One of the most important decisions Berti Vogts made amid Germany’s run to EURO ’96 glory happened aboard a gondola in Venice, as he ruminated loudly about who to select as his fourth striker. “Take Oliver Bierhoff,” came the sagacious (perhaps bored) reply from his wife Monika, “he will repay you.” Bierhoff duly came off the bench in the final and cancelled out the Czech Republic’s lead before hitting a golden goal winner.
1 Oliver Bierhoff
Germany were trailing when Vogts introduced Udinese striker Bierhoff midway through the second half. Within four minutes he headed his team level, then five minutes into extra time he struck the golden goal. Germany had a new national hero though for Bierhoff, who had only made his international debut a few months earlier, it was just the start. He went on to star for AC Milan and won his 70th and final cap in the 2002 FIFA World Cup final, bowing out with 37 goals. He now has a senior role at the German Football Association (DFB).
2 Petr Kouba
Kouba was ever-present at EURO ’96, the Czechs’ semi-final hero after saving Reynald Pedros’ spot kick in the shoot-out victory over France. The son of Pavel, a goalkeeper in the Czechoslovakia squad that reached the 1962 FIFA World Cup final, the nimble Kouba found success early. He made his top-flight debut aged 18 and won the first of 46 caps (8 for Czechoslovakia, 38 for Czech Republic) at 22. He left Sparta Praha to join Deportivo La Coruña after EURO ’96 but, beset by injuries, his career petered out. He is now goalkeeper coach for the Czech Republic Under-21s.
3 Karel Rada
A tall, blond centre-back, Rada had to bide his time at EURO ’96 – his first appearance came in the semi-finals, where he performed strongly and converted his spot kick. Retained for the decider, he would go on to play in Germany, joining Eintracht Frankfurt at the back end of a career that included spells at Dukla Praha, Sigma Olomouc, Trabzonspor and Slavia Praha. Now 45, he is coach of the Czech’s women’s Under-17 side. They host the WU17 EURO next summer.
4 Miroslav Kadlec
Kadlec was no stranger to German football fans in 1996 as he was six years into an eight-season stint at Kaiserslautern. The centre-back won Bundesliga titles in his first and final seasons, the latter having been promoted from the second tier the previous campaign. He was the Czech Republic’s captain and sweeper at EURO ’96, and made the last of his 64 international appearances the following year. He retired from club level in 2002, aged 37, and now works at a sport’s agency. Son Michal plays for Sparta Praha and overtook his father’s tally of caps last month.
5 Markus Babbel
Injury to Jürgen Kohler in the opening game of EURO ’96 secured Babbel a place in Germany’s back three. Fresh from Bayern’s UEFA Cup win, he got better and better as the tournament went on. Babbel won his 51st cap at UEFA EURO 2000 before retiring from international football. He joined Liverpool, winning the UEFA Cup again, and though he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, he recovered to play for Blackburn and then Stuttgart, where he won the Bundesliga and started his coaching career. Now in his third season at Swiss side Luzern.
6 Marco Bode
Able to play as a striker, on the wing or even at full-back, Bode was new to the international set-up and, but for injuries, might not have made the squad. Further personnel problems in England prompted Vogts to introduce him at half-time against the Czech Republic as Germany successfully chased the game. Bode, who scored 101 league goals in 13 seasons with Werder Bremen, won his 40th cap in his final game as a professional in the 2002 World Cup final, a 2-0 loss to Brazil. He now works as a TV reporter.
7 Michal Horňák
Ever-present in England, Horňák was a prototype of the modern right-back, an auxiliary offensive player who ran down the wing and delivered crosses. He won ten league titles at Sparta Praha, turning down offers from Spain and Austria to become one of the Czech top-flight’s most decorated players. He eventually left his homeland for a two-year stint at LASK Linz but is back at his beloved Sparta now, as coach of the successful academy side.
8 Jürgen Klinsmann
In a career that included World Cup glory in 1990 and 47 international goals in 108 outings, EURO ’96 was arguably Klinsmann’s finest hour. With Lothar Matthäus injured, Klinsmann was made captain and led by example, scoring three goals and playing the final despite a calf strain. The ending was a happy one after a season in which he scored 15 goals in Bayern’s UEFA Cup victory. Klinsmann registered in all six major tournaments he graced and coached Germany to third at the 2006 World Cup. He has been in charge of the United States since 2011.
Kouba, Kadlec, Rada and Horňák still get together every so often as Czech Team 96, a charity outfit that raises money for former players who have fallen on hard times. They faced a Germany 96 side in May 2015, supplemented by a few other over-35s. It was somewhat more open than the match at Wembley and rather slower – the Czechs won 6-3!
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