On July 4, 1990, Sir Bobby Robson’s England faced Germany in the semi-final of Italia ’90.
It may have only been, as it would come to be called, “one night in Turin”, but it was a match that ultimately remade and refreshed a football nation brought to its knees by the tragedies of the 80’s.
Fittingly, England’s path through the tournament to reach the game had suffered its own troubles, with Robson barracked by the press prior to the competition after having signed a deal to takeover PSV Eindhoven after the summer campaign in Italy.
Who could blame him for wanting a new challenge though given the stick metered out in his direction by the English media during his reign? Though Carlsberg of all people may have confirmed his canonisation as one of the nation’s most beloved, managerial greats ahead of the 2006 World Cup in Germany, at the time he wasn’t universally popular, at least within the realms of the fourth estate. Revisionism has of course since helped to grant him the place in the English footballing pantheon he deserves, and his final bow as England manager at Italia ’90 played no small part in securing his legend.
On top of the controversy over the manager’s post-World Cup career plans, the team itself struggled to get going in the group stage, labouring to a stolid 1-1 draw with Jack Charlton’s Republic of Ireland in their first game. A switch away from 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2 system using Mark Wright as a sweeper turned things around however, as England beat The Netherlands and Egypt to top the group. Victories over Belgium and Cameroon in the round of 16 and quarter-finals saw them through to the semi’s to meet Germany in Turin.
Unfortunately, it was Franz Beckenbauer’s team who ran out as winners to reach the final and also claim the silverware for themselves, but not before an enthralling contest in which Paul Gascoigne shed tears, Gary Lineker endear himself to the nation’s heart and soul, and yet another dramatic loss via penalties for England.
Mark Leech was on the scene to shoot the match, along with Wilfried Witters and photographers from L’Equipe, whose work remains part of Offside’s extensive library of World Cup, football and sporting images.
The actions of the match have long since passed into the mythology of the English game, but Germany themselves claimed that their opponents provided the sternest test on their journey to winning the World Cup at the final in Rome.
Above are some select images from the game, capturing Lothar Mattehus’ consoling of Chris Waddle after failing from the penalty spot, Gazza’s emotional reaction to his yellow card that would have denied him a place in the final, and Stuart Pearce’s own personal regret over his missed shot in the shoot out.
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