England Pay The Penalty: The World Cup Defeat That Still Haunts A Nation On This Day In 1990

England Pay The Penalty: The World Cup Defeat That Still Haunts A Nation On This Day In 1990
08:31, 04 Jul 2018

England came within a kick of reaching the World Cup final for the first time ever on foreign soil during the summer of 1990 only to be denied in the most agonising way possible against West Germany in Turin - a defeat which many believe continues to have a lasting impact on the national side.

The competition got off to a turgid start for Bobby Robson’s men who had been panned after their first game against Jack Charlton’s Republic of Ireland side ended in a draw, followed by another stalemate against Holland to make elimination at the first hurdle a distinct possibility; only for a Mark Wright goal against Egypt in their final game to save their blushes.

And after squeezing past Belgium in the Second Round thanks to a last gasp David Platt effort and then overcoming tournament underdogs Cameroon in less than convincing style England found themselves in the last four for the first time in 24 years.

But despite the agricultural way in which they had progressed and overcome each hurdle that had been put in their way this workmanlike side had also provided the nation with a fresh sense of hope while growing in confidence as a side; playing like a team once more for the first time in a long while.

Their opponents at the Stadio Del Alpi for the semi-final would be the mighty West Germans who, unlike England, had looked formidable throughout the tournament under the guidance of former World Cup winning captain Franz Beckenbauer and boasted the likes of Rudi Voller, Lothar Matthäus and Andreas Brehme.

But buoyed by their progress so far, the furthest an England side had ventured since winning the World Cup in 1966, the Three Lions feared nobody and unlike most of the games before looked like a side who actually believed they could go all the way.

Despite England being the better side for much of the first half the game remained goalless at the break with Robson’s men content that they had been able to contain a strong German side and aware of their late exploits in previous rounds.

So it was somewhat against the run of play when West Germany took the lead after 60 minutes as Andreas Brehme's free-kick took a wicked deflection off Paul Parker to loop over Peter Shilton and land apologetically in the back of the England net.

Far from capitulating England fought back, creating plenty of chances with Illgner’s goal being threatened by efforts by Chris Waddle and Paul Gascoigne and with 10 minutes remaining the pressure eventually told as Gary Lineker capitalised on a mix-up in the West German defence and his left-footed strike found the bottom corner to make it 1-1.

Extra-time meant more of the same with Chris Waddle hitting the post as England came close once more but the whole mood changed when Paul Gascoigne lunged carelessly for a ball and brought down Thomas Berthold in the process resulting in one of the most talked about moments in the history of the World Cup.

“I had to stretch as Thomas Berthold came across,” Gascoigne later explained in his autobiography. “I was giving it 110%. It was the World Cup semi-final and I didn’t want to give them anything for free.

“I straightened up and turned to the ref. He’s gone for his pocket. Suddenly I can’t hear anything. The world just stops apart from the bloke in black. My eyes follow his hand, to the pocket, then out with the card. I looked at Lineker, and I couldn’t hold it back. At that moment I just wanted to be left alone.”

The booking meant that Gascoigne would miss the final if England got there and his distress was clear to see for millions of people watching around the world as his bottom lip trembled like a toddler.

The closing minutes of the game were played at a furious pace with West Germany twice hitting the woodwork in the second period of extra-time while Jurgen Klinsmann missed two glorious chances and David Platt had a goal disallowed.

120 minutes of exhilarating football still couldn’t separate the two sides meaning that a penalty shoot-out would be required to settle the tie; England’s first in international competition but certainly not the last in a long line of bitter disappointments.

Each side scored their first three kicks before a stern faced Stuart Pearce stepped up to take England’s fourth only for his penalty to be saved by Bodo Illgner: “Oh no!” yelled ITV commentator Brian Moore to a stunned TV audience.

Olaf Thon then ensured West Germany went in front before Chris Waddle guaranteed England would exit the competition in the most painful way possible by blasting his effort high into the concrete stands behind the goal.

The fact that England had played so well while capturing the imagination of the public back home was scant consolation and defeat would live long in the memory while also shaping the way the nation viewed this terrifying form of tie-break for decades to come.

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