England vs Scotland. The oldest international rivalry in world football will be rekindled at Euro 2020.
Since first meeting in 1872, these two teams have been the fiercest of rivals.
Despite the obvious disparity in size and financial might, Scotland has long punched above its weight against the Auld Enemy, despite England edging the official tally 48-41, with 25 draws.
There have been countless historic matches between the two nations, from Scotland humbling England’s 1966 World Cup winners at Wembley in 1967, or Scottish fans ripping up Wembley’s turf after victory in the 1977 Home Championship.
However, when England and Scotland meet in their second game of Euro 2020, it’s impossible not to think of the last time these two sides met at a major tournament, during the halcyon European summer of 1996.
Follow our live blog of all the action from England vs Scotland from 4:30am AEST Saturday.
The stunning summer of Euro 96
Until England’s run to the World Cup semi-final in 2018, Euro 96 was arguably the high-water mark for English football since the 1966 World Cup.
At Euro 96 — as opposed to the World Cup semi-final appearance at Italia 90, football actually did come home — resulting in a riotous celebration of flag waving and delirious optimism that England could break its 30-year trophy drought.
Sadly for the home side, it was not to be, as England was ultimately subject to the truism first uttered by Gary Lineker in 1990, that “football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”
That defeat came in a heartbreaking semi-final loss at Wembley, when current England manager Gareth Southgate — clad in an infamous grey kit that still gives England fans nightmares — missed the only penalty of a fraught shootout.
However, arguably the most iconic moment of England’s tournament came on June 15 at Wembley, featuring mercurial genius Paul Gascoigne.
That game was also the second match of the group stage of the European Championships and, as both teams had drawn their opening game of the tournament, with only the top two from each group qualifying, this was a must-win affair.
Gascoigne’s genius to the fore
After a goalless first half, England struck first through Alan Shearer, who sent the majority of the 76,864 supporters inside a packed Wembley wild when he nodded home Gary Neville’s whipped in cross.
Scotland was handed a glorious opportunity to equalise when a bloodied and bandaged Gordon Durie was taken down by England skipper Tony Adams for a penalty.
However, David Seaman saved brilliantly from Gary McAllister — and then, within a minute, Scotland had conceded again.
A long ball out from Seaman was collected by Teddy Sheringham, who passed wide to Darren Anderton, who hooked the ball forward towards Gascoigne.
What happened next was magical.
Gascoigne — then of Glasgow Rangers — flicked the bouncing ball over Colin Hendry with his first touch, before rifling the ball past Andy Goram with his second, sparking scenes of utter jubilation and sealing a 2-0 victory.
Gascoigne sprinted to the goal line and lay on his back, arms stretched, mouth open as Jamie Redknapp, Steve McManaman and Shearer arrived to squirt water into his mouth from one of the readily available water bottles lying on the side of the pitch.
The celebration had history — referencing a pre-tournament trip to Hong Kong and a nightclub where the staff poured spirits into the mouths of patrons who sat in the “dentist chair”.
The drunken debauchery that eventuated on that trip filled tabloid papers for days afterwards, although all that was forgotten when the tournament started, so much so that the celebration has become as iconic as the goal.
What of this year’s match up?
England’s 1-0 victory over Croatia, and Scotland’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of Czech Republic, means the stakes are very different for both teams.
Scotland has to get at least a point from this match to have any realistic chance of qualifying — then hope to out-enthuse an aged and limited Croatia on the final match of the group stage.
Scottish football’s near terminal decline on the international stage has only sporadically been arrested in recent years — including being thrown a lifeline by the expanded qualification criteria for Euro 2020.
But now they are here, Scotland will hope to give a good account of themselves, and nothing would give their supporters more joy than denting the hopes of England along the way.
Scotland has a talented team too, with players who are instrumental in their Premier League sides, although Steve Clarke’s initial issue is fitting two world-class left backs in Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney into the same team.
Man for man though, England have the better players and, with both managers permitted five substitutes, that immediately gives England the advantage.
The attacking and midfield talents at Southgate’s disposal are comparable to the best teams in the world and, although the defence does have question marks over it, Scotland’s strength is not in its attack.
England buoyed by its win demon-conquering win over Croatia, now has less pressure on its shoulders.
Additionally, Wembley will be but a quarter full for the game, meaning the atmosphere will not be quite as frantic as it might otherwise have been.
Nevertheless, as the Scots proved at Hampden in their opening match, from the moment the Tartan Army performs its defiant rendition of Flower of Scotland, the pressure will ramp up.
Scotland has said it will kneel with England to start the game in a show of solidarity, but once that’s over and the battle is met, no quarter will be given.