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'Do I still think about it? I'm reminded almost every day!'

Posted on 6 July 2016  - 15:00

Darren Anderton was inches from changing the course of English football history 20 years ago. As we prepare for the semi-finals of Euro 2016 tonight and tomorrow, the midfielder looks back at a night that is never far from his thoughts...

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England v Germany, Euro 96 semi-finals, Wembley Stadium - June 26, 1996.

Everyone remembers Paul Gascoigne's agonising slide to try and reach Alan Shearer's cross in extra time of the semi-final of Euro 96. It's one of the most iconic moments of arguably the most iconic international in the recent history of English football. Hearts in mouths, heads in hands, all in a matter of seconds. Gazza connects, and it's all over with the 'Golden Goal' rule in the tournament. He didn't...

There was another chance minutes before Gazza's near-miss - the moment a Spurs player almost wrote his name in English football folklore.

David Platt sent Steve McManaman clear down the right, he cut the ball back just out of the reach of diving goalkeeper Andreas Kopke into the path of Darren Anderton.

The ball just behind him, Anderton fashioned a shot on goal - a slow, looping effort that moved in slow motion towards the empty net - and hit the post.

Worse still, it bounced straight back into the hands of Kopke.

It was agony for England fans and the rest is history - 1-1 after extra time, England out on penalties.

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So close...

"The ball was just behind me and the goalkeeper got the slightest of touches on it, which didn’t help," reflected Darren - our record appearance-maker in the Premier League (299) - 20 years on.

"I got a good connection but ended up on the floor, so I didn’t even see it hit the post. I looked up and saw the ball bounce into the goalkeeper’s hands.

"We then had Gazza’s chance, which was the opposite. He waited for the goalkeeper to get a little touch, and he didn’t. It’s incredible how unlucky we were.

"People often talk about the Holland game (4-1 win) but we played so well against Germany. There was a real belief we’d win that game. We scored early, they scored a bit of a scruffy equaliser, a deflection that went their way. It was a great game, we had great footballers and we kept the ball well.

"We were a team and there was a real belief we'd go on to win the tournament."

Did he still think about that moment? What might have been? "I'm reminded just about every day!" said the elegant midfielder. "Especially at the moment!

"I watched a recent documentary and went to bed a little uptight again, thinking what might have been!"

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Don't forget that pass!

Darren was also involved in another iconic moment from Euro 96 - Gazza's wonder goal against Scotland.

He lifted the pass into Gazza's path and the genial midfielder did the rest, famously lobbing the ball over Colin Hendrie before volleying home in the 2-0 victory.

"People forget about that! I’ve no idea why! It was only a tap-in from Gazza!" smiled Darren.

"It was great, especially for Gazza because he was playing in Scotland at the time, Andy Goran (Scotland goalkeeper) was his team-mate and it was all set-up for him. Top players do it when they need to and Gazza had a bit of stick for three or four weeks going into the tournament because he was the main man. We didn’t play well in the opener against Switzerland and he got the brunt of the abuse. It was great to be part of that moment. He was such a special player.

"It felt like we were meant to win it and things were progressing along amazingly, so when it ended it just didn't seem real."