Mexico 86 is where it all starts for me. Before this World Cup I wasn’t really into football,
Mexico 86 also set the template for all England World Cup campaigns, which goes a little something like this.
- Delete as applicable - disastrous/unconvincing/uninspiring/ start to the tournament.
- Star player is injured or gets injured at the start of the tournament.
- Moral boosting victory that raises the country’s hopes.
- The inevitable and at times heroic failure of being knocked out, usually on penalties!
I quickly realised that England were in it, and actually won it 20 years earlier. Amazing to think there was once a time in my life where I didn’t know England had won the World Cup in 1966!
First game for England was against Portugal. I sat at home in the living room watching the match. It was pretty boring from what I remember, and it looked as if it was heading for a dull 0-0 draw, until Portugal actually went and scored mid way through the second half!
Final score: England 0 Portugal 1
Ok, hardly a great start, but not a disaster. Our next game was against Morocco. Surely we’d pick 3 points here and get our show on the road?
This was another dreadful performance. One that I and most people only remember for two reasons.
Our captain, inspiration, and star player was Bryan Robson, captain Marvel as he was known for both England and a very underachieving Manchester Utd team.
The game was 0-0 with England struggling to break down the Moroccan defence. Robson ended up having to go off injured after dislocating his shoulder. It seemed things were going from bad to worse.
Although Bryan Robson was a great England player from that era, when it comes to my earliest World Cups memories, he always seemed to be constantly crocked with some injury!
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse they did.
After Robson went off, Ray Wilkins was given the captain’s armband. I’d never even heard of Ray Wilkins, probably because he was playing in the glamorous world of Italian football at the time with AC Milan. He managed to end up getting sent off after he slightly petulantly threw the ball at the referee!
So now our star player and captain had gone off injured and the replacement captain and one of our most experienced players had been sent off. Even as a 10 year old new to football, I thought ‘for gods sake’ Little did I know I’d have another 20 years of this ahead of me!
Final score: England 0 Morocco 0
So lets recap, two games, 1 point, and no goals scored. We simply had to beat Poland in our final group game to qualify for the next round.
This game is arguably the most important game in my football following life. A big statement to make, but true. The Poland game was on at about 10:15 English time, and I watched it be myself in my bedroom. We played really well and England won 3-0 with Gary Lineker scoring a hat-trick before half time!
When Lineker scored his first goal, I remember jumping up and cheering. I thought to myself ‘Oh my god, I’m like a proper football fan’ before running into my Mom’s bedroom to tell her that we’d finally scored!
That Gary Lineker goal, and England’s win basically turned me into a football fan. Before that, I’d never really followed football. I never thought I'd get into it.
Football in the 80’s was popular but it certainly wasn’t fashionable in the way it is now. The problems of violence and hooliganism blighted the game; it wasn’t a sport that I really wanted to associate myself with.
Now that England we were up and running we could hopefully look forward to a good World Cup campaign.
We played Paraguay in the second round. I didn’t watch this game, I think I was out playing that evening, Gary Lineker scored two goals and someone else other than Lineker got on the score sheet with Peter Beardsley grabbing one.
Final score: England 3 Paraguay 0
England v Argentina
I heard quite a bit about Maradona, he was meant to be the best player in the world. He scored a great little goal against Italy in the group matches, but so far Argentina had been solid if unspectacular. They got through to the quarter finals by beating a quite nasty and thuggish Uruguay team.
I remember the build up to the game, which had added significance as it was only four years after the end of the Falklands War.
The day before the game I read the pundits predictions on the back page of the Birmingham Evening Mail, everyone seemed to predict and England win, either 2-0 or 2-1. I felt fairly confident we could beat them.
The game itself was quite uneventful to begin with, nothing much happened in the first half, but Argentina may have shaded it in terms of possession, but as we all know it all changed in the second half.
The second half was uneventful until this happened.
I watched it thinking the refs going to disallow it now, you kept waiting for everyone to realise it was a handball, but still the referee did nothing, until it quickly dawned on you that he was going to allow it.
The referee was from Tunisia, I remember thinking:
‘what’s the World Cup doing allowing officials from places like Tunisia to referee such an important match.’
Having only been into football for 3 weeks, I obviously had superior footballing knowledge being English!
Ok we were 1-0 down to a goal that clearly wasn’t a goal. There was still plenty of time for us to get back into the match.
But then this happened.
I have to say that even though it’s against England, I love this goal. I will never ever get tired of seeing it. It’s the best individual goal in a World Cup!
From that day I’ve never forgotten the commentary from the BBC’s Barry Davis.
‘He’s got Valdano to his left, he’s got Burrachaga to his left, he doesn’t need any of them. You have to say that’s magnificent!
Yes Barry it was magnificent!
I couldn’t find that commentary on YouTube, but instead I have the Argentinean version by a certain Victor Hugo Morales, which is pretty good. In my limited Spanish he cries.
‘I WANT TO CRY! EXCUSE ME….THANK YOU GOD FOR FOOTBALL, THANK YOU FOR MARADONA..!’
Those two goals tell you everything about Diego Maradona the cheekiness and brilliance of the man.
It looked like we were going out as a result of cheating and one of the greatest goals of all time, but we almost got a result out of this game.
John Barnes came on as a second half substitute and completely changed the game. He terrorised the Argentinean defence on the left wing and put in a cross in which Gary Lineker scored to bring us back into the match.
He put in a second cross from the left wing, which looked like Lineker was clearly going to grab an equaliser, but the Argentinean defender amazingly managed to get his head to the ball before Lineker could head it in himself.
Final Score England 1 Argentina 2
So we were out of the World Cup, but we could hold our heads up high. After a poor start, we played quite well and were slightly unlucky to go out in the way that we did.
So there you have it, my first World Cup. In some ways still my favourite, a real roller coaster ride with England, but some great memories.
I’m going to come back to Mexico 86 before this World Cup finishes, there are still some great moments I need to share with you all.