Calamity at the Camp Nou

Camp Nou Barcelona

Cultural disparities have long existed between Spain and the northern parts of Europe about how alcoholic beverages are to be consumed. In the days before the 1999 Champions League final, more than a hundred thousand English and German supporters descended on Barcelona determined to relish the occasion. The roisterous mood seemed to be captured by a picture in El País that displayed a bare-chested, scarf-wearing fan with a crate of beer resting on his sizeable frame. All hotels had been booked up, so many resorted to sleeping rough. Some did so unintentionally. The cover of El Periódico showed a man in a Manchester United shirt passed out on the sidewalk. “A hooligan, inseparable from his beers, sleeps in the middle of Las Ramblas in Barcelona,” the caption read. Back in El País, journalists had interviewed a bemused waiter. “There is one guy over there who has been sitting here since midday and has only been drinking beer,” he said. “He hasn’t eaten anything.”

The carousing passed without panic, partly thanks to the deployment of two thousand riot police to back up local officers. The same could not be said for the black market. Tickets had changed hands for up to one thousand five hundred pounds each; some twenty thousand supporters had travelled to Catalonia without one. One Englishman had paid twenty-eight thousand pounds in advance on the promise that he would receive one hundred and sixteen tickets the next day. The seller never showed up.

When the night came, on 26 May 1999, ninety thousand filed into the cavernous Camp Nou for the most anticipated game in years. Four days earlier, Manchester United—the first English side to make the final since Heysel—had wrapped up the FA Cup with a 2-0 win over Newcastle at Wembley. They had already snatched the Premier League a point ahead of Arsenal. The class of ’92 were in their vigorous mid-twenties, and Roy Keane and David Beckham had been vital that season; Ryan Giggs had scored an extra-time solo winner to dump Arsenal out of the cup. Jaap Stam had arrived from PSV Eindhoven to bolster the defence. Up front, Dwight Yorke, bought from Aston Villa for what the BBC called “a staggering £12.6m”, had formed a telepathic partnership with Andy Cole. For Peter Schmeichel, now thirty-five, the final would be his last game for the club. Suspensions to Paul Scholes and Keane had forced Sir Alex Ferguson to draft Beckham in as a makeshift central playmaker, with Giggs shuffled to the right. Filling in on the left was Jesper Blomqvist.

Manchester United (4-4-2)

Cole         Yorke

Blomqvist                                    Giggs
Butt      Beckham

Irwin                                       G Neville
Johnsen     Stam


Bayern were no less formidable. They had wrapped up the Bundesliga two weeks ago, while a cup final date had been set up with Werder Bremen. The game would be played on 12 June.

Bayern München (5-2-3)

Zickler                                       Basler

Jeremies     Effenberg
Tarnat                                        Babbel

Kuffour       Linke


The fact that both teams were chasing the treble underpinned the impression that these were the two finest sides on the continent. The official was also of high regard. This was the first final without an Italian team in eight years, so the whistle was handed to Pierluigi Collina, the stern, hairless referee, whose laser-beam eyes were intense enough to blast through any layer of deceit. When the players walked out below banners and rapturous fans, the occasion was grand. “It was an astonishing setting to host the astonishing climax to an astonishing season,” the Guardian’s Jim White would write after the dramatic denouement. “Barcelona’s Nou Camp, its stand steepling up into the gloaming, oozed the kind of atmosphere that can reduce the most resolute of spines to jelly. And that was before the kick-off.”

A favourite seemed impossible to pick. “We’ve been asked a hundred times over the last few days what will be the deciding factor, and all I can say is luck,” Oliver Kahn had said. “There is no other answer. It will come down to luck, luck and luck again.”

Bayern’s turnaround from the previous season had been remarkable. Twelve months earlier, they had finished two points behind Otto Rehhagel’s Kaiserslautern, who became the first newly-promoted side to win the Bundesliga. The fiasco left Bayern with two leagues in eight seasons; a scandalous run for a club that had claimed five out of six championships from 1985 to 1990. In the mid-1990s, Bayern had been labelled ‘FC Hollywood’, because of how frequently outspoken stars filled the tabloids and infighting affected results. In 1994, general manager Uli Hoeness had identified the man he wanted to restore order, but Monaco would not let Arsène Wenger go. He ended up hiring Giovanni Trapattoni, who finished sixth. Next in was Rehhagel, who came second. In 1996/97, Trapattoni returned and won the league. But over the following eight months, the squad’s petulant egocentrics would drive him mad. In early March, 1998, at Schalke, he started the injury-plagued Thomas Strunz, and benched Mehmet Scholl and Mario Basler; the duo retaliated by refusing to leave the team bus. They later entered as substitutes, but Bayern lost 1-0—their third straight league defeat.

Two days later, Trapattoni held a raging press conference; a three-and-a-half-minute crescendo of lament, littered with solecisms, fist-smacking and finger-pointing. “In this game, it was two, three or four players who were weak like a bottle empty,” he yelled. “Have you seen Wednesday, what team has played Wednesday? Did Mehmet play, or did Basler play, or did Trapattoni play? These players complain more than they play. You know why no Italian team buys these players? Because they’ve seen them play too many times. They say: ‘These do not play for the Italian champions.’”

A couple of silent seconds followed…

“Strunz!” he snapped. “Strunz is here two years, and has played ten games, is always injured. How dare Strunz!” He added: “I am tired now, to father these players, defend these players. I always get the blame over these players. One is Mario, the other is Mehmet. I don’t mention Strunz, he has only played twenty-five percent of the games.” He took no questions before signing off. “I have ready,” he said.

The following summer, Bayern appointed a coach revered for his masterful man management; the ingredient needed to handle these players. Born in the German village of Lörrach, near the southern border, Ottmar Hitzfeld had spent the majority of his playing career as a striker in Swiss fotball, with Basel, Lugano and Luzern. His only stint in Germany had been with Stuttgart, with whom he won promotion to the Bundesliga in 1977. In 1972, he had played with Hoeness for West Germany at the Summer Olympics, hitting five goals in the six games that would be his only taste of international football. When he took up coaching, at thirty-four, he stayed in Switzerland. He debuted with Zug 94, whom he guided to the elite league in his only season. The sojourn was tempestuous and difficult. The club president, Werner Hofstetter, a self-made building magnate, was, in Hitzfeld’s words, a “workaholic who felt we should train eight hours a day, not two”. “We had endless discussions,” Hitzfeld recalled, according to the Guardian. “Once, he had his hands on my throat and was starting to squeeze tight. It was tough.”

Hitzfeld moved to Aarau, then Grasshoppers, where he won two league titles and two national cups from 1988 to 1991. That sent him to Dortmund, whom he led to championships in 1995 and 1996; their first such triumphs since 1963, when the Bundesliga was not yet founded. The crowning moment came in 1997, when they beat Marcello Lippi’s much-fancied Juventus side 3-1 in the Champions League final in Munich.

By now, Hitzfeld’s tactical shrewdness and clever management style had earned him the nickname Der General. Outwardly he was phlegmatic, courteous and softly spoken; within the squad, he installed discipline, organisation and efficacy. “Everything was so organised with Mr Hitzfeld,” Paul Lambert, one of Dortmund’s defensive midfielders, told the Telegraph. “You’d know what you were doing a month in advance… He was brilliant. His man management was brilliant.”

At Bayern, Hitzfeld was handed a squad brimming with pompous mavericks. The father in the house was Lothar Matthäus, whose influence remained undimmed at thirty-seven; the press called him ‘The Loudspeaker’ for his forthright loquacity, which had fuelled the Hollywood culture. When Jürgen Klinsmann signed for Bayern in 1995, Matthäus immediately criticised him in the press. The dispute was overt and personal, and soon grew big. Not one inclined to resolve matters behind closed doors, Matthäus proposed that he and Klinsmann settle the score in a live television debate. The conflict was clearly internecine and, when Bayern finished six points behind champions Dortmund in the 1996, the saga was apportioned blame. The following summer, national team coach Berti Vogts banned Matthäus from the Euro 1996 squad over his asinine suggestion, and vowed that he would “never play for his country again”. Klinsmann was made captain and Germany won the tournament.

Matthäus was not the only Bayern player to have fallen out with Vogts. Hitzfeld proceeded to signed Stefan Effenberg from Borussia Mönchengladbach; a contentious midfielder who would go on to amass more than a hundred career bookings. As if the squad had not been controversial enough already. The most high-profile incident of Effenberg’s eventful past was a game at the 1994 World Cup, in which he was substituted in the second half. Germany supporters booed him as he walked off, to which he responded by raising his middle finger. Vogts never picked him again.

The man to complete Bayern’s unholy trio was Mario Basler, an unpredictable but ingenious winger. He smoked, and had a reputation as a slack trainer. Repeated off-the-pitch ventures had tested managerial tolerance before. When Trapattoni had hired private investigators to follow his players, Basler was the chief suspect. “Fifty percent of players hate me,” Basler once told Der Spiegel, according to ESPN FC. “It’s the same with the fans. Half of them would like to send me to the moon without a return ticket.”

Basler personified the profile of the squad; a tinderbox group of brilliant potential. They had Kahn, the tigerish goalkeeper signed for a record £2m from Karlsruhe, in 1994. The defensive mainstays were the diligent Marcus Babbel; the experienced Thomas Helmer; the young Ghanaian Samuel Kuffour; Bixente Lizarazu, the dynamic French-Basque left-back; and Michael Tarnat, the wing-back with the feared left foot. They had also signed Thomas Linke, the conscientious centre-back whose header for Schalke had lit Trapattoni’s touchpaper. They had sold Dietmar Hamann to Newcastle, but Hitzfeld could count Thorsten Fink and Strunz for defensive balance, alongside newcomer Jens Jeremies, a run-off-the-mill midfield terrier signed from crosstown rivals 1860 München.

Elsewhere in midfield, the invention was supposed to come from Basler and Effenberg. For all his talk, Effenberg did have substance to his game; he had an efficient distance shot, a razor-sharp mind, a knack for one-touch passing, and an intuition for timely forward runs. There was also Scholl, a neat playmaker, and Hasan Salihamidžić, a youthful Bosnian signed from Hamburger SV.

In attack, Hitzfeld inherited Carsten Jancker, a man-mountain battering ram unremarkable in the air, but expert at binding up and closing down defenders. He had the speedy Alexander Zickler, and the predatory Brazilian Giovane Élber. The joker in the pack was Ali Daei, the moustached Iranian striker, brought from Arminia Bielefeld that summer, who president Franz Beckenbauer is said to have labelled “world class”.

Hitzfeld settled on a tactical system that would now be described as outdated and unconventional. The sweeper was still in vogue in Germany, so Matthäus stepped in as libero. (He had shirt number ten.) Ahead of him played two man-markers, usually Linke, Kuffour, Helmer or Babbel. The right wing-back was Strunz, while Lizarazu and Tarnat covered the left. In central midfield, Jeremies held while Effenberg directed play and joined attacks. Up front, Hitzfeld used various combinations. He could play Jancker and Élber in tandem with Basler in behind, but Élber was also clever enough to play deeper. Sometimes, Jancker would be the solitary target man, while two of Basler, Zickler and Élber played out wide. Some might have called it an adventurous interpretation of the German sweeper system. When Bayern had the ball, it resembled a 3-4-3.

Within weeks, it was clear that Hitzfeld was onto something. Bayern won their first six league games. At the Olympiastadion, the matches were open and entertaining; they beat Duisburg 3-1, Hansa Rostock 6-1 and HSV 5-3. On the road, the tactics were more balanced; they saw off Wolfsburg 1-0, Freiburg 2-0 and Bremen 1-0. Hitzfeld rotated to keep the squad happy, and stroked the big egos. Basler would be called “a genius”, and Effenberg “the best player in the world”.

Not all behaviour was within Hitzfeld’s control. A couple of infamous episodes took place in the heavyweight clash at Dortmund in early April. Bayern had won seven straight league games without conceding a goal; a run that Kahn, nursing a bruised left leg, was hell-bent on preserving. Early on, at 0-0, he jumped to catch a high ball; as he came down, Heiko Herrlich, the striker, tried to push him over the goal line. A furious Kahn barked back into his face, and appeared to try to bite him in the neck. His mood did not lighten when Herrlich scored twice shortly after. On thirty-nine minutes, his record wrecked, Kahn charged out to clear a long ball that had been flagged offside. With play long stopped, he directed a kung-fu king towards Herrlich’s striking partner, Stéphane Chapuisat. His studs stroked the back of Chapuisat’s shirt.

The consensus was that Kahn had lost it. But later in the game, after Kuffour had been sent off in the first half, Bayern pulled two goals back through Zickler and Jancker, the latter’s strike escaping disallowance for a clear handball. Kahn also saved a penalty. After the final whistle, Bayern celebrated as if they had won.

In a later interview, Kahn claimed that he never tried to bite Herrlich, and that he was “three metres” away from Chapuisat.

“It looked pretty wild, but I was actually in control of myself,” he told Der Spiegel. “I’ve never really injured anyone throughout my career. It’s part of my game to occasionally send a message, one that may be unpopular to the outside world, but can be important for the team.”

Bayern would endure a bumpy spell in the Bundesliga, but they recovered to finish top, fifteen points ahead of Leverkusen. Despite hitting seventy-six league goals, no player had managed more than thirteen (Élber and Jancker). En route, they had also survived Europe’s group of death.

The road to Barcelona was not straightforward. Bayern lost their first group-stage game 2-1 away to Brøndby, the supposed minnows, conceding twice in the last three minutes. Following that was a 2-2 draw at home to United, in which Élber equalised one minute before full time. Culpable was a Schmeichel blunder. Hope was restored with a 1-0 win over Louis van Gaal’s Barcelona in Munich, and the belief increased when the same side was beaten 2-1 at the Camp Nou, Salihamidžić striking in the eighty-seventh. A 2-0 victory over Brøndby and a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford sent Bayern through as group winners, with United second.

In the quarter-finals, Bayern faced Kaiserslautern. The German champions were weaker than last season—they would finish fifth in the Bundesliga— and Bayern won 6-0 on aggregate to book a semi-final showdown with Dynamo Kiev. The Ukrainians would win the domestic double that season. Masterminded by Valeriy Lobanovskiy, they had topped their group ahead of Arsenal, whom they had beaten 3-1 at home. In the quarter-finals, they had crushed Real Madrid thanks to a 2-0 win in Kiev, in which Andriy Shevchenko had scored twice.

The game in Ukraine came four days after the 2-2 draw at Dortmund. It first looked as if Bayern would be Kiev’s next victims. Within forty-three minutes, Shevchenko had struck a brace. But morale was high after the comeback at Westfalenstadion. Just before half-time, Tarnat’s low long-range free-kick somehow snuck into the corner behind Oleksandr Shovkovskiy. On fifty minutes Vitaliy Kosovskyi made it 3-1, but twelve minutes from full-time, Effenberg pulled a rabbit out of the hat by curling in a free-kick at the near post. That seemed a decent result for Bayern, the ordeal considered. Two minutes before the end, a long ball found Jancker inside the box, who wrestled free from two centre-backs to scramble in 3-3.

Back in Munich, Basler curled in a angled left-footed dip-shot for which most superlatives were inadequate. The aggregate score: 4-3.

In the build-up to the final, the English perceived several Bavarian advantages. That Bayern had long clinched the league title had facilitated more preparation time. The night before the game, reports surfaced that the width of the Camp Nou pitch would be reduced from seventy-two to sixty-eight metres, matching the dimensions of the Olympiastadion. In addition, Bayern had trained with the match ball for a fortnight.

But some factors were against the Germans. Élber would almost certainly have played had he not been injured, while a knee problem kept Lizarazu out. Those absentees prompted a tactical rejig that Hitzfeld could have kept secret, but he surprised many by naming his line-up more than forty-eight hours before kick-off. The news was that Babbel would start as right wing-back to counter Giggs. Ferguson was never going to fall victim to that, and he put Giggs up against the less mobile Tarnat. United also won the coin toss for who would use their home strip, so Bayern readied their shimmering maroon-silver shirts.

The occasion was potentially historic for Bayern. The 1970s side of Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller had won three consecutive European Cups, but not even they had won the treble. The club had not reached a final since 1987. Much was at stake for Matthäus, who had won the Euros, in 1980; the World Cup, in 1990; the Ballon d’Or, in 1991; and everything at club level—except the European Cup. He had captained Bayern in that 1987 final, where they were 1-0 up against Porto inside seventy-seven minutes, before conceding two late goals. He did not want that to happen again.

Tactically, United stuck with the tried and trusted. They lined up in a 4-4-2, in which Neville and Irwin watched Zickler and Basler. Centrally, Stam and Johnsen wrestled with Jancker. Hitzfeld deployed a man-marking system, so Jeremies watchdogged Beckham, while Effenberg was tracked by Butt. Out wide, Ferguson had instructed Giggs to run at Tarnat at all times. Cole and Yorke stuck close, trying to combine in front of Bayern’s centre-backs; they were followed everywhere by Linke and Kuffour. In effect, the numerical match-up resembled that of a 4-4-2 versus a 4-3-3. The exception was that Bayern did not have a spare man in midfield, but rather at the back; Matthäus was freed of man-marking duties, and became the central defender and de-facto playmaker in a back three when Bayern had the ball.

The opening was frantic. On five minutes, Jancker ran onto a ball into space and was brought down by Johnsen—no small feat—on the left edge of the area. Basler curled a low shot into the far corner. It seemed to be Schmeichel’s error: the wall was designed to cover the near post, and video replays suggested the Dane had put weight on the wrong foot as Basler struck. It might have been a gamble for the near post. Either way, Schmeichel lifted his arms in exasperation at the wall.

Hitzfeld immediately moved his side into a more conservative position. They stayed deep and hit the wings early. Soon, Basler ghosted down the right and crossed for Zickler, who mis-hit his first-time finish.

Bayern’s creative gameplan was rudimentary. They broke quickly and directly. When pressured, the back line made no attempts to play their way forward; the ball was given to Matthäus, who lofted it towards Jancker. Zickler and Basler would chase knockdowns, with Effenberg joining in. This could be effective. In one attack, Matthäus hoofed a ball towards Zickler, who headed it down to Effenberg. With Jancker coming short, Effenberg lifted a first-time pass over him and back to Zickler, who had moved in behind Jancker’s marker. His diving header was gathered with ease, but Bayern’s weapons were clearly dangerous.

United were more refined, and in command. Ferguson moved Beckham deep to dictate play. Down the left, the ineffective Blomqvist kept going infield despite being left-footed. Opposite, Giggs often had to cross with his right. The greatest dangers were corners and throw-ins; at one point, Neville threw a ball into the box that Effenberg cleared into Cole. It bounced just wide. On other occasions, Giggs would cut inside to set up Cole, Yorke or Beckham, but neither managed to trouble Kahn.

Indeed, if Bayern could be criticised for being uninventive—Basler and Effenberg were the only creative members of the line-up—their organisation was spotless. The wing-backs fell down to make it a back five, with Zickler and Basler tracking back. Collectively, they were focused and communicative. For all their faults, players such as Effenberg, Matthäus and Kahn brought personality, experience and character. The man-markers, Linke and Kuffour, were immaculate, and Yorke and Cole created little. Up in the stands, the British commentators were bewildered at how United had gone thirty-five minutes without mustering a coherent move.

The game opened up in the beginning of the second half. Jeremies played in Jancker alone with Johnsen, but his angled shot was handled by Schmeichel. Clear-cut chances remained elusive.

Giggs had a productive spell against Tarnat. He first whipped in a cross, then delivered an in-swinger from deep that Blomqvist should have directed on target, having wriggled ahead of Babbel at the far post. It was United’s first proper opportunity. Giggs continue to threaten, picking up a horrendous cross pass from Matthäus to trouble Linke. Effenberg then had to hack him down to avert a counter-attack. On the bench, Ferguson checked his watch.

Before long, Ferguson swapped Blomqvist for Teddy Sheringham, who had scored in the FA Cup final. The shape changed from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3, with Butt anchoring midfield, and Beckham and Giggs just ahead. The front line was Cole, Yorke, Sheringham. “I was upset when the manager told me I wouldn’t start,” Sheringham would recall in the Guardian. “I wanted to play a part, and I wanted to be the hero. I remember Sir Alex coming up to me at half-time and saying: ‘I’m going to keep it the same, but make sure you’re ready because, if it stays like this for ten or fifteen minutes, you’re going to be coming on.’ I didn’t want our team to score. I wanted the team to stay 1-0 down, so I’d have a chance to play in the final.”

Within a minute, Cole fired wide with a bicycle kick from good position. Hitzfeld reacted, replacing the quiet Zickler with Scholl on the left flank. Rather than working the channels, Scholl wandered inside to combine with Effenberg. Soon, the substitute found Jancker in behind the defence, who lobbed a first-time pass to the onrushing Effenberg. He tried to lob Schmeichel, but the custodian tipped the ball over the bar.

It was Bayern’s first chance since the goal. More was to come. United’s only holding midfielder was Butt, and Bayern exploited the spaces round him. They won the ball deep and released Basler, who slipped past Beckham to run at the backtracking defence. He left it outside the box for Scholl, who produced a sumptuous chip above the helpless Schmeichel. It hit the post.

Hitzfeld then took off Matthäus for Fink, a move that would be criticised in the aftermath. Seconds later, Butt broke free inside the area and lifted in an inviting cross. Nobody arrived to convert.

Ferguson’s next move was to remove Cole for Ole Gunnar Solskjær, who had an auspicious gut feeling. “I couldn’t sleep in the afternoon because Jaap Stam was snoring so loudly in the next bed,” he later said, according to the Daily Mail. “I phoned my best friend, who worked in a hospital in Norway, to check if he would be watching on TV. He said he had to leave fifteen minutes before the end because he was working nights, but I told him to get someone to fill in, to watch right to the end. I had this feeling something big was going to happen to me. It’s hard to explain. I just had a premonition I was going to do something that night.”

Solskjær nearly scored straight away. The substitution had happened prior to a United corner, from which he planted a header at Kahn. “What a story that would have been,” one commentator exclaimed.

But Bayern still had cool heads. As spaces opened up, Effenberg came into his own, and he found Scholl between the lines. Scholl unleashed a low drive that forced Schmeichel into full stretch. Another move involving Effenberg resulted in a corner, which landed on the head of Scholl. He nodded it down to Jancker, who threw himself around six yards out to produce a bicycle kick that smacked down off the crossbar.

Only fine margins held the contest alive. As the game entered the final five minutes of ordinary time, Hitzfeld had played his hand perfectly.

At that stage, Bayern dropped deeper. Solskjær back-heeled a ball for Sheringham to shoot at Kahn, which ignited United’s finish. Less than a minute later, a Beckham cross was headed across the box, but nobody met the knock-down. Neville cannoned in a low cross that Yorke should have made better contact with. Within seconds, Solskjær had planted another header at Kahn. Having produced one chance in the first eighty-five minutes, United had carved out four good opportunities in the last three.

Eager to quell United’s momentum, Hitzfeld made his last change, introducing Salihamidžić for Basler. The announcement of the added time was imminent.

Ferguson entertained no thoughts about winning it. “I was just starting to adjust to losing the game,” he later said. “I had reminded myself to keep my dignity, and accept that it wasn’t going to be our year.”

But Bayern were showing hints of tiredness. The fresh legs had lifted United, and the players knew they had pulled off comebacks earlier that season. As the fourth official signalled three minutes of stoppage time, Babbel played a careless back-pass that Linke had to clear into touch. Neville’s long throw was headed clear to Beckham, and recirculated back to Neville, whose near-post cross was diverted out by Effenberg. As Beckham ran over to take the corner, Schmeichel sprinted up—without licence from the bench. The delivery escaped him, and Bayern should have cleared their lines, yet Finke sliced his clearance to Giggs, who directed it back towards goal. It would have fizzled out for a goal kick, but Sheringham was there to extend it into the corner.

“Their equaliser was a stab in the heart,” Hitzfeld later said, according to “I couldn’t bear the thought of extra time, as they had a psychological advantage after scoring. Those were the things running through my head when they started preparing for another corner.”

Indeed, soon after kick-off, Irwin hit a long ball into the left-side channel for Solskjær. He took on Kuffour and earned a corner. Beckham took it again; Sheringham flicked it on, and Solskjær touched it past Kahn.

A couple of minutes earlier, UEFA president Lennart Johansson had left his presidential box in order to present the trophy. He never saw the goals. “The lift took a half-minute to arrive,” he said. “Then you had to go through a long hall, through several rooms and through the dressing room area, and because we were inside, we never heard a thing. I then saw out onto the pitch, and I was confused. I thought: ‘It cannot be: the winners are crying, and the losers are dancing.’”

The trophy had already been decorated in Bayern-coloured ribbons. It had been done by Gerhard Aigner, the UEFA general secretary and, incidentally, a German. When told of the most recent score, he replied: “Are you crazy?”

Bayern were distraught. They kicked off in a state of paralysis and disbelief. The ball into the box was easily cleared and, seconds later, Collina blew the whistle. “Afterwards, I was disillusioned,” Hitzfeld would say, according to “I remember meeting Sir Alex Ferguson, and he almost seemed embarrassed to have won the match.”

The players were strewn across the turf. Kahn sat in his goal. Jancker cried. Kuffour was particularly emotional, smacking his fist into the grass, before succumbing to a state of desolation. “I didn’t mean to do that, but when you are so down you can’t control yourself,” Kuffour told the Guardian, fifteen years later. When he stepped up to receive his runners-up medal, he was still wiping away tears. He travelled straight to the airport. “I have never even watched the game,” he said. “I don’t want to see it.”

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