While mired in poor attacking play, ill-discipline and an all time low goals per game average of 2.21, (Switzerland ’54 was a mind boggling 5.38!) Italia ’90 remains romanticised by football fans the world over. Perhaps due to its low scoring and close games (England went to extra-time three times in a row) the unprecedented drama is fondly remembered. Whatever the reason, the tournament itself produced some highly memorable moments. Here are a few.
Super subs needn’t write their own scripts, as their lines are usually always the same, but Roger Milla came along with stage directions all of his own. At 38 years of age, Milla entered the fray to score twice for Cameroon against Romania in the group stage before notching two more in the second round to take an African team into the unprecedented territory of a World Cup quarter-final. His goals were remarkable in themselves, but his celebration cemented his place in World Cup folklore as he danced around the corner flag magnificently.
The Volley of Youth
Up to their second round match v Belgium England had endured a stagnant campaign, drawing 1-1 with Ireland, 0-0 with the Dutch, and winning the group with an unremarkable 1-0 victory over Egypt. The game against the Belgians looked set to go to penalties at 0-0 until Gascoigne lofted a late free kick into the penalty area. A young David Platt watched the ball over his shoulder, and on the swivel, smashed the ball across the goalkeeper to send England through to the quarter-final stage. Emotions unleashed, Platt threw both arms in the air with his eyes wide open in disbelief, and ran off to be cordially congratulated by his England colleagues.
While the English often reckon their rivalry with the Germans is the spiciest, the Netherlands have a more credible claim to this particular crown, especially with their more recent success and the perceived injustice of Germany’s victory in ’74 against Cruyff’s legendary ‘Total Football’ outfit. A second round fixture in Milan served as a further reminder of the hostility between the two teams. Heavy tackles led to an unsavoury scene where, both men having been sent from the field of play, Rijkaard seemed to spit into Völler’s barnet as he passed the German. Germany went on to win the tournament, with Völler returning in the semi-final and final to aid his team’s ultimate success. The incident summed up the ill-natured temperament of Italia ’90, and remains a memorable World Cup moment for all the wrong reasons.
Having contributed to the dismal nature of the World Cup thus far, England reached the semi-finals and produced their best performance in their final game of the tournament. Here are three memorable moments from the game.
With the game 59 minutes old the tie was on a knife edge. Germany won a free kick in a dangerous position, but Brehme’s shot initially looked harmless, and perhaps even poor. The resultant deflection cruelly sided with the Germans, and as the ball looped up off the wall, you could almost pin point the moment Shilton realised he was doomed. The ball sheepishly crossed the line and gave Germany the lead.
With ten minutes remaining, it looked as if England’s fine efforts were wasted. Parker picked the ball up in space on the right hand side, and made his decision to put the ball in the box. The ball should have been dealt with by the Germans, but perhaps due to their close proximity to one other, the ball bobbled away from them and towards Lineker, who kneed the ball into space and smashed it into the corner for 1-1, prompting the great line from Motson, ‘Augenthaler couldn’t do it, Lineker probably could!’ We don’t get many great moments of relief as England fans, but even though the Germans eventually prevailed, the raw emotion of the moment was extraordinary.
Perhaps one of our greatest ever talents, Paul Gascoigne was a key member of this England ’90 vintage. His enthusiasm boundless, his skill fantastic, his passion priceless, Paul’s obvious commitment to the team was something the fans connected with. It was then an unforgettable moment when he lunged for a loose ball, picked up a yellow card preventing him from appearing in the prospective final, and cried. Gary Lineker’s ‘Have a word with him’ gesture remains legendary, and the entire moment sums up the rollercoaster of emotions England go through at various World Cups.
Author : Max McLean