It was probably the most memorable moment in England International Football in the past 50 years – isn’t that saying a lot.
Let me set the scene, it’s Italia 90, Elton John is at number one with Healing Hands and Die Hard 2 is about to take the box office by storm. Forget Bruce Willis, there was only one hero for everyone in England, his name – Paul John Gascoigne.
Gazza had been a revelation at Italia 90, he was in scintillating form and kept viewers around the world glued to the World Cup. On the way to the infamous semi final Gazza had made 3 assists, the first was to set up a Mark Wright winner against Egypt, the second a chipped ball into the box from a free-kick that David Platt converted on the volley and the last a through ball into Gary Lineker in extra time, who was brought down by the Cameroon goalkeeper and subsequently scored an important penalty that would send England into a showdown with the old enemy, West Germany.
So here we are, at the Stadio delle Alpi, Turin. The winner of the tie will go on to face Argentina as they triumphed in extra time over a resilient Italy side. It was goalless at half time but on the hour mark a Andreas Brehme shot was deflected off Paul Parker and nestled in the England net. England hearts were being broken – then up steps Gary Lineker. A Paul Parker cross, lofted into the box from the half-way line hits centre-back Jurgen Kohler, the ball bounces up, Lineker controls before cracking a fantastic left-foot finish into the German net. The game headed to extra time.
No-one in England and quite possibly the world will forget the 99th minute of the World Cup semi final. Gascoigne overruns a ball in midfield and lunges into Berthold. It was a bad challenge and Gazza instantly put his hands up, he knew he had done wrong, but he didn’t want to see a dreaded yellow card that would see him miss England’s first World Cup final since 1966 if they overturned the Germans. Berthold on the other hand, made a meal out of the challenge and completed about 10 rolls across the Turin turf. Time seemed to stand still, the eyes of England and the world on Brazilian referee Jose Roberto Wright – his decision, a yellow card for Paul Gascoigne.
Gascoigne lost his head, he went red in the face and although he had the backing of a nation he looked like a man alone. Lineker is seen on TV gesturing to Sir Bobby Robson to have a word with Gazza. Gascoigne, who had been the star for England during this campaign had his world was falling all around him. Tears came when the reality hit Gazza.
116 minutes in David Platt has a goal disallowed, it’s tight but there are no complaints from the England camp. At the death, Buchwald, the German centre-back, curled a stunning effort past Shilton, luckily for England the woodwork was there to save them. The final whistle blows and penalties ensued.
Linker scores, Brehme scores, Beardsley scores, Matthäus scores, Platt scores, Riedle scores, Pearce MISSES and then Thon scores for West Germany. Chris Waddle, then steps up, 60 million English hearts are in mouths, Waddle runs up and smashes the ball inches over the bar, he falls to his knees, Gazza was in tears again and 24 years of hurt were confirmed.
Tragically, Gascoigne would never get to play in another World Cup due to England failing to qualify for USA 1994. His tears, however captured the hearts of the nation and the valiant efforts of the England players made them heroes when they returned from Italy. England to this day have never been so close to a World Cup final and the 24 years of hurt have become 51 years in the blink of an eye.
Here is a perfect example of how Gascoigne became a cult figure in England after his famous tears, Spitting Image created a sketch named, ‘Cry Gazza Cry.’
If you would like to revisit the 1990 World Cup Semi-Final minute by minute then The Guardian has a fantastic piece which you can find here