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Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Twenty Eight Years Later

Whatever happens tonight in Moscow- England are playing Croatia in the World Cup semi-final in case you've been asleep for the last two weeks- the team have done themselves proud and exceeded any expectations many of us had of them. Since the late 1990s England have failed so often and so abjectly it became difficult to believe that any major tournament could be a success. Having shed themselves of the so-called 'Golden Generation', some really poor managerial appointments and the millstone of the superstars that hung around without really ever doing anything, Gareth Southgate has done something extraordinary- he's built a squad of young men that play for each other and for the team, egos and factions apparently a thing of the past, with the confidence that being young and talented brings and also actually preparing for things like penalty shoot outs. The idea that England could be contesting a place in a World Cup final still seems a bit unreal to me. Last time around, in Brazil, they were the first team home, defeated twice in a matter of days, left playing a third and final group game that meant nothing.

The last time England were in a World Cup semi-final was 1990, a night in Turin against West Germany that ended with penalties and defeat. 1990 was a different world- Germany was not even re-united in summer 1990. Nelson Mandela had only been released in February 1990. John Major was not yet Prime Minister, Thatcher still in power and with no reason to think she wouldn't be by the end of year (Major ended up leading a Tory cabinet and party massively split over Europe, so plus ca change maybe).

In July 1990 I was twenty years old and a group of us had been to Glastonbury at the end of June, arriving home to our shared student house part way through the England- Cameroon quarter final match to see England win 3-2. Glastonbury had been headlined by Happy Mondays and The Cure (both still playing big shows all these years later). We'd seen Sinead O'Connor, De La Soul, James, Jesus Jones and then Archaos closing the Pyramid Stage by tightrope walking across the top of it. There's a review here which describes it as all mud, flares and the Mekong Delta. New Order had hit number one with World In Motion. Adamski had been number one with Seal and Killer before that. Spike Island was only 6 weeks previously, a promise of something that never happened. With the university term and year over I watched the semi-final back at my parent's house and as Chris Waddle put his penalty over the bar someone at our house, an older person who had dropped in, said 'never mind, they'll be in another one soon'. Not that soon it turns out. Whatever happens tonight, it's been a long time coming. Good luck England.


The Official Colourbox World Cup Theme


TheRobster said...

Indeed, good luck England. They've surprised a helluva lot of people in this tournament and, as you so rightly pointed out, they look like they are playing for each other. And they're not playing a typically English game, either (whatever that is). Lots of passing and possession.

Sadly, and I don't want to put a downer on things here, but should they reach the final, I really don't think they can beat France. They were my tips at the start of the tournament and they have proven to be even better than I thought they'd be. Mbappe is a revelation, and even with Giroud up front (who wouldn't score if the goal were a mile wide and a mile tall) they are playing such beautiful football. I never thought I'd rave about the French! But, in a tournament of surprises, you just never quite know...

londonlee said...

Summer 1990 was so good. Had a job, my own flat, a girlfriend, going out nearly every night. Happy days

Italia 90 changed so much football-wise. I remember going to Chelsea's 1st game of the new season and there were all these... girls in the Shed End

Webbie - FootieAndMusic said...

When the Italia 90 Semi Final match was played I was living in the very posh Henley-On-Thames (I was a waiter though), and luckily it was a day off for all of us, restaurant was closed. We all crowded into one small for some reason, everybody smoking, beers everywhere. I'll never forget that or the match. Immediately after Nessum Dorma was played which seemed to be the perfect theme for 1990. This time though the theme is ...Well I'm not going to tempt fate and name that tune. You know which one I mean.

Brian said...

Rooting for an England v France final. Best of luck today.