England got off to a rare winning start at this World Cup but what has history taught us about their second game of past groups? Well there’s a lot more rough than smooth…
England 0-0 Holland (1990)
The pivotal game of England’s Italian odyssey came against European Champions Holland. After the dire opener against Ireland Bobby Robson decided on a tactical change and brought in Mark Wright as a sweeper. It worked a treat with Holland wrong footed and England for a change not out-numbered in midfield. But it was Gazza with his jinking runs and clever one-twos who grabbed the world’s attention. England twice had the ball in the Dutch net but both were chalked off and with Van Basten isolated and Gullit frustrated England gained a deserved point and pole position in Group F.
England 2-0 Mexico (1966)
After a stuttering start to their home World Cup England burst into life via their most gifted player- Bobby Charlton. Charlton got a clear run through the Mexican midfield and smashed home a rasping shot from 30 yards. Liverpool striker Roger Hunt added a second after the break and England were belatedly up and running in their own World Cup.
England 1-0 Argentina (2002)
Ah yes the revenge match, 4 years on from St Etienne, Beckham’s red and Argentina’s players celebrating in front of the England team bus England had their shot. Argentina were high on confidence after winning their opener whilst England had let the lead slip against Sweden. England settled quickly and had the better of the first half with Michael Owen hitting the post. Moments later Mauricio Pochettino tripped Owen and Beckham got his big chance from the spot. The penalty wasn’t the best: straight down the middle but it went in and England lead at half time. The second half saw England in control for long periods and Teddy Sheringham almost made it 2. Argentina rallied late on but England held on for a famous victory and their most recent tournament win over a tier 1 nation.
England 2-0 Czechoslovakia (1982)
After their shock win over France in the opener England were again in Bilbao to face a talented Czech side. After a dull first half England got going in the second with a pinpoint Ray Wilkins corner picking out Trevor Francis to lash home. the Czechs pushed forward but Paul Mariner broke forward and his attempted cross was deflected home by Jozef Barmos to secure a 2-0 win. England had scored 5 goals in their first 2 games despite the absence of their talisman, Kevin who?
Romania 2-1 England (1998)
After their wonderful start against Tunisia, Glenn Hoddle’s England were expected to beat a talented but hardly world-class Romania. But England’s prosaic looking midfield of Paul Ince and David Batty struggled against the technical Romanians and an injury to Ince saw Hoddle introduce David Beckham. But Romania took a deserved lead just after the break through Viorel Moldovan. England pushed and with 20 minutes to go Hoddle gave Michael Owen his competitive debut and it worked with the teenager poking home with 9 minutes left. Everything looked good until Kevin Keegan in the commentary box declared “Only one team’s going to win this, England!” Cue Dan Petrecsu mugging Chelsea teammate Graeme Le Saux for a last gasp Romanian winner, cheers Kev!
Morocco 0-0 England (1986)
Not for the last time North African opposition proved stubborn opponents for England! England started slowly but were surely going to find their rhythm at some stage surely? No it all unravelled just before half-time: In a calamitous 3 minute spell Ray Wilkins (the nicest man in football) was booked then Bryan Robson aggravated his shoulder injury and had to be substituted and then Wilkins suffered a bizarre sending off. The midfielder threw the ball back to the referee who took exception to the ball hitting his leg and issued a straight red card! England held it together in the second half with 10 and got a point but found themselves with 1 point and no goals from 2 games. With team sitting bottom of their group the knives of the press were out for Bobby Robson.
Algeria 0-0 England (2010)
High expectations again, North African opposition again, awful again. I’m really struggling to remember anything of note from this one. Jamie Carragher was a cart horse at the back, Aaron Lennon ran around a bit, Wayne Rooney ranted into a camera, that’s literally about it. England’s World Cup chances were receding faster than Wayne’s hair!
Uruguay 2-1 England (2014)
England’s Brazilian adventure proved their briefest World Cup campaign after this shocker in São Paulo. England had passed the ball well in their opener but couldn’t get going here, meanwhile Uruguay had Liverpool’s Luis Suarez back from injury and he snuck behind Phil Jagielka to head home Edinson Cavani’s cross 1-0 at half-time. England fought back in the second half and finally equalised when Glenn Johnson picked out Wayne Rooney who levelled with 15 minutes to go. But 10 minutes later a long goal kick flicked off Steven Gerrard’s head playing Suarez onside who blasted home and that was that.
And one for the scrapbook
England 0-1 Brazil (1970)
In qualification terms this game was meaningless- there was never any doubt both would qualify for the quarterfinals. But this classic clash of champions remains one of the greatest group games ever played. We all know what happened- England started brightly, Brazil got going and then Banks made that save, Moore mad that tackle before Jairzinho broke the deadlock. England pushed for an equalizer and Jeff Astle missed a sitter but it finished 1-0.
Alan Mullery who marked Pelé that day & got his shirt told a lovely story about Pelé. He it didn’t see the Brazilian legend again for over 40 years until they met at a football dinner and Pelé approached and remembered him. Mullery revealed he’d lost Pelé’s shirt, a few weeks later a courier was at his door with a package- a signed Pelé shirt ‘to my friend Alan’ a nice touch that seems to encapsulate this great match.