Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Tue 16 May 2006

World Cup Memories #2

To continue the England theme set in part 1 of this ever-expanding series, I take you back to Wednesday 11 June 1986.

What had seemed like an easy First Round group in the World Cup Finals that year was rapidly turning into one long nightmare. England had lost to Portugal 1-0 in their first match and drawn with Morocco 0-0 in the second. Both matches had warranted little concern before the tournament started, yet here we were needing a win in the third game against Poland just to get through to Round Two.

This was the situation every England fan was coming to terms with (my Dad and I inclusive), as we sat down in front of our TVs at 10 o'clock that evening to watch the match. Fortunately, despite the absence of inspirational and hard-working captain Bryan Robson through injury, it wasn't long before we could stop biting our fingernails.

Nine minutes into the game, Peter Beardsley ran down the left wing, crossed the ball into the penalty area and running in to fire the ball home was Everton striker Gary Lineker. The relief at England scoring their first goal of the tournament was palpable. Even Jimmy Hill could be heard to laugh with joy while BBC commentator Barry Davies announced Lineker's arrival on the world stage.

At a stroke, the England team were afforded the chance to play in a much more relaxed and confident way. Five minutes later there was a second goal, and by half-time a third had earned Lineker a hat-trick. England were on their way to the Second Round and its fans had finally caught sight of the kind of football they'd always hoped to see from its national team.

The second half was a formality. No more goals were scored, Gary Lineker was replaced by Kerry Dixon, and normal service had been resumed for those of us starting to wonder what on earth was going on with the England team.

I remember going to bed happy that night, but slightly bewildered at where such an incredible performance had come from all of a sudden. Luckily there was more to come in the days ahead, but right there and then we knew we'd seen a turning point in England's fortunes in the 1986 World Cup and at last it was time to celebrate.

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