Italia '90. Nessun Dorma. Gazza…
Based on Sardinia for all three Group F matches at Italia '90 at the request of the British Government, England opened their campaign on June 11th in Cagliari's Stadio Comunale Sant'Elia against Jack Charlton's Republic of Ireland. In an attritional 'British' match, Gary Lineker bundled England ahead in the 9th minute. Kevin Sheedy equalised with a clinical left foot drive in the 81st minute. A hard fought draw (1-1). Move on.
Five days later, playing a 3-5-2 formation England were simply magnificent against The Netherlands, who included AC Milan trio Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Marco Van Basten in their line up. With Mark Wright excelling in the 'sweeper' role, Paul Gascoigne unplayable, and Captain Bryan Robson simply world class, until retiring injured in the 67th minute, England destroyed The Dutch and deserved more than the draw (0-0). England had arrived at Italia '90.
There's much theorised regarding Bobby Robson's tactical change from a 4-4-2 formation to 3-5-2 but, Sir Bobby Robson was a football genius, and he possibly listened to fellow County Durham football genius Chris Waddle when, Waddle allegedly explained that the team weren't enjoying the 4-4-2 especially as they might be away from home for four weeks ! Robson apparently replied that during The War people didn't complain about being away from home for four years ! Waddle apparently responded: "Yes Bobby but, they didn't have 4-4-2 during The War"!
Egypt were beaten (1-0) in the last Group F match, courtesy of Mark Wright's glancing header from Gazza's beautifully flighted free kick. England now captained by Terry Butcher topped the group, were leaving Sardinia, and heading for the mainland, to play Belgium in The Round of 16.
On a sweltering evening in Bologna's Stadio Renato Dall 'Ara, England again starting in a 3-5-2 formation, rode their luck as Belgium struck the frame of Peter Shilton's goal twice. Deep into extra time as penalties loomed, Gazza floated another beautifully judged free kick towards David Platt, who watched it's flight over his shoulder before swivelling to volley home in the 119th minute (1-0). Back home, the country erupted in disbelieving celebration. England's travelling fans packed up their campsites and headed to Naples for Cameroon in the Quarter Finals at Stadio San Paolo. Leading at half time through Platt's header from Stuart Pearce's bomb of a left wing cross, Roger Milla's introduction changed the game. By the 65th minute England were trailing to Cameroon goals by Kundé and Ekéké, being outplayed and were on the ropes. Lineker drew a late penalty to save England, and in extra time, from Gazza's slide rule pass, drew another penalty. Lineker did what Lineker does and hammered the winner from the spot (3-2).
Wednesday 4th July 1990. Turin. 62,628 spectators in Stadio delle Alpi. 25 million watching televised coverage in the UK. Italia '90 World Cup Semi Final. England versus West Germany. A masterpiece of a football match. A draw (1-1) after extra time. West Germany, with Inter Milan trio Jürgen Kinsman, Lothar Mattäus and Andreas Brehme in their line up led through Brehme's deflected free kick on the hour. Lineker drew England level, quite brilliantly, from Paul Parker's long, lofted pass. Guido Buchwald and Chris Waddle both struck the post during the thrilling extra time period but, the teams would not be separated. To paraphrase Gary Lineker: Football is a game of 120 minutes and at the end The Germans win on penalties (3-4).
Bobby Robson's England were magnificent at Italia'90 but, it was The Third Place Play Off Match versus Italy in Stadio San Nicola in Bari, and not The World Cup Final in Stadio Olympico in Rome where The Three Lions ended their campaign. Peter Shilton captained England on his final, and record breaking 125th appearance. Roberto Baggio put Italy ahead. David Platt scored again for England, and Toto Schillaci's late winner for The Azzurri secured him the tournament Golden Boot (1-2).
England 1990 World Cup Finals Squad:
1.Peter Shilton. 2.Gary M Stevens. 3.Stuart Pearce. 4.Neil Webb. 5.Des Walker. 6.Terry Butcher. 7.Bryan Robson. 8.Chris Waddle. 9.Peter Beardsley. 10.Gary Lineker. 11.John Barnes. 12.Paul Parker. 13.Chris Woods. 14.Mark Wright. 15.Tony Dorigo. 16.Steve McMahon. 17.David Platt. 18.Steve Hodge. 19.Paul Gacscoigne. 20.Trevor Steven. 21.Steve Bull. 22.David Seaman. 22.Dave Beasant.