England achieve their best World Cup performance on foreign soil.
England’s best World Cup campaign since 1966 came to an end on this day 20 years ago.
The Three Lions entered Italia ’90 under the guidance of Bobby Robson – the man who had taken them to a quarter-final berth four years previously – and with a fair degree of expectation on the likes of Terry Butcher, Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker.
After a disastrous European Championship campaign two years earlier, Robson and his players needed to deliver on the game’s biggest stage. And they didn’t disappoint.
Although their tournament started slowly in Group F – with draws against Republic of Ireland and Netherlands – victory over Egypt saw them through to the knockout stages and that’s when the competition sprung into life.
A nail-biting victory over Belgium in the Round of 16, thanks to David Platt’s last gasp winner, had the nation’s nerves in tatters, and an historic quarter-final against Cameroon – the first African nation to reach the last eight – produced yet another memorable spectacle. Thankfully, it also ended with an England victory, after two Lineker penalties dragged the Three Lions to victory after being 2-1 behind.
Nothing, however, could prepare the nation for the epic battle that would ensue in the semi-finals.
Facing old enemy Germany, England produced possibly their best display but, ironically, it would not be enough to see them through to their first Final in 24 years.
Paul Parker’s deflection, Lineker’s goal, Gazza’s tears, and Waddle’s penalty all combined to produce a truly classic encounter that would ultimately end in disappointment.
It must have been hard for Robson’s men to get themselves mentally prepared for their last fixture – the Match for Third place against hosts Italy – but with a carnival atmosphere at the Sant Nicola Stadium in Bari, England gave their all, just as they had throughout the tournament.
The game finished 2-1 to the hosts but Robson and his men had covered themselves glory and were given a hero’s welcome on their return to England.
The Three Lions may have fallen agonisingly short but they had provided the entire nation with memories that would never be forgotten.