England’s best...and worst moments

Maradona's 'Hand of God' shirt went on display at the National Football Museum in Preston in 2003
Maradona's 'Hand of God' shirt went on display at the National Football Museum in Preston in 2003
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Another World Cup finals tournament is almost upon us with England again ready to keep us on the edge of our seats for the summer. We’ve suffered it all before of course, the hope, the despair...always the despair. So the Lancashire Evening Post’s sports team have picked out their England World Cup finals memories – the highs AND the lows...

PETER STOREY, Sports Editor


Nervous, cagey and, well, just dull. That’s the usual pattern for England’s opening gambit to a World Cup campaign.

But it wasn’t always this way. In 1982, England did the unthinkable...they got off to a flier.

In fact, Bryan Robson’s goal against France in Athletic Bilbao’s San Mames stadium was one of the fastest World Cup goals ever, Captain Marvel netting after 27 seconds.

The Manchester United skipper found himself free in the box as Terry Butcher flicked on Steve Coppell’s long throw.

And when he crashed in a spectacular volley past French keeper Jean-Luc Ettori, it was a sensational start to the game.

I could scarcely believe my eyes.

This was England’s first game in the finals since their quarter-final collapse against West Germany in Mexico in 1970.

As a youngster I had watched on as Sir Alf Ramsey and Don Revie’s teams miserably failed to qualify for the 1974 and 1978 tournaments.

Could Ron Greenwood’s men really be about to deliver on the biggest stage of all?

Probably not. After 24 minutes, France were level through Gerard Soler and it looked like all that early promise had evaporated in the soaring temperature.

But hang on – England hit back as they stepped up a gear after half-time.

And it was that man Robbo who again delivered with a sensational header in the 67th minute.

We dared to dream again as Greenwood’s side, with Coppell, Robson, Ray Wilkins and Trevor Francis all playing out of their skins.

And then Chorley’s most famous former player Paul Mariner added a third with seven minutes left.

And that was it.

England had won 3-1, and further group victories against Czechoslovakia (2-0) and Kuwait (1-0) meant we topped the group. At that time, it was my all-time England high.

With hindsight, we would have been better served losing to the French and thus avoiding a second group phase against hosts Spain and West Germany as England spluttered out of the tournament with two goalless draws.

If we’d been runners-up, the second stage would have pitted us against Northern Ireland and Austria.

So that win against the French was a false dawn...the first of many to come!


I can remember it vividly...the TV camera zooming in on the surface of the moon to the strains of Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma during the BBC’s closing titles.

Perhaps the cameraman was looking to see where Chris Waddle’s shootout attempt had landed.

It was Turin, 1990, and England had just fallen in heartbreaking fashion to West Germany on penalties in the semi-final.

No England defeat – and there have been plenty – before or since left me feeling so desolate. The final itself just one step away, and we were better than the Germans...we really were.

When Gary Lineker cancelled out Andreas Brehme’s deflected free-kick to send the game to extra time, it seemed our destiny to reach the final for the first time since 1966. After a dramatic extra 30 minutes, the game went to penalties – we even scored our first three.

But when Stuart Pearce failed to hit the target, we thought it was all over. Up stepped Waddle...and it was.

DAVE SEDDON, Sports Reporter


The critics might label Italia ’90 as not having been of the highest standard in terms of World Cup history.

Maybe my contact lenses are rose-tinted but I look back 24 years with such fondness.

Several things stand out to this day – Gazza’s tears, New Order’s World In Motion, the Powergen advert during every ITV commercial break in which one-time Blue Peter presenter Peter Purvis declared, ‘Let me enlighten you’.

It also produced my favourite World Cup moment – David Platt’s last-minute goal against Belgium which sent England through to the quarter-finals.

You remember it? Of course you do! The swivel, the volley, Gary Lineker’s cheeky grin to the camera as he piled on top of Platt, Bobby Robson’s little jig on the touchline.

England had topped their group to reach the knockout stage, drawing with Republic of Ireland and Holland, then beating Egypt 1-0 with a Mark Wright header.

Ireland qualified in second place, with Holland and Egypt going home early. The last 16 pitched England against Belgium at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara in Bologna.

I went with friends to the Sumners at the top of Deepdale Road to watch it.

The pub was soon to close for a summer refurbishment and the back room had been stripped of just about everything.

All that remained were bare wooden benches without cushions, a scattering of seats and of course a television bolted high up on the wall.

Ninety minutes failed to separate the sides or produce a goal. Extra time had almost run its course when Paul Gascoigne set off on a run from his own half, one which was ended by a foul, 35 yards from the Belgium goal.

Gazza had been tempted to have a pop from there but the instruction came from Robson to put the ball into the box.

The No.19 obliged, chipping the free-kick towards the far post where Platt allowed it to drop over his shoulder before turning and volleying it across the keeper into the net from eight yards.

It was a lovely finish, and the Sumners back room went bananas with pints of Boddingtons going everywhere in wild celebration.


If A World Cup moment is to knock the stuffing out of you, then surely it had to be Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal in 1986.

England and Argentina met in the quarter-finals in Mexico City.

It was a game played in the heat of the midday sun, a crowd of 114,580 inside the Azteca Stadium.

Tensions were high – it was the first meeting between the countries since the Falklands War four years earlier.

Mexico ’86 was a new World Cup experience in our household as for the 
first time a video recorder 
sat underneath the television set.

The time difference meant a number of games were 
being shown in the night here, hence the need for the VHS, which was a chunky contraption to say the least.

The first half was goalless, with the heat making it difficult for both sides.

But six minutes into the second half came a goal which is still talked about to this day, bitterly, in fact, if you are an England fan.

Maradona collected possession just inside the England half and set off on a run which saw him go past Glenn Hoddle, Peter Reid and Terry Fenwick as if they were not there.

As he neared the penalty box, Maradona shoved the ball to his right to team-mate Valdano, who in turn flicked it back in his direction.

Steve Hodge stuck out a 
foot to try and intercept 
but only managed to slice the ball back towards his own 
goal. As the ball looped up into the air, Maradona jumped just in front of Peter Shilton and knocked the ball over him with his left fist.

Time seemed to stand still just for a moment before Maradona turned away to celebrate.

If you can lip-read and are easily offended, it is best to avoid the YouTube clip of Reid directing some Scouse industrial language in the direction of the Tunisian referee.

Soon after, Maradona was to make it 2-0 with a 
wonder goal – a polar opposite of his cheating for the opener.

Gary Lineker was to halve the deficit in the 81st minute from a John Barnes cross but it couldn’t repair the damage.

Not much work was done at Fulwood High School the next morning as this 15-year-old lad moaned with his mates about the injustice of Maradona’s first goal.

CRAIG SALMON, Sports Reporter


Oooohhhh! Oh Oh Oh! I can still hear Jimmy Hill now as I think back to my favourite World Cup memory.

I am, of course, talking about Gary Lineker’s first-half hat-trick in England’s 3-0 win over Poland during Mexico ’86.

Hill was the co-commentator alongside Barry Davies for England’s do-or-die Group F encounter against the Poles in the Estadio Tecnológico, in Monterrey.

Having picked up just one point from two turgid affairs against Portugal and Morocco, Bobby Robson’s men entered into their final group game knowing there was a very real possibility that they could be eliminated at the opening stage.

The match was kicking off late in the evening UK time and I, who was just nine at the time, had begged to stay up late to watch the match.

I remember there was a nervous tension in the air which was only heightened when Terry Butcher had to make a last-ditch intervention to prevent the Poles taking an early lead.

Fortunately, England finally found form and as Lineker began to run amok, joyous celebrations ensued back in my living room.

Hill couldn’t contain his delight as his off-mic bellows of ecstasy, when Lineker’s (below) goals started to fly in, could be heard on TV.

Although, the match turned out to be arguably the highlight of England’s campaign, Mexico ’86 will always live long in the memory for me because of 
its famous wave, the ticker-tape spectacle of the Azteca Stadium and, of course, the brilliance of Diego Maradona.


For the first time in the history of the World Cup, this summer’s event in Brazil will boast goal-line technology...four years too late as far as every Englishman and woman is concerned.

Who can forget the debacle of Frank Lampard’s ‘goal’ against Germany during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa?

With England deservedly trailing 2-1 in the second-round encounter, the midfielder struck a beautiful lofted effort from 25-yards, which looped over goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, struck the crossbar before bouncing down over the line.

As Lampard danced away in delight and I clenched my fists Fabio Capello-style in front of my television screen, our joy was short-lived as it soon became apparent that the match officials had failed to spot that the ball had crossed the line.

As England continued to vent their frustration over the ‘goal that never was’ – Germany took full advantage in the second half to score twice more and dish out a 4-1 World Cup humilation.

Although the referee’s mistake left a bitter taste in the mouth of every England fan, the Germans felt a measure of justice was restored 44 years after Geoff Hurst’s goal in the 1966 World Cup final at Wembley.

Still it was of little consolation to myself as another World Cup campaign had ended in failure for my country.

ROSIE SWARBRICK, Sports Reporter


One night in St Etienne 1998 did not only transform the life of an 18-year-old striker but a pulsating 120 minutes made a seven-year-old girl take notice and start a life-long obsession with the beautiful game.

I watched Michael Owen’s wonder goal against Argentina at the Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium with my family in Leyland.

Gabriel Batistuta Argentina’s star striker had given our old enemy the lead in the fourth minute, before Owen tumbled in the box and his strike partner Alan Shearer smashed in the subsequent spot-kick.

Then Owen single-handedly grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. The Liverpool striker collected a fine David Beckham pass deep in the Argentina half before speeding past Jose Chamot and Roberto Ayala with an electric burst of pace.

Shouts and groans of “hit it”, “smash it” and “pass it to Scholsey you idiot” filled the room before the new kid on the block sent the ball soaring past a helpless Carlos Roa.

The elation was incredible, Owen sealed his place in English folklore.


David Beckham’s red card in the same game.

Javier Zanetti’s neat free-kick had cancelled out Owen’s wonder goal just before half-time and England’s chances of reaching the quarter-finals of France ’98 hung in the 

The room was tense, I watched through my fingers, I knew I was meant to expect the worse, especially against the Argies.

And then it happened, the curtain fell down on England’s World Cup dream as the nation and my floppy haired idol kicked out at Diego Simeone.

Referee Kim Milton Nielsen had no choice but to send the midfielder to the stands.

At first we blamed the ref, “It was just a tap” we said , “Simeone went down like a sack of spuds”, “What a stupid boy” yelled my dad.

It was downhill from there.Sol Campbell’s header was disallowed and we lost 4-3 on penalties.