Friday, 4 August 2017

753 World Cup 1986

First  viewed  : 31  May  1986

While  not  being  terribly  enamoured  of  the  winners, I  think  I'd  have  to  nominate  this  as  my  favourite  of  all  the  World  Cups  I've  seen, the  main  reason  being  that  it  coincided  with  the  end  of  my  university  days, a  time  remembered  with  great  fondness. Many  of  the  games  were  watched  in  friends' houses  which  considerably  enhanced  the  experience.

The  tournament  was  originally  handed  to  Colombia  but  by  1982  it  was  clear  they  weren't  ready  and  it  went  to  Mexico  instead. After  the  Germany-Austria  stitch-up in  1982,  the  final games  in  the  group  stages  had  to  be  played  simultaneously  and  after  the  first  group  stage,  every  match  was  played  on  a  knockout  basis.

England  qualified  fairly  comfortably  and  got  a  pretty  easy  group  but  went  into  the  tournament  with  a  problem. Captain  Bryan  Robson  injured  his  shoulder  in  a warm-up  game. My  friend  Sean  put  it  succintly  "every  time  he  falls  over  his  arm  comes  off".  England's  first  game  was  against  Portugal  which  presented  me  with  a dilemma  as  my  first  exam  was  the  next  day. Eventually I made  a  deal  with  myself  that  I'd  just  watch  the  first  half  then  go  to  bed. Mercifully  I  missed  the  worst  of  it. An  inhibited  Robson  had  to  come  off  just  after  Portugal  scored  the  only  goal  of  the game  and  England  were  in  trouble .

The discussion  of  England's  difficulties  before  someone  else's  game  gave rise to  one  of  my  favourite  punditry  moments. Trevor  Francis  hadn't  been  selected  for  the  squad  but  was on  a  satellite  link  from  Spain  so  he  could  be  part  of  ITV's  World  Cup  team.  Brian  Moore  asked  the  panel  what  could  be  done  to  improve  England's  chances  and  Kevin  Keegan  took  the  opportunity  to  laud  his  ex-team  mate  at  Newcastle , Peter  Beardsley. He  went  into  a  long  promotion  of  Beardsley's  abilities  then  realised  they  hadn't  brought  Francis  in  for  a  while  and  suddenly  said "I  don't  know  what  you  think  Trev ?"

FRANCIS : ( taken  by  surprise )  Wha-oh. Are  you  asking  me  Kev ?

BRIAN  MOORE :  ( cutting  in )  Very  briefly  Trevor, the  teams  are  coming  out  !

FRANCIS : ( totally  deadpan ) Well  very  briefly  Brian , I've  never  seen  Beardsley  play

( Sounds  of  corpsing  in  the  studio  as  they  cut to  the  start  of  the  game )

I  saw  England's  next  game  against  the  mighty  Morocco  in  the  Student  Union  with  some  mates. Things  went  to  pieces  after  42  minutes  when  Robson's  arm   duly  fell  out  again  and  he'd  hardly  left  the  pitch  before  Ray  Wilkins  joined  him  in  the  dressing  room  for  throwing  the  ball  at  the  referee. England  held  on  for  a  0-0  draw  to  ever  louder  shouts  of  abuse  from  the  student  hordes.

That  meant  it  was  all  or  nothing  against  already-qualified  Poland. Robson  was  forced  to  bring  in  the  in-form  Everton  duo  of  Peter  Reid  and  Trevor  Steven  and  selected  Beardsley  instead  of  useless  Mark  Hateley, surely  one  of  England's  worst  ever  players. England  duly  saw  off  Poland  3-0 , a  hat-trick  turning  Gary  Lineker  into  a  superstar. England  then  beat  Paraguay  by  the  same  scoreline  with  Lineker  scoring  twice. I  don't  think  I  really  need  to  say  how  the  next  game  against  Argentina  panned  out.

ITV  definitely  had  the  best  team  of  pundits  with  Brian  Clough  regularly  locking  horns  with  the  outspoken  Mick  Channon  especially  when  the  latter  suggested  that  Germany deliberately  lost  their  fixture  against  Denmark  in  order  to  play  Morocco  in  the  next  round - "You'd  better  watch  what  you  say  young  man !"  Channon  was  also  noted  for  his  persistent  mispronunciation  of  "Lineker "  as  "Lin-acre". Rather  sadly,  it  turned  out  to  be  Channon's  swansong  as  a  pundit. He  had  just  been  given  a  free  transfer  by  Portsmouth  and , despite  rumours  that  he  was  on  his  way  to  Spotland  at  one  point, the World  Cup  proved  to  be  the  end  of  his   connection  with  football  as  he  built  up  a  successful  business  as  a  racehorse  trainer.  

Denmark  were  something  of  a  surprise  package  at  the  Finals. They  came  through  their  group  winning  all  three  games  including  a  6-1  demolition  of  a  Uruguay  team  whose  sole  aim  appeared  to  be the  maiming  of  their  opponents  and  former  Liverpool  target  Michael  Laudrup  looked  set  to  be  a  superstar. Unfortunately,  they  came  a  real  cropper  in  the  next  game  against  Spain  who  exposed  all  their  defensive  frailties  and  thrashed  them  5-1. I  remember  watching  that  one  in  someone's  loft-bedroom  and  trying  an  onion  bhaji  for  the  first  time.

Other memorable  games  were  Pat  Jennings's  swansong    for  Northern  Ireland  against  Brazil, Scotland  failing  to  beat  Uruguay  despite  their  opponents  picking  up  a  red  card  in  the  first  minute, Belgium  coming  good  at  the  right  time  to  beat  the  fancied  Soviets  4-3  and  France  edging  out  Brazil  on  penalties  after  Zico  had  missed  one  during  the  game  having  just  come  on.

The  last  games  were  played  after  I'd  left  university  and  I  watched  the Argies  beat  the  Germans  in  the  Final  back  at  home.  


  1. Going into the World Cup, Hateley had a record of about a goal every other game for England, including four in the qualifiers... I could probably think of a long list selected by Robson's successor that would be ahead of him in the "useless" stakes!

    I wonder if Francis was a bit cheesed off he'd missed out on the WC squad? His last cap had only been a few months before, so I imagine Robson had him in mind, same with Tony Woodcock. In the end, Beardsley and Kerry Dixon got the nod.

    And of course I'm hugely biased, but I do think if Robson if had been in one of his (albeit rare) fit spells, he'd have made a big difference in the QF.

  2. Those goals were scored against Finland and Northern Ireland but I take the point. Perhaps I'm remembering him lumbering around the pitch as Hull's player-manager a decade later too much.
    I'm sure Francis was peed off- Cloughie told him he should have been in the squad but didn't specify who he'd have left out.
    You're probably right about Robson- at least he had 1982 to console him.


    1. Surely Dixon would have been cast aside: I believe he'd suffered an injury that previous season that blunted the edge that made him joint top scorer in 84/85. Much like Clive Allen, he was a decent striker lacking that little bit of class that Lineker and Beardsley had.

      As an aside, the red card vs Morocco pretty much ended Ray Wilkins' England career, in which he never seemed to offer much. Granted some more responsibility, Glenn Hoddle was finally given his chance to shine in the middle of the park, albeit years too later.

  3. Yes, three goals in 84 appearances tells its own story.