David Platt V Belgium, 26th June 1990
Italia 90 coincided with the first family holiday I can remember as a child. Two wet, gloomy weeks in Swanage, staying in what was described as a ‘chalet’ but resembled more of a caravan on milk crates. Everything was better back then; the kits, the boots, the player’s haircuts, even the mascot, and despite being only 8 years old, I can remember vividly most of the tournament. Yes, it was a shit-hole of a chalet, but it was the World Cup. It didn’t matter. I still look back and get nostalgic about the things I watched on the tiny TV: Gazza’s tears, Roger Milla dancing, Waddle blazing over the bar, and one of the worst finals I’ve ever seen.
Having topped their group, England faced Belgium for a place in the quarter finals. The game itself was a tense affair. Belgium hit the woodwork twice and England had a John Barnes strike disallowed for a non-existent offside. The game finished 0-0 and went into extra time. I thought penalties were a dead cert, and with just one minute of the game remaining, I braced myself for the inevitable. Back then, England weren’t known for as being as bad as penalties as they are now, in fact some may argue that this was the tournament where the hoodoo started.
119 minutes came up on the clock. England won possession in their own half and the ball came to the talented Paul Gascoigne. He beat one man with a feign to pass and a quick twist, and he was away. He sprinted forward, past another Belgian, who gave chase, and in his efforts to tackle Gascoigne, brought him down about 40 yards from goal. This was it. The last chance of the game.
Gascoigne himself took the free-kick and floated it goal wards. The ball sailed over the heads of 3 Belgian defenders, and towards David Platt, who had come on as a second half substitute. With his back to goal as the ball reached him just outside the 6 yard box, and at a bit of an angle, it looked as though Platt would do anything but shoot. However, he adjusted his body quickly, swivelling to his left as the ball dropped over his right shoulder, and he unleashed a superb volley across the ‘keeper and into the corner of the net. An absolute gem of a goal. The audacity to even try it rather than nod it back across the box, the timing, the sheer jubilation I felt when that goal went in, is what makes it my favourite World Cup goal.
It was an amazing feeling. I went to bed the happiest 8 year old in the country. The rain didn’t matter, my dad’s snoring in the room next door didn’t matter; England had progressed to the next round. I didn’t think anything could get better than that at the time, but I was wrong. When I woke up in the morning and pulled back the curtains, someone had spelt out ‘ARSE’ on the hills in large rocks.