Euro 1996: The Golden Goal

For the first time, the European Championship was held with 16 instead of eight teams in 1996. From the 16 finalists, it was Germany and Czech Republic who made it to the final round of European Championships in Wembley. In this match, Oliver Bierhoff scored the first golden goal in history, a method used during the extra time to determine the winner of the match.

The German striker sealed the very first major international tournament the first game at a major international tournament decided in a method, as well as Germany’s third European titleand first since reunification in October 1990. But, prior to 1996 success, Bierhoff hadn’t initially made it to the starting line-up for the final and just a substitute player.

Bierhoff was better known Italy than his homeland. He was once sorted out at Hamburger SV, moved to BorussiaMonchengladbach thereafter in 1990 lasted just eight games and detoured to Austria. By the end of the 1994/95 season, Bierhoffscored 46 times in the second tier and earned a move to Udinese. His Italian Serie A appearance paved way into his national team career.

Less than four months before the Euro 1996, Bierhoff made his debut in the German team on February 1996 in a friendly against Portugal, followed by a brace in another friendly against Denmark the following month. During the qualifying rounds, hedidn’t start any opening game team until the the game against Russia. He then returned to the bench for the final group game against Italy.

In the final match at Wembley, Czechs were leading in the in 59th minute as Patrik Berger scored from a penalty. Germanentered Bierhoff in the field as a substitute and he equalized in just four minutes of playing following the substitution. During the extra time, a golden goal rule was called. Under the rule, used at major football championships, the team that scores that goal or point during extra time wins. 

Czech goalkeeper Petr Kouba, despite being directly in line with the ball, was stunned by Bierhoff, who had come from the bench to win the European Championship for Germany. That golden moment came at the age of 28. It was his second goal in twenty-two minutes, and two years later following Klinsmannretirement after the 1998 World Cup., he became captain of the team.

That summer he joined AC Milan and after leaving Milan in 2001, he went to Monaco, before one final season back in Italy at Chievo Verona in 2002/03. The final game of the season would be Bierhoff’s last – the Old Lady of Juventus facing the ageing man. He scored a hat-trick in his last ever game as a professional, which saw Chievo fall to a narrow 4-3 defeat to Juventus.

Within two years he Germany’s captaincy and by the time his international career was finishing six years later, he had scored 37 goals in 70 appearances for the German team. Bierhoff had become a regular opening for the German team and finished his international career in 2002. The golden goal rule has long since been abolished, but the memory of the shooter of the first golden gate has not faded.