Posts Tagged ‘ Euro 1996 ’

Czech Republic World Cup 2006 Shirts

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The Czech Republic separated from Czechoslovakia in the early 90s and their first international tournament was Euro 96, which was a critical moment in my soccer fandom. During this tournament I fell in love with Croatia, picked up a Spain shirt and followed the Three Lions all the way to their painful loss to Germany in the Semis.

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Looking back over the last twenty years, I realized that the Czech Republic have produced some of my fondest football memories. Poborsky’s chip against Portugal as well as their dramatic appearance in the Euro 96 Final introduced me to this wonderful footballing country. Who could forget their epic comeback against Holland at Euro 2004 or their destruction of the United States in the opening game of the 2006 World Cup? Plus when Pirlo scored his penalty against England at Euro 2012, I was introduced to the panenka, which was created by a Czechoslovakian.

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2006 was the only World Cup the Czech Republic have qualified for despite being perennial guests at the European Championships. Their 3-0 win over the Stars and Stripes provided a good foundation for advancing, but a 2-0 loss to Ghana in the following match put their tournament in jeopardy. The Czech Republic fell behind Italy in the first half and then had a man sent off. Their 2-0 defeat sent them packing but boy did they look good.

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The Czech Republic kits are traditionally red at home and white on the road. The 2006 version was a complementary, well designed set. The home shirt was solid red with narrow royal blue cuffs while the home was white with royal blue cuffs. There were two key design elements to shirt. The first was a lion shadow printed across the chest, and second was a narrow band that ran across the back and stopped just under the clavicle. The lion is the central item of the national team badge and Puma added a subtle reminder on shirt. As for the trim on the back of the jersey, I really liked how it framed the name and number.

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This simply designed shirt was paired with shorts and an interesting pair of socks. The red shirt was completed with blue shorts and white/blue socks and the away strip was a white shirt and socks with blue/white socks. Puma’s socks for this tournament had a contrasting color running up the shin which was flanked by a another color. Definitely different and to this day, I still don’t know if I like or hate it.

While I was writing this post, I came across the shirt on Classic Football Shirts. The home replica was on sale plus CFS was celebrating their ten year annivesary with a 20% off sale. I figured the fates had aligned so I broke one of my kit buying rules and picked one up. The shirt lived up to my expectations in terms of design and weighs almost nothing.

For me I was inspired by many players of the Czech Republic (Nedvěd, Rosický, Berger, Jankulovski and Poborsky) and feel privileged that I got to see them play. Now I own a shirt from this wonderful footballing nation and look forward to future generations. 

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Special thanks. . .

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Read the rest of my Strip Club posts here and follow me on twitter @austinlong1974.

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Top Five Matches

I came across a post on reddit asking Which five matches changed your life?Loved the question and after thinking about it for a bit, here’s what I came up with:

1996       England v Germany Euro 96

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This game created the template for watching soccer while working. ESPN picked up the rights to this tournament and I fell in love with Croatia, saw Gazza’s wonder goal against Scotland, and the Czech Republic’s heartbreak in the Final against Germany. In the previous round, England played Germany in a rematch of the 1990 World Cup Semi. I was working as a summer intern at the FBI and snuck up to a conference room to watch the second half and penalties. England were so close but after 11 perfect spot kicks, Southgate’s miss condemned the Three Lions to defeat.

1999       Bayern Munich v Manchester United   Champions League Final

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As my love for the Red Devils continued to grow, the Treble season reached its dramatic conclusion in Barcelona. With no Keane or Scholes, United was up against it and when Basler scored in the opening minutes, I didn’t believe. Negative by nature I just waited for Bayern to seal the game and accept defeat. But when Sheringham poked home from close range I screamed with excitement. And when Solskjaer put the ball in the Germans net, I ran around the house in sheer joy.

2002       USA v Portugal   World Cup 2002 Group Stage

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In the days leading up to the game, I had a dream that the US crushed Portugal like 6-0 but I had missed it by sleeping in. Due to the time difference, the game kicked off at 4am ET. On the morning of the game, I drove frantically to a friend’s house who was hosting people. After the early US blitz I thought maybe I had had some sort of premonition but alas, Portugal fought back and made for a nervous last couple of minutes. That tournament was amazing and I got up at all hours to watch the matches.

2009       Real Madrid v FC Barcelona     La Liga

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In the late 90s and early 2000s I start following FC Barcelona and watched a dramatic 2006 Champions League Final against Arsenal. In the years following, that magic team was broken up and rebuilt and taken over by Pep Guardiola who drove the Blaugrana to an unprecedented, at the time, Treble. Real Madrid hunted Barca down in the league and set up a crucial meeting at the Bernabeu, and when Los Merengues scored first, a sick feeling came over me. And then magic happened with Henry and Messi tearing apart the hosts, each scoring twice, and also getting goals from Puyol and Piqué. It was breathtaking and set the stage for Iniesta’s moment of magic at Stamford Bridge and an amazing finish to the season.

2012       Manchester City v QPR     English Premier  League

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The dramatic end to the 1988-89 season was before my time, so when United came back from 0-1 against Spurs in the final league game of 1999 to clinch the title, I didn’t think it could get much better than that. I was wrong. A bunch of fellow fans gathered at Buffalo Wild Wings for Fox’s Survival Sunday, with all ten games on an array of channels. With fans from several different teams present, cheers and groans were constant depending on the action. Eventually we started calling out the TV numbers to keep track of the events. United secured victory at Sunderland and with City down 1-2 against QPR, another league title looked secure. But the fickle finger of fate intervened and Dzeko equalized, setting up Aguero’s moment of glory. Stunned I drank several shots as I watched the celebrations at Etihad. Gutted by the result, it was still one of the greatest soccer community events I have ever experienced.

Let me know what games impacted your soccer support in the comments below.

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Check out more posts on my trips, research and memories on the MatchDay Memories page.

Strip Club–Pole Work Edition

I admit I was strangely gutted when Croatia lost to Germany in the quarterfinals of Euro 96 despite knowing almost nothing about them, but when I first saw the Croatia jersey, I was instantly intrigued, because they looked like the Big Boy outfit down the street. So I started following the team and through them found a basketball hero in Toni Kukoc. For this post I racked my brain and checked out the interwebs for more info, including the Croatian National Team Wikipedia entry.

On September 4th, 1994, Croatia kicked off against Estonia and started an amazing four year run in international football. The Blazers qualified for Euro 96 by winning their group, only losing one match and managing a draw and victory against 1994 World Cup Runners-Up Italy. At the Finals, they finished second in their section to Portugal (watch Suker’s goal against Denmark starts at 3:30) and qualified for the knockout stage, where they lost to Germany despite a sick goal by Suker.

Two years on, they took the world by storm as they made it all the way to the semi-finals of the World Cup, which included a 3-0 demolition of Germany, before they fell to two unlikely goals from Lillian Thuram of the host country France. They responded by defeating Holland in the third place game to complete a journey from non-existence to the heights of international competition, with Suker winning the Golden Boot for the tournament (all goals here). However, things didn’t go as well for the next decade as Suker, Boban, Prosinečki and Bilic retired, and the next generation couldn’t match their achievements.

The summer after Euro 96, I was at my local soccer shop and came across the Croatian jersey. I couldn’t believe it. I immediately took the shirt up to the counter and swiped my credit card. The jersey is one of the few I have that is made by Lotto, but it is lightweight and great to play in.

Of course I get mocked due to the large checked pattern (either something about Big Boy or wearing a picnic blanket) but that’s because people don’t get it.

Croatia continue to produce quality players (Modric, Rakitić, and Srna, with Kovačić as a possible up and comer) and I enjoy watching them. I pull for them in any tournament to do well, due to their ability and killer uniforms, so here’s hoping that they qualify for World Cup 2014 and beyond.

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Special thanks for Kire Football Kits for the graphic reproduction of the kits.

Strip Club–Couch Dance Edition

Euro 96 was one of my earliest football watching memories. Football Comes Home, the song by the Lightning Seeds, matches at the old Wembley, all that. I probably should have bought an England jersey, but what are you going to do?

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Instead let’s talk about Spain.  The theme of the Euro 96 group stage for La Furia Roja was late goals as three of their four goals came in the last fifteen minutes, including the goal from Amor on 84’ against Romania that put them through to the quarters.

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In the knockout stage, the hosts of the tournament provided the opposition. It was the only game that I saw the Spanish team play at the tournament, and I don’t remember much other than it was scoreless and I had to leave with only minutes remaining in extra time. My family had to go to my dad’s work party, and, since I was living rent free with my parents, I had to go. This was pre internet, so I didn’t find out the result right away and had to wait until the England/Germany semi-final game to see some of the penalties. I’m still pissed about the whole circumstance. Not a great reflection on me but I really wanted to see that game. I was an England fan at the time and couldn’t believe that my parents couldn’t wait until the game was over. The lake and the food and the people were not going anywhere. I’ll eventually get over it.

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Researching the game, I was shocked to read that Hierro missed the opening penalty. As one of Spain’s all time leading scorers and captain for club and country, I figured he would have been a sure thing. Reviewing the squad I didn’t recognize many players. There was Zubi of course, Hierro, Kiko, a couple of Barcelona players—Sergi, Abelardo and Nadal—and of course Luis Enrique, one of my all time favorites. By the time Euro 2000 rolled around, this squad would be almost completely replaced.

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The Spain Euro 1996 Home Kit was one of the first jerseys I ever bought. At the time, I liked the template and the use of navy blue on the predominately red kit. Although the badge is unusually large, there are some nice touches such as the series of three stripes and Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) printed on the shirt. The Spanish flag on the sleeve was, as far as I can tell, new at the time, and the official garment tags are in Spanish. The white name and numbers really pop and allow for easy visibility. The banded collar, which was specific to an era in fashion, has faded over time, but the rest of the jersey has worn well. Combined with navy blue shorts and socks, the was a nice looking strip.

Spain Home and Away Kits Euro 1996

In retrospect I bought the wrong size so the jersey is quite large on me. It is relatively light but unfortunately it doesn’t breathe that well so on hot days it’s a tough go. I don’t wear it that much, hardly ever to play in, but break it out for Spain’s tournament runs. Call me sentimental or superstitious or lucky. All in all a piece of history in my collection.

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