb header doubled the advantage, before England’s goal of the tournament. Gascoigne made his way into the box on the left before cutting the ball back to Sheringham, and Sheringham’s excellently disguised square ball to Shearer was dispatched by the number nine. Sheringham added a fourth before the Dutch notched a consolation goal, and tournament fever reached an all-time high.
England v Spain bore no goals but did host England’s first tournament penalty shoot out win, with Alan Shearer notching again. England v Germany in the semi-final loomed.
Once again Shearer refused to shy away from the responsibility of the occasion. After just three minutes a Gascoigne corner was flicked on at the near post for an onrushing Shearer to nod in, but England’s lead lasted just 13 minutes as Stefan Kuntz found the equaliser with the game just 16 minutes old. With neither side unable to take their chances in 120 minutes of football the game was decided on penalties, and despite Shearer once again finding the net from the spot, England were knocked out.
Although the Three Lions fell short of what would have been a momentous victory, Shearer finished top scorer at the tournament and his performances certainly did not flatter to deceive. With goals against Switzerland, Scotland, the Netherlands and Germany, Shearer contributed more to the idea that football might have been coming home than anyone else.
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