The World Cup: England and my unshakeable pessimism

England in 1990. From left: Terry Butcher, Peter Shilton, Mark Wright, Des Walker, David Platt, Stuart Pearce, Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoinge, Peter Beardsley, Paul Parker and Gary Lineker

It is a paradox, but my memory and knowledge of the first three World Cups that I recall is better than the later six tournaments of my lifetime.

The World Cups of 1982 and 1986 were for a child of seven and 11 years utterly magical.

Thanks to generous pocket money, I managed to fill my Panini albums bought with stickers from Forbuoys in St Dunstan’s Street and the St Stephen’s Newsagent and swapped at St Stephen’s Primary School.

Italia 1990 was much the same: I can remember where I was when I watched Gazza’s tears and England losing the semi-final to Germany. I was at my friends Philip and Mihaili Moore’s house in St Augustine’s Road.

After the game, I stomped off back to my home in the New Dover Road in a foul mood.

David Platt scored against Belgium

Like 2018, England were gifted what should have been a comfiortable route to the semis in 1990.

They were always likely to qualify from a group which contained Holland, Ireland and Egypt – and did so in unremarkable fashion with a 1-0 win against the north Africans and draws against the others.

In the last 16 Bobby Robson’s men made it hard for themselves, only overcoming Belgium thanks to David Platt’s stunning 120th-minute volley past Michel Preud’homme.

The quarters saw us take on the tournament’s colourful surprise package: Cameroon who featured the dancing legend of a striker Roger Milla. The game ended 3-2.

Subsequent defeat to Germany, the failures of ’82 and ’86 and the inability to qualify for USA ’94 have inured me for my own 30 years of hurt.

They taught me never to expect success from the country and team that I adore. It will be the same against Croatia in the 2018 semi-finals.

Sure, England have every chance of success, of course we do – the same chance of success, in fact, as Luka Modric’s men.

But my attitude to every major England match isn’t “I think we’ll do this”, but “I’ll believe it when I see it”.

And that’s exactly the thinking I’ll be applying to tomorrow night’s game.


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