1984/85 Fagan’s Farewell

1984/85 Liverpool Squad

The Summer of 1984 was arguably the most glorious in Liverpool’s long and proud history. Many in the press and media had questioned whether the Reds could still be successful after inspirational manager Bob Paisley had retired after winning 20 trophies from 1974 to 1983. Veteran assistant Joe Fagan took over the reigns at Anfield but at 64 he was clearly not going to be the manager in the long term. With three great Scots, captain Graeme Souness, Alan Hansen and Kenny Dalglish to the fore, Liverpool won an historic Treble the first ever by an English club in 1983/84. They retained the First Division Championship for the third year in a row, the first time a club had done so since the 1930s. In the League/Milk Cup Liverpool beat their Merseyside rivals Everton 1-0 in a Replay at Maine Road with a goal by Souness. They completed the season in Rome by beating hosts Roma to win the 1984 European Cup, Liverpool’s fourth win in four Finals.

1984 Liverpool celebrate winning the European Cup in Rome

How do you top that? How do replace Graeme Souness, a world class midfield general who had joined Seria A side Sampdoria? Liverpool signed Jan Molby from Ajax, a versatile 21 year old Dane, who could play in defence or midfield for a bargain £200,000. He was joined by Scot Kevin McDonald a ball winning midfielder from Leicester City, who signed in November 1984. To add goals up front, as Kenny Dalglish increasingly played in a no.10 role behind the strikers, Liverpool splashed out £750,000 to sign England striker Paul Walsh from Luton Town. Southampton has surprisingly finished as runners up to the Reds in 1983/84, and Manchester United, Everton the FA Cup Winners and Tottenham were expected to push Joe Fagan’s men all the way in their quest for an unprecedented fourth consecutive First Division Championship.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – AUGUST 1984: Jan Molby transfers to Liverpool for £200,000. He stands infront of the Liver building for an official publicity shot shortly after putting pen to paper in August 1984. Note: sign on Liver building advertises the Garden Festival.(Photo: Steve Hale, August 1984)

Liverpool opened the season in the Charity Shield at Wembley, the traditional season curtain raiser. They faced Everton, reborn under former player Howard Kendall. In an entertaining game played under a hot Summer sun, both teams had chances but Everton ran out 1-0 winners after a bizarre Bruce Grobbelaar own goal. Paul Walsh made his debut in the second half but Liverpool had looked lethargic. However few observers believed that the result would have any bearing on the season ahead.

August 1984 Paul Walsh on his Liverpool debut in the Charity Shield at Wembley

August 1984 Kenny Dalglish celebrates with Lee and Molby in the 3-3 draw at Norwich

Liverpool drew their opening game 3-3 at Carrow Road as the Canaries equalised with a last minute Mike Channon penalty to earn at point. It was a slow start to the season, as Joe Fagan’s men only won two of their opening ten league games, suffering defeats at Arsenal Tottenham and famously to Everton at Anfield on the 20th of October 1984. Graeme Sharp scored the BBC Match of The Day Goal of the Season to give the Toffees their first league victory at Anfield since their last Title winning season of 1970.

In the League/Milk Cup Liverpool’s dreams of a record fifth successive win were ended at White Hart Lane after a mistake by Grobbelaar. Liverpool were not clicking and Ian Rush was going through a rare barren spell in front of goal. It was only the goals from Scottish midfielder John Wark, who would go on to be Liverpool’s top scorer with 28 in 1984/85 that kept Liverpool in the Championship race.

In Europe Liverpool had progressed confidently to the European Cup Quarter Finals after despatching Polish Champions Lech Poznan 5-0 on aggregate and Portugese giants Benfica 3-2 on aggregate.

John Wark of Liverpool celebrates after scoring his 3rd goal during the Liverpool v Lech Poznan European Cup 1st Round, 2nd Leg match played at Anfield, Liverpool on the 3rd October 1984. Liverpool won the match 4-0. (Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images)

Tokyo 9th December 1984: Liverpool line up before the World Club Final

Liverpool ended the year with another disappointing defeat as they were beaten by South American Champions Independiente, with the Argentinians claiming a 1-0 victory. The World Club or Intercontinental Cup was one of the few trophies that Liverpool had yet to win.

January 1985 Juventus Scirea and Phil Neal before the European Super Cup Final in Turin

Following a 2-0 defeat to European Cup Winners Cup holders Juventus in Turin, in a game played at the start of the year in a one off match to ease fixture congestion, the press turned against Joe Fagan. He went from being a Treble winning manager to being old and out of touch. Merseyside rivals Everton were sweeping all before them and by February 1985 they were too far ahead for Liverpool to catch them.

However Liverpool could still win an FA Cup and European Cup Double. After beating Tottenham 1-0 at Anfield live on ITV in the fourth round, Liverpool reached the FA Cup Semi Finals against Ron Atkinson’s Manchester United. In a thrilling first game at Goodison Park a late equaliser by Paul Walsh in the last minute of extra time earned Liverpool a fortunate 2-2 draw and a Replay at Maine Road Manchester.

April 1985 Paul Walsh celebrates his equaliser against Man.Utd at Goodison Park

In the replay Manchester United came from behind to beat Liverpool 2-1 at Maine Road. Bryan Robson’s superb strike had drawn the Red Devils level before Mark Hughes ran through to fire the winner. Joe Fagan protested that the Welsh striker was offside and television replays seemed to confirm that view. Liverpool would have won, had Steve Nicol not missed a clear chance to give the Reds a 2-0 lead and without the injured Ian Rush Liverpool could not find an equaliser. It was a painful memory for me watching the highlights on TV as an eleven year old fan.

Liverpool went on a fine late season run to finish second to Everton but the Toffees finished on 90 points, 13 ahead of Liverpool. It had been a very poor season and the rumours were rife that it would be Joe Fagan’s last in charge. As speculation mounted Liverpool prepared to try and retain the European Cup against Juventus at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels. In the hours before the game Joe Fagan announced that he was stepping down and Kenny Dalglish would become Liverpool’s first ever Player/Manager.

May 1985 Liverpool line up to face Juventus in the European Cup Final at Heysel

The 29th of May 1985 will be remembered as one of the darkest in football history. In a crumbling stadium, drunk Liverpool and Juventus fans clashed and without segregation, tragically thirty nine fans were crushed to death as a wall collapsed underneath fleeing Juventus fans. UEFA decided that the game should go ahead in spite of the horrific loss of life and Captains Phil Neal and Gaetano Scirea both appealed to their supporters to stop rioting so that the game could go ahead.

The Final was an eerie event as Liverpool went through the motions. They were the better side but perhaps fittingly Juventus won the game 1-0 after French midfielder Michel Platini scored from a controversial penalty kick, as a trip by Gary Gillespie was clearly outside the box. In the second half Ronnie Whelan was hacked down but no penalty was given. The final whistle would signal the Italian giant’s first European Cup victory.

UEFA under pressure from football hating British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, banned Liverpool and all English clubs from European competition for five years. Sadly Everton would not have the chance to compete for the European Cup in 1985/86. Joe Fagan wept and was comforted by coach Roy Evans on the team’s arrival at Speke Airport.

How would Liverpool emerge from that tragic Summer? Please read my blogpost: 1985 The Year the changed everything to find out.


Liverpool 1997: Calamity James

1997 David James on his knees in a 2-1 defeat to Wimbledon (Michael Thomas in the net)

At the start 1997 Roy Evans looked to have found the winning formula. After a 1-0 win at Southampton on the 29th of December 1996, thanks to a fine John Barnes goal, Liverpool lead the Premier League on New Year’s Day 1997. Traditionally the team that lead the table at the start of the year would go on to be League Champions. Would 1997 be the year that Liverpool ended their ‘7 Year Itch’ to win the Title again?

1996/97 Liverpool squad

Liverpool began the 1996/97 determined to put one over their great North West rivals Manchester United. After a superb season of attacking football, thanks to the deadly partnership of Robbie Fowler and record £8.5M striker Stan Collymore, with the creative flair of Steve McManaman, Roy Evans men had reached the 1996 FA Cup Final and finished 3rd, their highest Premier League finish. Liverpool expected to add the FA Cup to the League Cup they had won the previous year. However in the infamous ‘white suits’ Final, a late Eric Cantona goal sealed victory and another Double for Alex Ferguson’s men. It was a poor final that neither team deserved to win, but Utd’s negative tactics and Roy Keane’s man of the match performance stopped Liverpool as an attacking force. Roy Evans had watched his team outplay United home and away in the Premier League, with a notable 2-0 victory at Anfield in December 1995. Both games featured outstanding performances by Michael Thomas in a holding role. In the FA Cup Final, Evans dropped Thomas for Jamie Redknapp and chose Mark Wright instead of Neil Ruddock to man mark Eric Cantona. He also gave Fergie the advantage of naming his starting line up 48 hours before the game at Wembley. The defeat left a bitter taste but it left Liverpool determined to become Champions again.

1996 New £3.25M signing Patrik Berger

Although linked with Cezch winger Karel Poborsky, who would join Manchester United, Roy Evans swooped to sign Euro 1996 Final scorer Patrik Berger from Dortmund. He would add more goals from midfield as Steve McManaman was often marked by two players. He was the main supply to Fowler and Collymore, as veteran John Barnes played in a holding role in front of the defence. Evans felt that his 3-5-2 system was well suited to the players he had available. With Mark Wright, Phil Babb, John Scales, Neil Ruddock, Dominic Matteo and Steve Harkness Liverpool had an abundance of centre backs. Crucially though, they did not have an able deputy to goalkeeper David James. Local lad Tony Warner had never started a game for Liverpool.

Patik Berger celebrates as his two goals give Liverpool a 3-0 win at Leicester

Liverpool made a bright start to the season and only lost one of their opening ten league games, including a 2-1 win over Graeme Souness’s Southampton that I saw at Anfield. They had outplayed Manchester United at Old Trafford but an outstanding display by Peter Schmeichel denied Liverpool, with David Beckham scoring the winner. Liverpool thrashed big spending Chelsea 5-1 at Anfield in September, with Berger’s two goals notable in a superb display of attacking football.

1997 Stan Collymore, Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler celebrate another goal

The first Merseyside Derby of the season ended in a 1-1 draw at Anfield and Jamie Carragher scored on his debut in a 3-0 win over Aston Villa at Anfield in late January. The Premier League was shaping up to be a fight between Liverpool, Manchester United Arsenal (under new French manager Arsene Wenger) and Kenny Dalglish’s Newcastle. In late January John Scales was sold to Tottenham for £2.6M with Norwegian Bjorn Tore Kvarme replacing him on a free transfer from Rosenborg.

1997 Liverpool’s new centre back Bjorn Tore Kvarme

In March 1997 Liverpool faced Kenny Dalglish’s Magpies at Anfield. Liverpool raced to a 3-0 goal lead after an hour with goals from McManaman, Berger and Fowler. Newcastle fought back thanks to some poor defending and goalkeeping to draw level. Then Robbie Fowler headed a dramatic last minute winner in front of the Kop. It was the second successive 4-3 victory over Newcastle at Anfield.

1997 Robbie Fowler celebrates his winner against Newcastle at Anfield

1996 Liverpool line up in the European Cup Winners Cup against Sion in Switzerland

In the Cups Liverpool had been knocked out by Middlesbrough in the League Cup Quarter Final and in the FA Cup, in a dramatic comeback live on the BBC, Chelsea defeated the Reds 4-2 after trailing 2-0 at the break. However in Europe, Liverpool had marched all the way to the Semi Finals of the European Cup Winners Cup. They had seen off MyPa of Finland, Sion and Brann of Norway. They faced French team PSG in the Semi Finals. A poor first leg display in Paris left Liverpool with a 3-0 deficit. Despite a stirring display in the return at Anfield, and 2-0 victory with goals by Robbie Fowler and Mark Wright, it was the Paris side who reached the Final against Bobby Robson’s Barcelona.

On the 24th of April Live on Sky Sports, Arsenal faced Liverpool at Highbury. I was there to witness a superb performance by Stan Collymore and Robbie Fowler, who ran Tony Adams and the Arsenal defence ragged, to give Liverpool a 2-1 victory. The game was remembered for Robbie Fowler’s penalty that never was, awarded by the referee, despite Fowler’s protests. David Seaman saved his penalty but Jason McAteer scored the rebound.

The following week Liverpool faced bottom placed Coventry City at Anfield. A victory would send Roy Evans men back to the top of the table after Derby County’s shock win at Old Trafford the day before. I was there to witness a brilliant performance by former goalkeeper Steve Ogrisovic as he denied Liverpool time and again. However they still lead 1-0 but two late howlers by David James had yet again cost Liverpool, who suffered a shock 2-1 defeat.

The Title Decider would come on Saturday 19th April at 11.15 am, the ridiculous kick off time chosen by Sky Sports. If Liverpool beat Manchester United at Anfield they would top the Premier League table with just three games left. Could Liverpool gain revenge for their FA Cup Final defeat? David James dubbed ‘Calamity James’ after the game by the press was at fault for all three Manchester United goals. His awful miss of Neville’s cross allowed Andy Cole’s header seal a 3-1 defeat, that was celebrated by jubilant United fans.

Roy Evans decision not drop James after that game emphasised his weak management. With no challenge to push him or keep him on his toes, James would continue to be a liability in a Liverpool shirt. At Selhurst Park in May, I witnessed Michael Owen’s debut and first Liverpool goal, but it was not enough to prevent a 2-1 defeat to Wimbledon. In a cruel twist, Liverpool went into the final game away to Sheffield Wednesday with a two point lead, knowing that the Premier League runners up would qualify for the lucrative Champions League. They could only draw 1-1 against ten men, with a striker in goal for their injured goalkeeper. Liverpool would finish the 1996/97 in fourth place in a two horse Title race, as Dalglish’s Newcastle finished second and Arsenal third on goal difference.

Former defender Mark Wright later stated in an interview that this was the season in the 1990s that the Liverpool team truly had the talent and opportunity to win the title but threw it away: “We did come close to winning the league a few times and we finished fourth one season when we were the best team. We were better than Manchester United, better than everyone, and we finished joint second but ended up fourth because of goal difference. That was the season we should have won the title and we all know that. I remember some of the games we lost and the way we dropped points against certain sides. David James dropped a few clangers and I remember them because in certain games he didn’t have anything to do, then all of a sudden he thinks he’s got to be involved in the game. He would come rushing out and all of a sudden you would be 1–0 down”, he said.

The following season Brad Friedel was signed after he received a work permit, but a poor third place finish in 1997/98 spelled the beginning of the end for Roy Evans. After an ill fated joint managerial role, he resigned and Frenchman Gerard Houllier took over. He sold David James to Aston Villa in 1999. What would have happened if Liverpool had won the 1996 FA Cup Final? They would certainly have have won the Premier League in 1997 with a top class goalkeeper. You can’t expect to win trophies with David James in goal.

Italia 1990 World Cup: A World In Motion

1990 England World Cup Squad (Dave Beasant had replaced David Seaman) before the 3rd/4th Place Play Off against Italy in Bari

The Summer of 1990 produced an unforgettable World Cup in Italy. In a low scoring tournament of just 115 goals, Italia 1990 produced some classic clashes:

West Germany v Holland, Argentina v Brazil, Italy v Argentina and West Germany v England

Italia ’90 will be remembered as the tournament when African football truly arrived on the World stage as Cameroon beat the holders Argentina in the opening game in Milan. England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland had qualified, as had Romania having suffered a brief revolution the previous December. A multi talented Yugoslavia team were appearing in their last World Cup before a tragic civil war would erupt in the Balkans in 1991.

For people of a certain age the 1990 World Cup was the first they could remember. As a sixteen year old Scotland supporter, it was a tournament full of highs and lows. Jack Charlton’s Republic of Ireland would reach the Quarter Finals on their World Cup debut. They only scored two goals in five matches and did not win a single match in 90 minutes. European Champions Holland had a poor tournament and were eliminated in the last 16 by old foes West Germany. A physical Brazilian team lacking in flair were also eliminated by Argentina at the same stage.

For England it would be an dramatic World Cup that drew to a close Bobby Robson’s eight years in charge. It began with calls for the team to withdraw from the competition after the opening game, before they rallied to produce their best performance in a World Cup abroad and they finished just one game away from emulating the 1966 team as Finalists.

England were drawn in Group F in Sardinia, with the hosts fearful that English hooligans could cause chaos on the Italian mainland. European Champions Holland, Republic of Ireland and Egypt made up the rest of their group. With third place available as a qualification place for the four teams with the best record, Holland and England were expected to reach the last 16, with Ireland and Egypt fighting it out for 3rd place.

On the 11th of June 1990 England faced the Republic of Ireland in their opening fixture determined to gain revenge for their shock 1-0 defeat by Jack Charlton’s men at Euro 1988. In a scrappy game Lineker scrambled home the opening goal and England lead at the interval. In the second half as the rain poured down, substitute Steve McMahon failed to control a ball on the edge of the box and Everton winger Kevin Sheedy swept home to give the Irish a point and a 1-1 draw. It was a poor game and the press, typically over the top called for PM Margaret Thatcher to withdraw the England team from the rest of the tournament to avoid a national humiliation.

1990 World Cup Finals, Cagliari, Italy, 16th June, 1990, England 0 v Holland 0, England team-photo (Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images)

For their next game against European Champions Holland, Mark Wright was drafted in as a sweeper. Bobby Robson had never played that system before and hadn’t even experimented with the formation in any of the friendlies leading up to the World Cup. Wright was part of the defence ripped to shreds at Euro 1988, as Marco Van Basten’s hat trick gave Holland a famous 3-1 victory. With both teams knowing that a win would almost guarantee a place in the next round, England produced an excellent performance. The AC Milan trio of Rijkaard, Gullitt and Van Basten were strangely subdued as Paul Gascoigne produced a man of the match performance. Holland forced a series of corners in the second half but England had goals by Lineker and Pearce ruled out for infringements. A goal less draw was a positive result for England. Sadly captain Bryan Robson came off and was sent home after the game, following on from his injury heartache in the 1986 World Cup.

In their last game against Egypt, both teams knew that a draw would be enough to send them through to the last 16. In a scrappy game Mark Wright headed the winner from Gascoigne’s free kick on the hour. Egypt almost equalised late on, but England held on to top the group ahead of the Republic of Ireland and Holland, who had drawn 1-1 at the same time. With identical records, the drawing of lots meant that the Irish finished as runners up and faced Romania in the next round, with the Dutch facing West Germany in Milan.

CAGLIARI, ITALY – JUNE 21: England defender Mark Wright celebrates after scoring the winning goal for England in their Group F match against Egypt in the 1990 FIFA World Cup at the Stadio Sant’Elia (Photo by Allsport/Getty Images)

On the 26th of June England faced 1986 World Cup Semi Finalists Belgium in Bologna. The Belgians were a strong and technically superb team with playmaker Enzo Scifo their star. They dominated the game and both Jan Ceulemans and Scifo struck the England posts with Shilton well beaten each time. Goal less at full time, England held on until the last minute of extra time. Then Paul Gascoigne floated a free kick into the area and substitute David Platt volleyed home a famous winner to send England into the Quarter Finals.

1990 World Cup: David Platt scores the only goal against Belgium in Bologna

1990 World Cup Quarter Final: England line up to face Cameroon in Naples

England were hot favourites to beat the African Champions and took the lead with an early David Platt header. At the other end only a series of great saves by Peter Shilton kept England 1-0 ahead at half time. Roger Milla came on at the start of the second half and earnt a penalty after Gascoigne’s trip. Emmanuel Kunde equalised confidently from the spot and after a fine flowing move, Ekeke gave Cameroon the lead. England were now facing the most humiliating defeat in their history, since the 1950 World Cup defeat by the USA. In the 83rd minute Lineker was brought down for England’s first penalty since 1986. The pressure was huge, but he sent N’Kono the wrong way to equalise. In extra time Lineker was tripped after running onto Gascoigne’s through ball and fired home the penalty straight down the middle. Cameroon continued to attack but England scrapped through 3-2 to reach the Semi Finals.

Cameroon’s forward François Omam Biyik (L) tries to kick the ball past English goalkeeper Peter Shilton as he moves in to block it during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between England and Cameroon 01 July 1990 in Naples. England advanced to the semifinals with a 3-2 victory in extra time (2-2 at the end of regulation time) AFP PHOTO/GEORGES GOBET (Photo by Georges GOBET / AFP) (Photo by GEORGES GOBET/AFP via Getty Images)
NAPLES, ITALY – JULY 1: David Platt (left) and Gary Lineker of England celebrate after the 1990 FIFA World Cup Quarter Final between Cameroon and England at the Stadio San Paolo on July 1, 1990 in Naples, Italy. (Photo by Paul Popper/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)
Sport, Football, pic: 4th July 1990, 1990 World Cup Finals, Semi Final in Turin, West Germany 1, v England 1, a,e,t, West Germany win 4-3 on penalties, England team, back row, left-right, Terry Butcher, Mark Wright, Peter Shilton, Stuart Pearce, David Platt, Gary Lineker, Front row, left-right, Des Walker, Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoigne, Peter Beardsley, Paul Parker (Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images)

On the 4th of July England faced West Germany in Turin. They had not beaten the Germans in a competitive match since 1966 and Franz Beckenbauer’s men were widely regarded as the best team in the competition. England began well and forced some good saves by Illgner and the Germans found it hard to break down England’s sweeper system. In the 60th minute Paul Parker deflected Andy Brehme’s free kick and Peter Shilton failed to move his feet as the ball drifted in over his head. With just ten minutes to go, Parker’s ball was missed by the German defence and Gary Lineker equalised. With the game deadlocked at 1-1 England went to extra time for the third game in a row. Both Chris Waddle and Guido Buchwald hit the post, but the teams could not be separated.

1990 World Cup Semi Final: Gary Lineker scores against West Germany in Turin

In the 99th minute Paul Gascoigne was booked after a rash lunge at Thomas Berthold. The yellow card meant he would miss the Final if England made it through.

1990 World Cup Semi Final, Turin, Italy, 4th July, 1990, West Germany 1 v England 1 (West Germany win 4-3 on penalties), England’s Paul Gascoigne is shown the yellow card by the referee (Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images)

Almost inevitably the game went to penalties. The winners would face holders Argentina in the Final, after Maradona had inspired victory over hosts Italy in Naples the night before. England had the advantage of taking the penalties first and all of the kicks had been converted. Then Stuart Pearce came forward to take England’s fourth penalty but blasted it against Bodo Illgner’s legs. Olaf Thon fired Germany ahead, meaning Chris Waddle had to score. Peter Shilton had not got near any of the German penalties and Waddle fired high over the bar. The Germans had reached their third World Cup Final in a row. Paul Gascoigne’s post match tears would become the iconic image of Italia 1990. England had played the better football but lost and they would finish 4th after Italy beat them 2-1 in the 3rd and 4th Place Play Off in Bari.

4th of July 1990 Football World Cup 1990, England v West Germany, A tearful Paul Gascoigne applauds the fans. (Photo by Mark Leech/Getty Images)

After the World Cup Bobby Robson took over at Dutch side PSV. He had left the job with his head held high, as the same press critics that had called for his head throughout his tenure now said he should be knighted after taking England to the Semi Finals of Italia 1990. Graham Taylor left Aston Villa to replace him. His reign was disastrous, as his direct style of football lead to a last place group stage exit at Euro 1992 and England failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the USA.

England had produced a memorable Summer of football with World In Motion by New Order providing the soundtrack. Few people expected them to do well in the World Cup after they lost all three games at Euro 1988. Paul Gascoigne emerged as a star on the world stage as did David Platt, who would later join Juventus. Veterans like Shilton, Butcher and Bryan Robson bowed out after the tournament. England had their best run in a finals since 1966. They had the better of their Semi Final against the Germans, but the bald fact was they were very fortunate to reach the last four, after being outplayed and outclassed by both Belgium and Cameroon. The 1990 World Cup was a turning point in English football after the hooliganism of the 1980s and by 1992, the onset of the Premier League meant a new era for television and football fans alike.

Euro 1992: A Football Fairytale

Euro 1992 Winners Denmark celebrate with the trophy in Gothenburg

In 1992 a football miracle occurred. A tiny nation of just five million people, who had not even qualified for the European Championship shook the football world with a sensational triumph on a glorious Summer in Sweden. This is the story of the Danish Dynamite.

Denmark had burst onto the international scene when they beat England at Wembley and qualified ahead of Bobby Robson’s men for Euro 1984 in France. With their superb brand of attacking football the Danes were Semi Finalists, losing on penalties to Spain. For a nation of former part time footballers it was an impressive achievement.

The upturn in Danish fortunes can be traced back to 1979 when German manager Sepp Piontek was appointed. The no nonsense former defender installed the discipline and organisation that was previously missing. He was also fortunate that perhaps the greatest ever generation of Denmark players emerged in the same era. Players like sweeper and Captain Morten Olsen, Jan Molby, Jesper Olsen, Allan Simonsen, Michael Laudrup and Preben Elkjaer. The only weakness that continued to haunt Denmark at that time was the absence of a top class goalkeeper.

Euro 1984 Denmark team that beat Belgium 3-2 to reach the Semi Finals in France

Denmark followed on from that excellent tournament by qualifying for the World Cup for the first time. They had finished top of a very tough group ahead of the USSR, Switzerland Republic of Ireland and Norway. In Mexico the Danes were drawn in a ‘Group of Death’ alongside South American Champions Uruguay, 1982 World Cup Finalists West Germany and Scotland.

Denmark swept all before them after a fortunate 1-0 win over Alex Ferguson’s Scotland a 6-1 thrashing of Uruguay and a 2-0 victory over West Germany. They were now regarded as dark horses to win the World Cup, but they imploded in their last 16 tie with Spain losing 5-1 in Queretaro, thanks to a four goal salvo by Real Madrid striker Emilio ‘The Vulture’ Butragueno.

1986 World Cup Denmark team that beat Uruguay 6-1
Back Row L-R Frank Arnesen, Sören Busk, Michael Laudrup, Sören Lerby, Henrik Andersen, Preben Elkjaer
Front Row L-R: Morten Olsen, Troels Rasmussen, Klaus Berggreen, Jens Bertelsen, Ivan Nielsen

However by 1988 a golden era was coming towards an end. An ageing Denmark team qualified for Euro 1988 but they lost all three games in the Finals in West Germany to the hosts, Italy and their old foes Spain. Denmark failed to qualify for the 1990 World Cup finishing behind a strong Romanian team.

In the Euro 1992 qualification campaign, Yugoslavia won Group 4 on 14 points one ahead of Denmark. However following the Yugoslav Civil War which had erupted the previous year Yugoslavia were placed under UN Sanctions. UEFA and FIFA then suspended the Yugoslavian team from competitive football on the 31st of May 1992. So Denmark were drafted in at the last minute to take their place for the 1992 European Championship.

Danish manager Richard Moller Nielsen had to assemble a squad with many of his players on their Summer holidays. With Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, and Brian Laudrup the Danes had some excellent players, however Jan Molby and Michael Laudrup were not included in the final squad after disagreements with the manager.

Denmark were expected to make up the numbers at Euro 1992 in Sweden. They were drawn alongside the hosts, favourites France who had won all eight games in their qualification ahead of Czechoslovakia and Spain and Graham Taylor’s England. On the 11th of June 1992 Demark faced England in Malmo.

Euro 1992: Denmark line up to face England in Malmo

As with most opening games it was a cagey affair with both defences on top. Gary Lineker searching for the goal that would equal Bobby Charlton’s record of 49 had a couple of half chances. At the other end it was Denmark who went closest to breaking the deadlock. John Jensen hit the inside of the post with Chris Woods beaten. Graham Taylor gave a tetchy post match interview with the BBC’s Des Lynam after the goal less draw, when he denied that England had played negatively.

Denmark were pleased to have a point on the board and then faced their old rivals Sweden in Stockholm. In an exciting game Denmark failed to take their chances and a Tomas Brolin goal gave Sweden victory. That defeat meant that Denmark had to beat France in their final game to reach the Semi Finals. The French team managed by 1984 victorious captain Michael Platini had drawn 1-1 with Sweden and 0-0 with England. They knew that a draw against the Danes would take them into the last four.

Euro 1992: Denmark line up to face France in Malmo

The Danes attacked from the off and took the lead in the 8th minute through Henrik Larsen. France pushed forward but could not break through the Danish defence and at half time the Danes lead 1-0. In the second half Jean Pierre Papin the brilliant French striker signed by AC Milan for a world record £10M, scored a superb equaliser as he curled the ball past Schmeichel in the 60th minute. France then sat back playing for the draw that they needed. In the 78th minute Luton Town striker Lars Elstrup fired Denmark ahead again after beating the French offside trap. France poured forward but Denmark held on for a famous victory.

In the Semi Finals Denmark faced holders Holland, who had beaten World Champions Germany 3-1 and Scotland 1-0 in the group stage. The Dutch were strong favourites with the AC Milan trio of Gullitt, Rijkaard and Van Basten, Barcelona sweeper Ronald Koeman who’s goal had won Barca’s first ever European Cup at Wembley against Sampdoria also in their ranks. Up front Ajax striker Denis Bergkamp was in lethal form.

Euro 1992: Denmark line up to face Holland in the Semi Finals in Gothenburg

On the 22nd of June 1992 Denmark and Holland produced a classic, one the greatest ever games in European Championship history. With nothing to lose the Danes took the game to Holland and Henrik Larsen headed them in front in the 5th minute. Holland fought back and Denis Bergkamp’s shot from the edge of the box was fumbled in by Schmeichel. Brian Laudrup continued to run at the Dutch defence and he set up Larsen’s second goal as he fired home in the 33rd minute. Denmark led 2-1 at half time. Holland pinned the Danes pack throughout the second half and Frank Rijkaard equalised in the 85th minute. With game finishing 2-2 the Semi Final went to extra time and then penalties.

Euro 1992: Schmeichel saves Marco Van Basten’s penalty in the SF shoot out in Gothenburg

It was Euro 1988 top scorer Marco Van Basten who had a goal disallowed against the C.I.S (former Soviet Union) and hit the bar against Germany, who was the only man to miss from the spot. His weak penalty was saved. It ended a miserable tournament for the AC Milan striker who had failed to score at Euro 1992. It was left to Kim Christofte to send Hans Van Breukelen the wrong way to send Denmark into the Final against all the odds.

Euro 1992 Final: Denmark line up to face World Champions Germany in Gothenburg

On the 26th of June Germany faced Demark in the Final at the Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg. Few people gave the Danes a chance but they revelled in their underdog status. Peter Schmeichel made two superb saves early on, turning aside a Jurgen Klinsmann drive and coming off his line to smother Matthias Sammer’s chip. Then against the run of play Denmark took the lead in 18th minute. John Jensen much maligned for his poor scoring record from midfield, fired a powerful drive beyond Bodo Illgner from the edge of the box. The goal stunned Germany and they struggled to regain their rhythm as Denmark lead 1-0 at half time.

In the second half Germany threw everything forward and in a frantic two minute spell captain Lars Olsen made a superb goal line clearance and from the resulting corner Schmeichel brilliantly kept out Klinsmann’s bullet header. The Germans became more desperate and visibly demoralised and in the 78th minute Kim Vilfort (with aid of an unseen handball) fired Denmark further ahead. It was poignant moment, as he had spent the tournament flying backwards and forwards to visit his sick daughter in hospital. She would tragically pass away after the Final following a long battle with Leukemia.

Denmark held on and at full time they were European Champions. They had stunned the whole of Europe and beaten France, Holland and Germany for a richly deserved triumph. It was the day that the underdog fought back. It would not be until Euro 2004 when Greece triumphed, that another rank outsider would become European Champions.

Denmark’s triumph owed much to player of the Tournament Peter Schmeichel and flying winger and later Rangers player Brian Laudrup. They were surrounded by good experienced players who played for clubs all over Europe. The Danes enjoyed playing without pressure and went into each game with nothing to lose. Euro 1992 was a footballing fairytale that Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen would have been proud of. It was a victory that capped a superb tournament and a wonderful Summer of football.

Euro 1992 Champions Denmark

1987: The Real MacKay

1987 Gary MacKay of Scotland and Hearts

Did you hear the one about the Scotsman, the Englishman and the Irishman? In November 1987 all three of them came together for a piece of football history.

Gary MacKay was born on the 23rd of January 1964 in Edinburgh. He joined his local club Heart of Midlothian or Hearts as a sixteen year old in 1980 and the midfielder made a handful of appearances in 1980/81 as he battled away to become a first team regular. His displays caught the attention of Andy Roxburgh and in 1982 and was part of the Scotland Youth squad that won the European Championship in Helsinki.

1982 Scotland Youth Squad for the European Championship (MacKay is top left fifth along)

By 1985/85 Hearts had a superb team with the likes of goalkeeper Henry Smith, veteran Sandy Jardine, Craig Levein, Gary and with John Robertson and Sandy Clark up front. The Jam Tarts (nickname) went on an amazing unbeaten run and went into the final game of the season at Dundee requiring just one more point to win their first Championship title since 1960. However in a cruel climax, Dundee substitute Albert Kidd scored two late goals to hand the Title to Celtic on goal difference. The following week Hearts lost the Scottish Cup Final to Aberdeen and finished the season empty handed. They and their supporters deserved better.

By 1987/88 Gary was part of the Scotland squad but competition in midfield was fierce with the likes of Paul McStay, Ian Durrant, Neil Simpson, Roy Aitken and John Collins all vying for a start. Andy Roxburgh was now the Scotland manager and he selected Gary for the dead rubber Euro 1988 qualifier away to Bulgaria in Sofia. The match meant little to the Scots who’s hopes of making the tournament in West Germany had long since evaporated. In fact Bulgaria had not lost a qualifier at home since 1983. Top of Group 7, they knew that a win or draw would see them win the Group ahead of the Republic of Ireland and 1986 World Cup Semi Finalists Belgium.

Few gave Scotland a chance as Andy Roxburgh used the tie to experiment with different players before the 1990 World Cup qualifiers that started the following Autumn. On a wet night in Sofia Scotland lined up as follows:

Leighton, Clarke, Malpas, Aitken (c), McLeish, Gillespie, Nicol, McStay, (MacKay) Sharp, (Durie), McClair, Wilson

Scotland had a dismal away record and were thrashed 4-1 in Belgium in April. Most people expected Bulgaria to win comfortably. However Jack Charlton the English 1966 World Cup winner was now in charge of the Republic of Ireland and he hoped for a favour from the Scots. He knew that a Scotland win would send Ireland into the first major tournament in their history.

The first half was a cagey affair with Scotland sitting back and allowing Bulgaria plenty of the ball. Jim Leighton had to be at his agile best to keep the scoresheet blank at half time. Gary MacKay replaced Paul McStay at the start of the second half, but the game continued to be scrappy with a series of fouls and free kicks breaking up the flow of the game. Then in the 87th minute Gary latched onto a pass and fired Scotland into the lead from the edge of the box. The goal stunned the crowd into silence and Bulgaria poured forward in desperate search of an equaliser. However Scotland held firm for an excellent 1-0 victory. The Irish fans could now start booking their trips to Germany the following Summer.

Gary later said: “I think we were all in shock, because no-one expected us to win and certainly nobody expected me to score the winner.”

“That was my international debut: it was my first and last goal for Scotland. I had come on as a sub for Paul McStay and I was just delighted to get on the field and get my debut, so to score was beyond my wildest dreams.”

The last Hearts player to score for Scotland was Jimmy Murray in the 1958 World Cup. It is hard to quantify the impact of that goal and the win in Bulgaria had back in Ireland. The Bulgaria-Scotland game was shown live on RTE and a stunned Jack Charlton thanked Andy Roxburgh and promised to send a crate of champagne to the victorious Scotland squad. To underline the freak nature of the Scotland victory, the following month the Scots drew 0-0 away to the part timers of Luxembourg. Gary was a substitute in that game and made two further appearances for Scotland in a 2-2 draw in Saudi Arabia and a 1-1 draw in Malta the following year, his only start for the national team.

So what of the Republic of Ireland? They were drawn alongside England, Holland and the USSR in the 1988 European Championship. Few expected them to finish in the top two and reach the Semi Finals.

On the 12th of June 1988 England the pre tournament favourites faced Ireland in Stuttgart. Liverpool’s Ray Houghton, ironically born in Glasgow to an Irish father, headed past Peter Shilton after just 6 minutes. Then an inspired display by Celtic goalkeeper Pat Bonner and some poor finishing by 1986 World Cup Golden Boot winner Gary Lineker, meant that at full time Jack Charlton and the thousands of Irish fans could celebrate a famous 1-0 victory.

Euro 1988: Ray Houghton and his Liverpool team mate Ronnie Whelan celebrate his winning goal against England in Stuttgart

Three days later in arguably their best display under Charlton, Ireland lead through a brilliant Ronnie Whelan goal but the powerful Soviets fought back to earn a 1-1 draw in Hanover.

Euro 1988: Ronnie Whelan (kneeling) celebrates scoring against the USSR with Ray Houghton no.8 and John Aldridge no.9 in Hanover

Remarkably the Republic only needed a draw from their final game against Holland a few days later to qualify for the Semi Finals, after England lost their next two games both 3-1 to Holland and the USSR. However despite a battling performance, the Dutch won 1-0 with a late Wim Kieft header (which should have been flagged offside). Holland would go on to beat the hosts West Germany 2-1 in the Semi Final with a late Van Basten goal and he would go on to score one of the greatest goals in European Championship history, a brilliant volley, to give the Dutch the Title, with a 2-0 win over the Soviet Union (who had defeated Holland 1-0 in the group stage) in Munich.

Euro 1988 Final: Marco Van Basten volleys home for Holland against the USSR in Munich

1981: Liverpool from Birmingham to Paris

1981 Goal scorers Alan Hansen and Kenny Dalglish celebrate with the League Cup trophy

Season 1980/81 was one of the most dramatic in Liverpool’s history. The season began with Bob Paisley’s men seeking a third Championship in a row, a feat not managed since the 1930s. Liverpool opened the season with the Charity Shield, they beat FA Cup holder’s West Ham 1-0 at Wembley in the traditional season curtain raiser, with a Terry McDermott goal.

August 1980 FA Charity Shield, Liverpool 1 West Ham United 0, Liverpool team celebrate with the Charity Shield, Back row, left-right, Terry McDermott, Ray Clemence, Alan Hansen, David Johnson, Graeme Souness, Kenny Dalglish, Front row, left-right, Ray Kennedy, Jimmy Case, Phil Thompson, Phil Neal, Alan Kennedy (Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images)

Liverpool beat Crystal Palace 3-0 at Anfield on the opening day of the season, thanks to goals by Kenny Dalglish and the two Kennedy’s. However the Reds only won six of their next ten games, with their normally watertight defence leaking goals at an alarming rate. Phil Thompson suffered some knocks before Christmas and his dependable partnership with the classy Alan Hansen was broken up. Paisley was forced to use reserve defenders Colin Irwin and Richard Money. Aston Villa and Bobby Robson’s Ipswich Town were the early season pace setters, with Scottish midfielder John Wark a scoring sensation from midfield.

1981 Howard Gayle in action

Toxteth born winger Howard Gayle made his breakthrough this season and he became the first black player to play for Liverpool. As 1981 began Bob Paisley’s men were so far off the pace at the top, that the team started focusing attention on the cup competitions. In the FA Cup, Liverpool were drawn away to Everton in the fourth round. Jimmy case scored late on but the Toffees ran out 2-1 winners, with goals from Eastoe and Varadi. So Liverpool knew that the only way they could qualify for Europe was to win the League Cup for the first time or the European Cup, a daunting prospect.

In the League Cup Liverpool had fought their way through to a two legged Semi Final against Manchester City. They had disposed of Bradford City, Swindon, Town, Portsmouth and Birmingham City to get there. A late Ray Kennedy goal gave Liverpool a 1-0 win at Maine Road and a 1-1 draw at Anfield with Kenny Dalglish on the score sheet was enough to send Liverpool into the Final at Wembley against West Ham United.

On the 14th of March 1981 Liverpool and West Ham faced each other at Wembley. Liverpool had lost the 1978 Final in a Replay to Nottingham Forest, while the Hammers were aiming to win the trophy for the first time.

Liverpool lined up as follows: Clemence, Neal (c), A.Kennedy, Irwin, R.Kennedy, Hansen, Dalglish, Lee, Heighway (Case), McDermott, Souness

The game as a nervy affair, with Welsh referee Clive Thomas constantly stopping the flow of the game for petty fouls. Sammy Lee had the ball in the net early on, but it was ruled offside. The game was bogged down in a midfield battle, but Graeme Souness and Sammy Lee gradually started to dominate. Goal less at full time, Liverpool took the lead in the 118th minute. Alan Kennedy fired home from the edge of the box. West Ham manager John Lyall was furious, as Lee was lying in an offside position in front of goalkeeper Phil Parkes, but Thomas over ruled his linesman and the goal stood.

1981 League Cup Final: Alan Kennedy (on the ground) gives Liverpool the lead at Wembley

However West Ham fought back. Ray Clemence made a brilliant save from Ray Stewart’s free kick, but from the resultant corner Liverpool conceded a penalty after Terry McDermott tipped Jimmy Neighbour’s header onto the bar. Ray Stewart sent Clemence the wrong way from the spot with the final kick of the game, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

On the 1st of April Liverpool made changes for the Replay, Ian Rush replaced Steve Heighway at Villa Park and Jimmy Case came in for the injured Graeme Souness. The Replay was a thrilling affair (the first live game I ever saw Liverpool play on TV) and West Ham took a shock lead in just the 5th minute, as Paul Goddard headed past Ray Clemence. Liverpool fought back and equalised in the 25th minute through Kenny Dalglish

1981 League Cup Final Replay: Kenny Dalglish equalises for Liverpool at Villa Park

Ian Rush was outstanding as he hit the bar and ran the line superbly alongside Dalglish. In the 28th minute Alan Hansen’s header via a deflection gave Liverpool a 2-1 lead. In the second half Liverpool continued to make chances as West Ham struggled to gain a foothold in the game. Phil Parkes made a series of superb saves to keep West Ham in the game and in the last 15 minutes the Hammer’s threw men forward in search of an equaliser. Trevor Brooking dragged a shot wide and Billy Bonds headed over from a corner. Liverpool held on though for a 2-1 victory and their first League Cup triumph.

1981: Liverpool Captain Phil Thompson celebrates with the League Cup trophy at Villa Park

Liverpool had now secured a place in Europe for the following season and could now focus on trying to win a unique Double by winning the European Cup again for the third time. After an easy passage past Finnish part timers Olu Palloseura 11-2 on aggregate, they beat Scottish Champions Aberdeen, managed by Alex Ferguson home and away before a Graeme Souness hat trick saw off Bulgarians CSKA Sofia in the Quarter Finals.

In the Semi Finals Liverpool faced German giants Bayern Munich. Following a scoreless first leg at Anfield, the Germans printed leaflets for the second leg in Munich, with directions to Paris for the European Cup Final. Liverpool produced a classic away performance, with Sammy Lee man marking danger man Paul Breitner and Howard Gayle running the Bayern defence ragged, after replacing the injured Dalglish. Ray Kennedy fired home a vital away goal which was enough to send Liverpool into the Final.

1981 European Cup Final: Liverpool squad line up face Real Madrid in Paris

On the 27th May 1981, Bob Paisley was aiming to be the first manager to win the European Cup three times. Spanish giants Real Madrid were pre match favourites but with the Scottish trio of Hansen, Souness and Dalglish, Liverpool fancied their chances. In a scrappy game both teams cancelled each other out. With defences on top it looked like the Final was heading into extra time when an unlikely scorer won the game for Liverpool. Left back Alan Kennedy fired home from a narrow angle following a throw in and Liverpool fans could now turn Paris red. It was a victorious end to a strange season. 1980/81 was the only season from 1976 to 1991 that Liverpool did not finish as Champions or runners up, a staggering statistic and example of their consistency.

1981 European Cup Final: Alan Kennedy scores the only goal against Real Madrid in Paris

1981 Liverpool’s Souness, Dalglish and Hansen celebrate with the European Cup in Paris

World Cup Classics 1982: Italy v Brazil

1982 World Cup: Paolo Rossi celebrates heading Italy in front against Brazil in Barcelona

There are classic games and memorable moments. Then there is 1982 Italy v Brazil. Widely regarded as one of the greatest World Cup clashes of all time, the game had everything. Brilliant goals, mistakes, great goalkeeping and non stop attacking football from two superb teams who both played to win. Here is the story of that game:

The 1982 World Cup, my first as an eight year old boy, was a memorable tournament from start to finish. Played over a glorious summer it featured three home nations: England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Holders Argentina did not pull out of the tournament despite the bitter fighting in the Falkland Islands and Brazil were the pre tournament favourites, with many claiming it was their best team since Pele’s glorious side of 1970. The European challenge would come from France and West Germany, while hosts Spain hoped that home advantage could propel them to victory.

Italy had scraped through the first round having drawn three games with Peru, Poland and Cameroon. The press had dubbed them boring and defensive and coach Enzo Bearzot was under pressure to drop star striker Paolo Rossi. The Juventus man, recently returned from a match fixing ban (in which he denied any involvement) was a shadow of the player that had scored three goals in the 1978 World Cup. The Azzurri had finished fourth in Argentina, losing the 3rd/4th Place Play Off 2-1 to Brazil.

In contrast Brazil had thrilled with their superb brand of attacking football beating the USSR, Scotland and New Zealand. In a format never repeated since, instead of knock out games, a series of four groups of three teams would battle it out for a place in the Semi Finals. In the original ‘Group of Death’, Brazil and Italy were drawn with holders Argentina in Barcelona. Only one team could make it through and the holders could boast £5M super star Diego Maradona, who had joined Barcelona just before the World Cup.

1982 World Cup: Diego Maradona tries to shake off Italian man marker Claudio Gentile

On the 29th of June 1982 Italy lined up against Argentina. The holders were expected to win but Italy had a secret weapon. To stop Maradona the Italians man marked him with their toughest defender. Born in Tripoli to Italian parents, Claudio Gentile of Juventus had a fearsome reputation. He lived up to it by kicking, grabbing and fouling Maradona for 90 minutes. In a different era where referees were more lenient, he escaped with just a booking but he would have been dismissed today. With Maradona subdued Italy produced their best performance of the World Cup and goals from Marco Tardelli and Antonio Cabrini gave the Azzurri a 2-1 victory.

Argentina faced Brazil on the 2nd of July knowing that only a victory would keep their hopes alive. A crowd of 44,000 fans were treated to a sparkling display of football by a brilliant Brazilian team. Captain Socrates ran the midfield with strikers Zico and Eder outstanding in a 3-1 victory for Brazil. Maradona frustrated at his lack of protection by referees snapped and was sent off in the 85th minute.

1982 World Cup: Zico celebrates giving Brazil the lead against Argentina in Barcelona

So onto the Sarria Stadium in Barcelona on the 6th of July 1982. A date forever etched in the memory of every Italian and Brazilian. Both teams knew that a victory would take them into the Semi Finals. Brazil knew that a draw was enough for them to reach the last four. However it went against their instinct to sit back and play for a draw and Italy knew they had to attack to take anything out of the game.

1982 World Cup: Italy line up to face Brazil in Barcelona

1982 World Cup: Brazil line up to face Italy in Barcelona

Israeli referee Abraham Klein started the game on a steamy afternoon and after a cagey start Italy took a shock lead. Left back Antonio Cabrini crossed from the left and Paolo Rossi headed Italy into the lead, unmarked at the far post. It was the striker’s first goal in blue since 1979. Tele Santana’s team did not panic, after all they were behind against both the USSR and Scotland but had come back to win both times. However the Italian defence would be a far tougher nut to crack.

On 11 minutes Brazil missed a great chance. Lumbering centre forward Serghino was clean though on goal but dragged his shot badly wide from the edge of the box. BBC commentator John Motson claimed: “The sort of miss that a Sunday morning player shouldn’t be guilty of.” Then just one minute later, Brazilian skipper Socrates waltzed through the Italian defence after Zico’s brilliant turn and pass and beat veteran Italian goalkeeper Dino Zoff at his near post. The Brazilian fans who filled the ground exploded into wild celebrations waving their flags and firing flares and horns into the air.

1982 World Cup: Socrates fires home Brazil’s equaliser against Italy in Barcelona

1982 World Cup: Socrates celebrates scoring against Italy in Barcelona

Gentile was then booked for a foul on Zico and his yellow card meant he would miss the Semi Final if Italy made it through. Brazil continued to stroke the ball around in midfield and their play forced the Italians back to their own box. However just as the South American’s threatened to take the lead they fell behind again in the 25th minute. The Brazilian defence and goalkeeper Waldir Peres, their achilles heal were caught out by a loose pass by Cerezo and Rossi fired a shot from the edge of the box straight at Peres, who let the ball squirm through his grasp and Italy took a 2-1 lead. Brazil continued to attack and winger Eder went close flashing a shot across the face of goal.

At half time Italy had a 2-1 lead but few people believed Brazil would not come roaring back in the second half. Zico left the field with his shirt almost ripped in half by Gentile and if anything it made the Brazilians even more determined to sweep the Italians aside in the second half. Socrates, a qualified doctor, began the second half probing the Italian defence and the superb movement of Zico and Eder was causing Italy problems. In the 50th minute Cerezo was played clean through by Zico’s slide rule pass, but 40 year old Dino Zoff raced from his line and smothered his shot. Brazil went even closer a few minutes later, when following a scramble in the box, Zoff saved Serghino’s back heel from point blank range.

It looked like that miss would prove decisive when just 60 seconds later Rossi was clean through against Waldir Peres but he fired wide from inside the box. It was an incredible miss and a huge let off for Brazil. They poured forward, at times playing with four forwards, desperate for an equaliser. In the 68th minute, Falcao the Roma midfielder fired a tremendous shot past Zoff from the edge of the box to make it 2-2. His drive was struck with such force that it flew past Zoff. Falcao in one of the most memorable images from the 1982 World Cup, screamed with joy and raced to the Brazilian bench to celebrate.

1982 World Cup: Roberto Falcao equalises against Italy in Barcelona

Would Brazil sit back and play out the rest of the game knowing a draw would give them a place in Semi Finals? Italy had to attack now but Brazil knew no other way to play but to go forward and try to score more goals. Then incredibly Italy took the lead for the third time. Brazil failed to clear a corner and Rossi completed his hat trick in the six yard box.

1982 World Cup: Paulo Rossi (20) completes his hat trick against Brazil in Barcelona

It was the first hat trick by an Italian since the 1934 World Cup. Shocked, the Brazilians were now less than 15 minutes away from going out of a World Cup they had lit up with their brilliant football. In the 80th minute Socrates had the ball in the net but he was flagged offside. Brazil threw everybody forward but a stubborn Italian defence held firm. Italy scored again as Antognoni fired home from a break away, but the goal was wrongly ruled offside. In the last minute Brazil won a free kick on the left. Eder curled it to the far post and Oscar met it with a bullet header. It seemed a certain goal but Zoff threw himself across his goal and held the ball on the goal line. The Brazilians claimed an equaliser but Zoff had somehow kept the ball out. In injury time Eder whipped in a dangerous corner but Zoff clawed it away. That was their last chance and Klein blew the final whistle to end a pulsating game. Brazil had played brilliantly, full of skill and invention, but they came across an Italian team freed from caution and with a born again striker Paolo Rossi.

The game would be dubbed ‘The Sarria Tragedy’ in Brazil but manager Tele Santana was unrepentant. Applauded by the press at the post match conference he said: “I am proud of the players, we played to win”. The game would haunt Brazilian football for many years. It lead to a change of Brazilian philosophy and their 1986, and 1990 World Cup teams were more physical and defensive, adopting a more ‘European’ style of football.

Critics complained of a lack of skill and attacking football but in the 1994 World Cup Carlos Alberto Parriera, Santana’s assistant in 1982, finally led Brazil to victory, ironically against Italy on penalties in Los Angeles. Like the 1954 Hungarian, and 1974 Dutch World Cup sides, the 1982 Brazil team is still remembered as one of the greatest teams never to win the World Cup.

Tragically Rossi died last year aged just 64 from lung cancer. However he won the 1982 golden boot after his six goals lead Italy victory, after they overcame Poland in the Semi Finals and West Germany in the Final in Madrid. The Italians missed a penalty in the first half, the only time it has ever happened in World Cup Final but ran out comfortable 3-1 winners.

A short documentary on that Brazilian team with interviews and action can be found on youtube:

England Euro Classics

The 1988 England European Championship squad in their pale blue third shirt

1988. Bobby Robson was in his sixth year as England manager and he had finally got the blend right and had a settled team. His captain and namesake Bryan Robson ‘Captain Marvel’ was his best player and with Peter Shilton widely regarded as one of the World’s best goalkeepers and with the flair of Chris Waddle, John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and 1986 World Cup Golden Boot winner Gary Lineker, the 1988 England squad was regarded by the press and Robson himself as the best Three Lions squad since 1970.

The England manager had a tough start. He took over in 1982 after Ron Greenwood’s side was eliminated from the World Cup undefeated in the Quarter Final group stage. In his first game at Wembley, World Cup Finalists West Germany inflicted a 2-1 defeat, thanks to a double from Karl Heinz Rummenigge. In Robson’s first full season 1982/83 England had won the British Championship after a 2-0 win over Scotland at Wembley.

June 1983: The England team that defeated Scotland 2-0 at Wembley

The main task however, was to qualify for Euro 1984 in France. England were drawn in group 3 alongside Greece, Hungary, minnows Luxembourg and the emerging Denmark. Few people saw any problems and the group winners would qualify for the European Championship Finals.

England had enjoyed comfortable wins in Greece and 9-0 win over Luxembourg at Wembley, when Luther Blissett became the first black player to score for England and net a hat trick. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain’s father also scored in the rout. On the 30th March 1983 Greece visited Wembley with many people expecting England to rattle in a hatful of goals. However the Greeks had other ideas. England playing in their red away kit against their white shirted opponents just could not break down a stubborn defence. Boos rang out at full time, and that 0-0 draw at Wembley would prove to be a huge setback.

Denmark were flying, led by elegant sweeper Morten Olsen, with Liverpool bound Jan Molby and exciting Ajax winger Jesper Olsen (later to join Manchester United) complementing the deadly strike duo Michael Laudrup, who had rejected Liverpool for Juventus and Preben Elkijaer. On the 21st September 1983 Denmark came to Wembley. Bobby Robson knew that the winners would seal a place at Euro 84 but in the worst display under him, the Danes ran out comfortable 1-0 winners thanks to former Charlton Athletic forward Alan Simonsen’s penalty. England had won five and drawn two of their eight qualifiers, and they finished on twelve points, one behind the Danes. They had scored twenty three goals and conceded only three. That 1-0 defeat was incredibly the only defeat Bobby Robson ever suffered in qualification, as England were undefeated in 1986 World Cup, Euro 1988 and Italia’90 qualifying.

1983/84 was a miserable season for Bobby Robson. Defeats by Wales and the USSR at Wembley, where he was booed at spat at as he walked to the dressing room looked like spelling the end of the road for him. England had drawn the last ever British Championship clash with Scotland 1-1 at Hampden Park, giving Northern Ireland the title. An end of season tour to South and North America then took place, with many people expecting a thrashing by Brazil in Rio proving to be Bobby Robson’s last game in charge. However a young England side rallied to produce a famous victory, thanks to Watford winger John Barnes sensational solo goal. England beat an inexperienced Brazil team 2-0, lost by the same score line against South American Champions Uruguay, followed by a goal less draw in Chile. The tour was completed with a 5-0 win over the U.S, notable for a stunning Gary Lineker strike and a Glenn Hoddle saved penalty.

1984 John Barnes celebrates giving England the lead in Rio

England qualified comfortably for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, ahead of Northern Ireland, Romania, Finland and Turkey. After a poor start with a 1-0 defeat to Portugal and a 0-0 draw with African Champions Morocco, in which captain Bryan Robson dislocated his shoulder and Ray Wilkins was sent off, England thrashed Poland 3-0 with a Gary Lineker hat trick. They followed that up with another 3-0 win over Paraguay before facing Diego Maradona’s Argentina in the Quarter Final. In a memorable game Maradona’s infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal was followed by arguably the greatest ever World Cup goal, as he waltzed past the entire England defence before beating Peter Shilton. A late Lineker header was not enough, though that goal in the 2-1 defeat was enough to give the Leicester City striker the World Cup golden boot.

1986 England team that lost to Argentina in Mexico

Bobby Robson was determined to qualify for Euro 88 and believed he had a team strong enough to take on Europe’s best. England qualified impressively unbeaten ahead of a strong Yugoslavia team, with an impressive 4-1 win in Belgrade sealing their place in the Finals. England had scored nineteen goals and conceded just one in qualifying. His squad had real strength in depth. In 1987/88 John Barnes was a sensation and he swept all before him for Liverpool, culminating in him being named 1988 Footballer of the year. He was on the scoresheet in an 8-0 rout of Turkey in October 1987, and the front three of Barnes, team mate Peter Beardsley, alongside Barcelona’s Gary Lineker was as good as any in Europe. England were joint favourites to win Euro 88 along with hosts West Germany.

England had arrived at the Finals in good form. They had defeated Scotland in May and won the Rous Cup at Wembley. Their only defeat was a 3-1 loss against West Germany in September 1987 and in March 1988 they had drawn 2-2 against a powerful Dutch team in a friendly at Wembley. Bobby Robson’s squad is pictured above. England were drawn against Jack Charlton’s Republic of Ireland, in their first ever tournament (only a victory by Scotland in Bulgaria saw them through), the USSR and dark horses Holland.

1988 England line up to face the Republic of Ireland in their opening game of Euro 88

On the 12th June 1988 England faced Ireland in Stuttgart. They were expected to win comfortably against their inexperienced opponents. However the Irish players were quietly confident and with players like Liverpool trio Ray Houghton, Ronnie Whelan and John Aldridge amongst their ranks, they hoped to cause an upset. After just six minutes Ray Houghton’s header gave the Republic the lead, following a mix up in the England defence. They lead 1-0 at the break but the second half brought and English onslaught. With substitute Glenn Hoddle pulling the strings it seemed only a matter of time before England drew level. Gary Lineker missed three gilt edged chances and with Celtic goalkeeper Pat Bonner in inspired form Ireland held on for a famous 1-0 victory.

The knives were out for Bobby Robson. He knew that only a victory in their next game against Holland would keep English hopes alive. The Dutch also went into the game needing victory after they had lost 1-0 to the Soviet Union.

1988 England line up to face Holland in their second match

On the 15th of June 1988 Peter Shilton won his 100th cap. England started the game on the front foot and were unlucky not to go ahead. Glenn Hoddle curled a free kick against the inside of the Dutch post and Gary Lineker hit the post from a narrow angle. Just before half time AC Milan striker Marco Van Basten turned Tony Adams before firing past Shilton. He almost added a second before half time but full back Gary Stevens cleared off the line after he had rounded Shilton. In the second half captain Bryan Robson equalised but in the closing stages the match ran away from England. Van Basten struck twice more and his hat trick gave Holland a famous 3-1 victory. England had played well in both games but some bad luck and poor finishing meant they would finish bottom of their group. A dead rubber final game saw the USSR beat England 3-1 and the press and media called for Bobby Robson’s head. He wrote later that he offered his resignation to the FA and he expected Nottingham Forest manager Bryan Clough to replace him. However he stayed on and lead England into the 1990 World Cup. How did England fare in his last tournament as manager? find out in a later blogpost.

Phil Neal: Right Man, Right Place

Phil Neal, Liverpool (Photo by Peter Robinson/EMPICS via Getty Images)

Phil Neal was Bob Paisley’s first signing in October 1974. He cost £66,000 from Northampton Town. Paisley had intended to break Neal in as a replacement for the ageing Chris Lawler, meaning that he initially played at left back. However it would be his industrious and energetic displays at right back where he made his name. Phil made 23 appearances in season 1974/75 but Liverpool finished empty handed in Bob Paisley’s first season as Liverpool manager. The following season was different. Liverpool were pushed all the way in the First Division by QPR, but they won the Championship by one point. In Europe Liverpool went all the way to the UEFA Cup Final against Brugge. In the 1st leg at Anfield Liverpool came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2, with goals from Ray Kennedy, Jimmy Case and a Kevin Keegan penalty. In the 2nd leg in Belgium Kevin Keegan’s free kick earned Liverpool a 1-1 draw and they won their second UEFA Cup 4-3 on aggregate. Phil Neal also made his England debut against Wales in 1976 and would go on to earn 50 caps scoring 5 goals for his country.

1976 Phil Neal poses with the UEFA Cup, Charity Shield and First Division Championship

Phil was now firmly established as Liverpool’s right back, with his ability to bring the ball forward and sound defensive positioning a key feature of his play. He made 59 appearances in 1975/76 and scored 7 goals. Liverpool were favourites to retain the title in 1976/77 but they were pushed all the way by Manchester City eventually winning the Championship by a single point. Neal was now the Liverpool penalty taker and he scored an impressive 13 goals as Liverpool reached the FA Cup Final after beating Everton in a replay. The first game ended in a 2-2 draw but Everton had a late winner controversially disallowed by referee Clive Thomas. In Europe Liverpool overcame French Champions St Etienne in a memorable night at Anfield with ‘Super Sub’ David Fairclough scoring a famous winner. In the semi final Phil scored from the spot as Liverpool overcame FC Zurich 6-1 on aggregate. On the 21st May Manchester United ended hopes of a first League and Cup Double beating Bob Paisley’s men 2-1 at Wembley. Liverpool had just a few days to pick themselves up before the biggest game in their history.

On the 25th of May Liverpool faced West German Champions B.Monchengladbach in a repeat of the 1973 UEFA Cup Final which the Reds won 3-2 on aggregate. A crowd of 57,000 were in Rome with an estimated 40,000 of them Liverpool fans. Bob Paisley made just one change from the FA Cup Final with veteran Ian Callaghan replacing David Johnson. Liverpool took the lead in the 28th minute when Terry McDermott finished off a fine flowing move and Liverpool lead 1-0 at half time. The Germans pushed forward at the start of the second half and Denmark striker Alan Simonsen fired an equaliser. They almost took the lead but Ray Clemence made a great save to deny Uli Stielike a few minutes later. In the 64th minute Liverpool went ahead when Tommy Smith headed home Steve Heighway’s corner. Kevin Keegan playing his last game for Liverpool was a constant threat to the German defence and he was brought down by Berti Vogts to give Liverpool a penalty on 83 minutes. Phil Neal calmly sent the goalkeeper the wrong way from the spot and Liverpool won a famous 3-1 victory. Bob Paisley’s men were now Kings of Europe.

1977 European Cup Final Rome: Phil Neal scores a penalty against B.Monchengladbach

1977 Liverpool players celebrate winning the European Cup in Rome

In 1977/78 Liverpool retained the European Cup at Wembley as Kenny Dalglish’s goal was enough to beat Brugge. Phil did not miss a game and played 61 times that season scoring 6 goals. In 1978/79 Liverpool swept all before them winning the First Division with a record points total: P42 W30 D8 L4 F85 A16 PTS 68 which would be 98 points today under 3 points for a win. Liverpool were unbeaten at Anfield and many people regard the 1978/79 squad as Liverpool’s greatest ever team. Neal made another 54 appearances scoring 5 goals. In 1979/80 Phil was an ever present again as Liverpool retained the Championship two points clear of Manchester United.

1980 Phil Neal kisses the First Division Championship trophy at Anfield

Now firmly established in Ron Greenwood’s team, Phil appeared twice in Euro 1980 in Italy but England were eliminated after a 1-0 defeat to the hosts. 1980/81 was a very poor season by Liverpool’s high standards as they slumped to 5th place behind Champions Aston Villa. In the League Cup Liverpool beat West Ham 2-1 in a replay to win the trophy for the first time. In the European Cup Liverpool reached the semi final against Bayern Munich but a goal less draw in the 1st leg at Anfield set up a daunting 2nd leg in Munich. The Germans were so confident of victory that the distributed leaflets with directions to the Final in Paris. Liverpool had other ideas and substitute Howard Gayle tormented Bayern’s defence before skipper Ray Kennedy’s late away goal was enough to send Liverpool into another final.

On the 27th May 1981 Liverpool faced Real Madrid in the European Cup Final in Paris. In a tight game of few chances, it was Alan Kennedy who became the unlikely hero scoring the only goal from a narrow angle in the 82nd minute. Bob Paisley became the first manager to win the European Cup three times and it was Liverpool’s third win in three finals. It was a memorable night and the fans turned Paris red that night.

1981 European Cup Final Alan Kennedy and Phil Neal lift the European Cup in Paris

In 1981/82 Liverpool retained the League Cup beating Tottenham 3-1 at Wembley. In the league Liverpool were in 12th place going into 1982 but a long 16 game unbeaten run including 13 wins, saw Bob Paisley’s men Champions again. In the Summer Neal played in the 1982 World Cup in Spain. Phil was nicknamed ‘Zico’ by Liverpool fans the following season as his 11 goals in 1982/83 helped Liverpool retain the title and the League Cup again, beating Manchester United in Bob Paisley’s last game at Wembley. Phil Neal’s consistency was remarkable. He made a staggering 417 consecutive appearances for Liverpool from October 1976 to September 1983. He also made a club record 366 consecutive league appearances from December 1974 until September 1983.

In 1983/84 Joe Fagan took over from Bob Paisley but the trophies continued to roll in. Neal made a very impressive 64 appearances that season as Liverpool won their fourth League Cup in a row, beating Everton in a replay thanks to an early Graeme Souness goal. The Reds won the Championship for the third year in a row and in Europe, a string of fine away performances were enough to send Liverpool into their fourth European Cup Final.

On the 30th May 1984 Liverpool faced Roma in their own Olympic stadium. It was a daunting prospect but the Italians were under huge pressure to lift the trophy. In the 13th minute Phil Neal pounced on a loose ball in the box to fire Liverpool ahead. It was his second goal in a European Cup Final, ironically both were scored in Rome.

1984 European Cup Final Phil Neal scores to give Liverpool the lead in Rome

Roma fought back and equalised before half time. In the second half both teams probed each other but created few chances. Graeme Souness captaining Liverpool in his last game for the club dominated the midfield and slowed down the pace of the game. Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen superbly marshalled the Liverpool defence and the game went to penalties after a 1-1 draw. Steve Nicol blazed over the first spot kick and Roma took the lead. Neal stroked home his penalty as did Souness and Ian Rush. Bruce Grobbelaar’s ‘wobbly legs’ famously put off the Roma’s Conti and Graziani and that meant that if Alan Kennedy scored Liverpool would win. He sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to give Liverpool victory 4-2 on penalties. Joe Fagan became the first English manager to win a Treble: League Championship, League Cup and European Cup. It was arguably Liverpool’s greatest ever victory and it gave Phil his fourth winners medal. Neal was the only man to play in all four of Liverpool European Cup Finals.

1984 European Cup Final Phil Neal and Alan Kennedy lift the trophy in Rome.

In 1984/85 Phil Neal replaced Graeme Souness as Liverpool captain. However it was an unhappy season. Early exists in both the League Cup and FA Cup were followed by a poor league season as neighbours Everton stormed to the First Division Championship. In Europe Liverpool fought their way to their fifth European Cup Final but on a tragic night at the Heysel stadium in Brussels, Juventus won 1-0 in game overshadowed by rioting which resulted in the death of 39 fans. Joe Fagan resigned after the game and cried on his return to the airport. Liverpool and all English clubs were banned from Europe. Kenny Dalglish became Player/Manager much to Phil’s frustration, as he felt that he had been promised the job. With Steve Nicol now playing regularly at right back Neal left in November 1985 to become Bolton Wanderers manager. He had played 650 games and scored 59 goals for Liverpool. In total he won a total of 8 Championship’s, 4 European Cups, 1 UEFA Cup and 1 Super Cup, 4 League Cups and 5 Charity Shield’s making him one of the most decorated Englishmen ever to play the game.

In August 1985 Liverpool faced Everton in Phil Neal’s Testimonial at Anfield. A crowd of 23,000 paid their respects to one of the club’s all time greats.

Sport, Football, pic: 12th August 1985, Phil Neal Testimonial Match, Liverpool 2 v Everton 3, Liverpool’s Phil Neal waves to the crowd with his son Ashley, Phil Neal won 16 major honours with Liverpool and a total of 50 England international caps from the full back position (Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images)

Scotland 1992

1991 Scotland team that beat San Marino 2-0 on route to qualifying for Euro 1992

Scotland began 1992 about to make history. Andy Roxburgh became the first manager to take Scotland to the European Championship Finals. The Scots had qualified impressively topping a group ahead of Switzerland, Romania and Bulgaria losing just one game. This was in the days when only eight teams qualified for the Euros. Scotland had been drawn in yet another very tough group for Euro 1992 in Sweden. They would face holders Holland, World Champions Germany and the C.I.S (former USSR). The top two teams would qualify for the semi finals against the top two teams from the other group of Sweden, Denmark, France and England.

Scotland had a series of five friendly matches to prepare for the tournament. In February 1992 Scotland faced Northern Ireland at Hampden. A crowd of just 13,000 saw a decent game notable for a 3-5-2 formation of Malpas, Gough and McPherson at centre back and debuts for David Robertson and Keith Wright. Scotland won the game 1-0 with an Ally McCoist header from a corner. In March just 9,000 fans saw Scotland put in a disappointing display to draw 1-1 with Finland at Hampden. They failed to build on Paul McStay’s early goal with Jari Litmanen earning a draw for the Finns. Gordon Strachan captained the team in his 50th appearance for Scotland. At the end of May Scotland travelled to the USA and beat the Americans 1-0 thanks to an early Pat Nevin goal. They ended their tour with a 3-1 victory in Canada with two goals from McAllister including a penalty and an Ally McCoist strike. On the 3rd of June 1992 Scotland played their final warm up game against Norway in Oslo, a low key goal less draw thanks to some fine saves by Andy Goram. Hearts defender Alan McLaren had impressed in all three games and Dundee United striker Duncan Ferguson had also made his debut in the U.S.

Scotland received a big blow when captain Gordon Strachan was ruled out of Euro 1992 trough injury and Hearts striker John Robertson also missed out with a hamstring injury. The Scotland squad was as follows:

Goalkeepers: Goram, Smith

Defenders: Gough, Boyd, Whyte, McPherson, Malpas, McKimmie, McLaren

Midfield: McStay, McCall, McAllister, McInally, Bowman, Nevin

Forwards: Gallacher, McCoist, McClair, Durie, Ferguson

Scotland squad numbers were oddly based on the number of caps won apart from Gough and Goram so Ally McCoist was no.5 and Stewart McKimmie no.9.

On the 12th June 1992 Scotland faced European Champions Holland in Gothenburg. The Dutch were among the pre tournament favourites with Barcelona’s Ronald Koeman fresh from scoring the winner in the European Cup Final at Wembley in their ranks. The AC Milan trio of Frank Rikjaard, Ruud Gullit and Marco Van Basten were the men Scotland feared most.

The Scotland national team line up together prior to competing against Netherlands in the group 2 UEFA Euro 1992 Championship tournament match in Gothenburg, Sweden on 12th June 1992. The team are, back row from left to right, Maurice Malpas, David McPherson, Stewart McKimmie, Stuart McCall and Richard Gough. Front row from left, Ally McCoist, Brian McClair, Gary McAllister, Gordon Durie, Paul McStay and Andy Goram. (Photo by Paul Popper/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Andy Roxburgh was confident Scotland could take something from the game but knew that they would have to defend really well. With Holland expected to dominate possession Scotland would have to make the most of their chances, with Gough a huge threat from set pieces. Holland began the game on the front foot and Gullit shot over after a fine run. Andy Goram produced a fine save from a Bergkamp header and at the other end Gough did not give Van Basten an inch. Rijkaard almost gave the Dutch the lead in the 39th minute but Goram made a fine save to deny him. The game was goal less at the interval. In the second half Scotland came more into the game and their best chance was dragged wide by Dave McPherson. Richard Gough headed wide from a corner and as the game entered it’s final stages it looked like Scotland would hold on for a draw. Holland had other ideas though and on 76 minutes, after a fine move, Gullit’s cross was flicked on by Van Basten and Denis Bergkamp slotted home Frank Rijkaard knockdown past Andy Goram. It was tough on Scotland and Roxburgh threw on Kevin Gallacher and Duncan Ferguson in place of McClair and McCoist to try and save the game, but Holland held firm for a 1-0 victory. Scotland could take a lot of positives from the game and Andy Roxburgh pointed out that they could still get a result in their next game against Germany.

On the 15th June 1992 Scotland faced World Champions Germany in Norrkoping. The Germans had drawn their opening game 1-1 with the C.I.S thanks to late Thomas Hassler freekick and striker Rudi Voller was ruled out of the tournament with a broken arm. The German team had six of the team that had won the 1990 World Cup but their captain Lothar Matthaus missed the tournament through injury.

Euro 1992 Scotland line up to face Germany in Norrkoping

Scotland were unchanged and tore into the Germans from the start. Richard Gough had a header tipped over by Illgner and the from the corner Gary McAllister flashed a shot wide. Dave McPherson fired over from a freekick from inside the six yard box but then against the run of play Germany opened the scoring. Jurgen Klinsmann shielded the ball from Gough and Karl Heinz Riedle fired home past an unsighted Goram. Germany almost increased their lead but Goram made a great save from Klinsmann’s header. Scotland should have drawn level after McStay’s fine through ball to McAllister was brilliantly saved by Illgner. Germany led 1-0 at half time. In the 47th minute Germany scored again as a tame Stefan Effenberg cross looped up off Maurice Malpas to bounce past Goram. It was a freak goal and it would have demoralised most teams but not Scotland. They continued to bombard the Germany goal and had several efforts scrambled away by a desperate German defence. As the Scots poured forward the Germans hit them on the break and both Thomas Hassler and Andy Moller cracked shots against the post. Pat Nevin was a lively substitute and Kevin Gallacher also replaced Ally McCoist for the last twenty minutes. Try as they might Scotland just could not break down the German defence and at full time Germany recorded a 2-0 victory. It was the best game of the Finals so far and one of the best Scotland performances for many years. After the game Andy Roxburgh and Captain Richard Gough applauded the Tartan Army, both were in tears as defeat meant Scotland were eliminated with one game left.

Euro 1992 Scotland line up to face the C.I.S in Norrkoping

On the 18th of June Scotland faced the C.I.S in their final game of the tournament. The C.I.S had drawn their second game 0-0 with Holland and needed a win to make the semi finals. Holland faced Germany in a game that kicked off at the same time. Roxburgh brought in Tom Boyd for Maurice Malpas with Kevin Gallacher replacing Gordon Durie. Could Scotland end their tournament on a high? They got off to a perfect start. Paul McStay hit a fine low drive from the edge of the box that flew in via goalkeeper Dimitri Kharin’s head after just 6 minutes. Scotland increased their lead in the 17th minute when Brian McClair fired home a deflected shot, his first goal for Scotland in his 26th game. While the C.I.S enjoyed plenty of possession Andy Goram was rarely troubled. At half time Scotland lead 2-0. In the second half the C.I.S became more desperate with news that Holland were leading against Germany and it took a magnificent double save by Andy Goram to deny them a way back into the game. In the 83rd minute Scotland made the game safe. Substitute Pat Nevin was brought down after a fine run into the box and Gary McAllister confidently stroked home the resulting penalty, to give Scotland a 3-0 victory. Holland beat Germany 3-1 in the other match so Scotland’s victory ensured Germany a place in the semi finals. However it was rank outsiders Denmark, a late replacement for the banned Yugoslavia who won Euro 1992 beating Germany 2-0 in the Final.

Andy Roxburgh and Captain Richard Gough pose after Scotland’s win over the C.I.S

The Tartan Army saluted the team at full time, the rain doing little to dampen their spirts. The Swedes were so impressed by them that they were awarded a prize for the best fans of the tournament, in contrast to England fans who rioted after their elimination by hosts Sweden. Scotland had enhanced their reputation on the European stage. Richard Gough and Paul McStay the outstanding figures in an impressive team. The performance against Germany was their best display and with better luck and more clinical finishing they could so easily have won that game. However it was a still a great Summer and Scotland did the country proud.

Euro 1992 Scotland players line up in front of their fans after beating the C.I.S