Italia 90 – Tears, Divide and National Pride
(Posted on 11/06/18)
Whether you were around at the time or not, mention the name of Italia 90 and a thousand of the greatest footballing moments flood back in a heartbeat.
It was, by far, the greatest sporting tournament of all time. Be it the dancing hips of Roger Milla, tears of the English or the most outstanding World Cup shirt of them all (voted in a poll of one, me) this was a summer like none other.
Held at the turn of a decade that changed not only football but the world, Italy was the landing ground of where the game went from being brilliant to beautiful.
Not only was some of the best football on the planet played that summer, but one of the best underdog stories it’s seen in it’s history. Cameroon came into the tournament as 500-1 long shots. Striker Roger Milla came into the side after retiring from international football and living on an island sunning it up before being recalled at the age of, well, about 68.
The Africans weren’t there to make up the numbers, proven in their very first match against reigning champions Argentina. Francois Omam-Byiyk’s goal on 67 minutes stunned the likes of Maradona, Burruchaga and Sensini as they ran out winners at the San Siro.
They’d go on to top their group above the Argentines, Romania and the Soviet Union to meet Colombia in the Round of 16. A horrendous mistake from Rene Higuita – of scorpion kick and kidnapping fame – gifted Milla a brace and famously dance at the corner flag to see them through to face the crisis side of the campaign, England.
Going into the tournament Bobby Robson’s side were in crisis, calls for the managers head and a positively poisonous atmosphere saw them scrape through the group with a victory over Egypt and draws against Ireland and the Netherlands. After the magic of David Platt’s extra-time winner against Belgium all of a sudden the momentum began to switch. That was until, Platt’s opener against Cameroon was cancelled out with two goals in the space of four minutes in the second half.
It appeared the English disease as it was put by prime minister Margaret Thatcher which had reared it’s ugly head, according to press and her government that is, and now Robson’s side were to crash and burn to the underdogs of all underdogs. That was until Gary Lineker levelled from a penalty and do so again from the spot in extra-time, England breathed a sigh of relief and Milla’s hips were confined to the history books.
The Semi-Final came round with four of the most amazing footballing sides, with perhaps four of the greatest kits in world cup history. Argentina’s classic adidas number with the traditional sky blue and white stripes is forever remembered as a kit classic. They faced an Italy side wearing a gorgeous Diadora strip with collar and red and green stripes is one of our favourite World Cup shirts of all time. The two went all the way to penalties with the hosts being dumped out 4-3.
As for the second semi-final, it was by far the most famous of them all. England, in one of their greatest shirts of all time, the old school Umbro with the famous three lions on their chest took on West Germany, who not only over the years have outclassed the English on the pitch, but in terms of attire. The Germans were wearing a shirt that tops the lot. The German tri-colours of black, red and yellow across the sleeves and chest were a masterstroke from adidas and tops polls from the last 30 years.
The kits certainly lived up to the match, with almost the entire country in front of television sets back in blighty. Documented inside out by every tv and film company, the ‘one night in Turin’ will live everyone who was fortunate enough to see it. On the hour mark Andreas Brehme’s free-kick deflected off of Paul Parker and looped over the head of Peter Shilton, 1-0.
However 20 minutes later the ball fell invitingly in the box for Lineker who smashed home to level and send the game to extra time, cue the tears.
Paul Gascoigne was hounded by all when Robson chose to take him to Italy. Many believing the passionate youngster wouldn’t have it in him, but over the campaign he showed the world exactly what sort of talent he had when given a seat on the plane. But he dragged his side through at times and was already a national hero, all before ‘that’ moment.
As a heavy touch led to a 50/50 ‘Gazza’ lunged into a tackle missing the ball and immediately realising what he’d done. Having been booked already in the campaign a yellow card would mean suspension and missing any potential final. Following the brandishing of a card the tears flowed and the famous “watch him” from Lineker was uttered. The youngster was in disbelief with the rest of the world. The one man who deserved to play in any final was him and in the space of a second it was torn from him. He went on to single handidly get his side through but a lack of another goal led to penalties, the rest as they say, is Geschichte
The final between West Germany and Argentina was settled by just a single goal, Brehme scored from the spot with five minutes to play to hand over the final World Cup for the nation divided from the East.
There’s so much more to the competition that summer than the game, it left a legacy and began a journey of perhaps the greatest era in English football during the 1990’s and the Italian game became universal with the likes of Football Italia and Gascoigne’s move to Lazio putting Serie A under the spotlight. No matter how old you are though, this tournament is thought of like no other.
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