England won a World Cup qualifier 5-0 on this day in 1977.
Don Revie’s England had just suffered two devastating defeats, losing to Italy and Holland without scoring, when they took on minnows Luxembourg in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley on this day 33 years ago.
England were desperate for a morale-boosting victory after Italy had beaten them 2-0 in a critical World Cup qualifier in Rome and a Cruyff-inspired Holland had achieved the same winning scoreline in a Wembley friendly. Surely we would score a hatful against little Luxembourg, the country we had once slaughtered 9-0 away?
In the circumstances there was an unexpectedly large Wembley crowd of 78,000 on 30 March 1977 as a much-changed England team began a match they simply had to win – and win with plenty of goals to help their prospects of making it through to the Argentina Finals.
England made a bright start and were a goal up in ten minutes, Kevin Keegan leaping to head home after Dave Watson had floated the ball across. But for a long period after that England looked disjointed and struggled against some efficient man-to-man marking by the visitors. Trevor Francis did hit the bar with a header but the crowd was becoming restless as half-time approached.
The fans were calling for big Ipswich striker Paul Mariner to be brought on and they got their wish as he replaced Joe Royle after the interval. After an hour’s play England finally got the message that they needed an avalanche of goals. Francis rammed the ball home from close range, Ray Kennedy squeezed in a shot from a difficult angle, Mick Channon headed in from Gordon Hill’s corner and then converted a spot-kick for 5-0.
England did manage to defeat Italy in the Wembley return but it was the Italians who went to the World Cup.