Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 72-Gazza’s Turin Tears (1990)


England and West Germany had replaced war with football as a means of getting all tribal and putting war paint on their faces post WW2. There was of course the 1966 classic at Wembley where England had triumphed thanks to a Soviet linesman but following that the three lions had generally been Germany’s bunny at international level. It wasn’t until the mid-eighties (towards the end of their domination at club level) that England got their act together and started to put together a team to win back a bit of respect on the international scene.

Bobby Robson had taken over the coaching gig with England and despite not qualifying for Euro ’84 had got them to the quarter finals in Mexico ’86 before they were done away with by a divine intervention. Despite their poor Euro ’88 (in which Robson had tried to resign just like after the Euro 84 campaign) the English were touted as a possible winner and despite a poor showing in the group they slowly built momentum.

After squeezing past Belgium and then the indomitable lions of Cameroon in the quarter finals they would face the Germans in England’s biggest game since the 1966 final. West Germany had breezed through the tournament so far and decided to turn on the attacking side of their game which saved what was so far a dour and cynical tournament.

Eventually they met in the semi finals at the Stadio Del Alpi on the outskirts of Turin and the English were surprisingly the better side in the first half. First the mercurial head case himself Paul Gascoigne had a chance early with Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle also having chances either sail just wide or saved well. In the second half the cagey tactics continued with the English defence of Pearce, Walker, Butcher and Parker nullifying the Germans.

It was around 15 minutes through the second half though that lady luck deserted England and decided to put the Germans ahead in a freakish manner. A free kick taken by the brilliant Inter Milan full back Brehme took a cruel deflection off the onrushing Parker and looped over keeper Peter Shilton’s head and in to the net.

England went on the attack even more to try and snatch an equalizer and got proactive by subbing off Butcher for the attacking Glasgow Rangers winger Trevor Steven. With some 10 minutes to go Parker lobbed a hopeful ball in to the box with all the precision of a state league player but rare confusion and a lack of communication between three German defenders saw the ball poorly cleared to 1986 golden boot winner Gary Lineker on the edge of the box. The nice boy who played for Tottenham and likes crisps took one touch of the ball then nailed the left footed shot past the keeper’s left and in to the back of the net. Jubilation and relief for England. More hard work to do for West Germany.

In to extra time it went and the drama went on with both sides hitting the upright (England’s chance coming off the inside of the post) and Gascoigne crying in front of the cameras after being booked and realizing he would miss the final should England make it. Inevitably it went to penalties and after three conversions each the first scapegoat for the English press came when the hard defender Stuart Pearce had his shot saved.

After Thon had converted his chance it came down to Waddle to keep England in it. Steaming with his mullet flapping in the warm summer breeze his chance flew over the cross bar a la Robert Baggio four years later and the favourites West Germany were in to the final that they would ultimately win again from the penalty spot. Not exactly a goal filled classic of the modern era but much like the Holland V Brazil semi final in 1998 or Germany V Italy semi in 2006 it had tension and end to end football that you like to see when massive countries arm wrestle so close to the final and with so much at stake.

We’ve all been there in a major match for our club or country just praying for that one goal to get back in level or in to the lead and the explosion of relief when that goal goes in, it showed when Lineker equalized. The goals are memorable for both being either a fluke or an exciting equaliser, Gazza’s tears are iconic and the penalty misses are definitely memorable which makes the whole game quite a moment in the history of the World Cup to remember.

A great BBC story on the match can be found here.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

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