England’s route to the semi-final began by topping Group F following a dour 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland (Gary Lineker), an encouraging 0-0 with Holland and a narrow 1-0 victory over Egypt (Mark Wright) to make it to the second round.

A last-minute extra-time volley from David Platt earned England a quarter-final berth at the expense of luckless Belgium (1-0) before Cameroon gave Bobby Robson’s side the fright of their lives in a terrific 3-2 quarter final victory (Lineker – 2 pens and Platt) after extra time in Naples.

West Germany began their Italia ’90 tournament with commanding victories over Yugoslavia 4-1 (Matthaus 2, Klinsmann and Voller) and the UAE 5-1 (Voller 2, Klinsmann, Matthaus and Bein) in the San Siro Stadium in Milan. A 1-1 draw (Littbarski) with Group D runners-up Colombia secured top spot and set up an intriguing clash with bitter rivals Holland in Round 2.

A pulsating encounter saw the Germans eventually edge the result 2-1 thanks to Jurgen Klinsmann and Andy Brehme strikes preceding a late Ronald Koeman penalty. A bad-tempered game will always be remembered for the dismissal of Germany’s Rudi Voller and Holland’s Frank Rijkaard when the Dutch player twice spit at the AS Roma striker. A Lothar Matthaus penalty proved enough to knock out Czechoslovakia (1-0) in disappointing quarter final to setup a showdown with England in the last four.


The Stadio Della Alpi in Turin was the setting for the second World Cup semi-final on a balmy July 4 evening in front of over 62,000 fans. Both sides attacked from the start and an open, flowing first half ensued. Goalkeepers Peter Shilton and Bodo Illgner were in supreme form and a breathless opening 45 minutes finished goalless.

Andreas Brehme broke the deadlock for the Germans on the hour when his free-kick took a wicked deflection off Paul Parker and looped over a stranded Shilton. England levelled when Gary Lineker netted with 20 minutes left following good approach play by Paul Parker.

Extra time saw both sides come agonisingly close to a winner with England’s Chris Waddle hitting an upright and seeing an outrageous effort from the half-way line acrobatically tipped over by Illgner.

While an engaging extra-time period failed to produce a winning goal it did manage to conjure up the enduring image of Italia \’90. Paul Gascoigne was on a yellow card heading into the semi-final and when he brought down Thomas Berthold with a crude challenge the referee had little option but to caution the England midfielder. Knowing he would now miss the final Gascoigne burst into tears but saw out the remaining minutes as England and Germany headed to penalties.

The shootout was tied at 3-3 when Stuart Pearce was denied by the feet of Illgner. Olaf Thon converted West Germany’s fourth consecutive kick which meant Chris Waddle had to score. The Newcastle midfielder’s effort blazed high and wide and West Germany celebrated qualifying for the World Cup final.


West Germany went on to win the 1990 tournament decider 1-0 at the expense of Diego Maradonna’s Argentina courtesy of an Andy Brehme penalty. The final is remembered as one of the poorest in the competition’s history with two Argentineans sent off during an appalling game.

England lost to Italy 2-1 in the 3rd and 4th play-off with \’Toto’ Schillaci converting a penalty en-route to victory to win the outright Golden Boot award as top scorer in the competition.

Bobby Robson’s squad returned to a hero’s welcome with thousands of fans lining the streets to pay tribute to their side. Paul Gascoigne’s decision to wear a pair of fake-breasts during the celebrations only further endeared him to an English public who already revered him for shedding tears during the semi-final.

Robson stepped down as manager after the World Cup to take over PSV Eindhoven in Holland where he enjoyed domestic success before moving on to Barcelona. Former Aston Villa boss Graham Taylor was Robson’s replacement but England’s fortunes nose-dived after his appointment with an abysmal showing at Euro 1992 and failure to qualify for World Cup 1994 in the USA.


The most important change in the game of football following Italia 90′ was FIFA’s decision to introduce a new back-pass rule as a direct result of the time-wasting and negative tactics of Italia 90. One example of the need for such a back-pass rule was Packie Bonner allegedly holding possession of the ball for over 6 minutes during Ireland’s horrific 0-0 draw with Egypt. Goalkeepers were no longer permitted to pick the ball up from a back pass and instead had to immediately play on using their feet.

English football was on a high following the country’s heroic efforts at Italia 90 and within two years the Premier League was born.

Satellite broadcasters Sky pumped hundreds of millions of pounds into the English game and resulted in coverage of the Premier League being beamed to all four corners of the globe. Sky’s financial input along with a huge increase in attendances allowed clubs to attract some of the best foreign footballing talent to English shores such as Jurgen Klinsmann to Tottenham, Dennis Bergkamp to Arsenal and Gianfranco Zola to Chelsea.

Monday night football was introduced as well as \’Super Sunday’ with a two hour build-up to matches and additional one hour review at full time. The ratings soared as the English game enjoyed unprecedented popularity both at home and abroad.

Ratings for live matches in the Republic of Ireland were huge and for a time football enjoyed unparalleled popularity. Disappointingly the Republic of Ireland failed to make it to the 1992 European Championships in Sweden but rebounded in style to qualify for the next World Cup: USA 1994.

Ger McCarthy is author of the book entitled \’Off Centre Circle’, published by the Evening Echo, which chronicles the curious life of a West Cork amateur soccer player.

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