A History of England vs Spain: Pearce’s Redemption, Hunter’s beauty, Di Stefano brilliance, Gary’s goalfest and that miss!

England will host Spain at Wembley in both teams inaugural UEFA Nations League game this Saturday. Surprisingly for two of European football’s big nations, the history between the two has often flown under the radar compared to England’s rivalries with say Germany or Spain’s with Portugal. But they’ve still met twice in the World Cup and four times in the Euro’s. Here are the 9 most memorable past meetings

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Spain 1-0 England (World Cup Group 2: 2nd July 1950)

England’s first competitive game against Spain was the group decider of their 1950 World Cup campaign. Coming off that infamous loss to the USA, England needed a point whilst Spain were already through to the quarter finals. England lined up at the Maracana with Billy Wright, Stanley Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Tom Finney, Jackie Milburn and a certain Alf Ramsey all in the team. But Spanish striker Zarra got the only goal of the game early in the second half and England’s first foray into the World Cup ended in abject disaster.

Spain 3-0 England (Friendly: 15th May 1960)

England travelled to the Bernabeu to face the great Alfredo Di Stefano. Spain were dominant with Di Stefano running the show Spain took the lead before halftime through Joaquin Peiro. Eulogio Martinez added a second with ten minutes to go and secured the win with a third on 85 minutes. Bobby Charlton later recalled Spain’s late game of keep ball being ‘terribly frustrating’ as England chased shadows. England got their revenge at Wembley later that year in a 4-2 win.

Two legends clash in Madrid, it was Di Stefano’s day

Spain 1-2 England (European Championship Quarter Final: 8th May 1968)

Eight years on from Di Stefano’s masterclass England returned to the Bernabeu as World Champions, holding a slender 1-0 aggregate advantage over reigning European Champions Spain. In a clash of the titans Spain took the lead just after half time when Amancio pounded on a deflected shot and rounded the England back line to level the tie. But Spanish joy lasted a mere 8 minutes when Martin Peters nodded home a corner. And England secured the tie through an unlikely goalscorer, as a cross was pulled back from the byline into the path of centre back Norman Hunter who lashed home for a 2-1 win and England were off to the European Finals in Italy.

Norman Hunter kills off Spain at the Bernabeu

England 2-1 Spain (European Championship Group 2: 18th June 1980)

Twelve year on England and Spain found themselves in the finals of the Euro’s but in reduced circumstances, knowing this third group game was almost certainly a dead rubber. England started well and Trevor Brooking got on the end of a knock down to push home the opener. Spain began the second half on the front foot and when Ray Clemence brought down Carlos Santillana, Dani converted the resulting penalty.  But Dani also missed a penalty and when Spanish ‘keeper Arconda parried a shot it fell to Tony Woodcock to lash home the winner, to at least salvage some pride from a hugely disappointing trip.

Woodcock celebrates the winner

Spain 0-0 England (World Cup 2nd phase: 5th July 1982)

Probably the most famous meeting between England and Spain took place in Spain’s home World Cup. Drawn together with West Germany in the second group phase, the Germans had held England and beaten Spain, meaning Spain were definitely out but England could progress to the semi-finals if they beat Spain by two clear goals. England had started the tournament with a bang but had found goals hard to come by as it progressed, but manager Ron Greenwood had welcome reinforcements in Trevor Brooking and the side’s talisman Kevin Keegan. Both had missed the first 4 games injured but were named on the bench for the decider as England again entered the Bernabeu.  The first half was uneventful with Spain going the closer and early in the second a rasping shot from Periko Alonso flashed wide of Peter Shilton’s goal. With 63 minutes played Greenwood played his hand and on came Keegan & Brooking and they made an immediate impact. First Brooking found himself in on goal but hit his shot straight at the ‘keeper. Then Bryan Robson broke into the box and found space on the left he clipped a perfect cross for Keegan the goal gaped…but Keegan put it wide. England were out despite never losing in Spain and sadly Keegan would never play for his country again.

England v Spain in the 1982 World Cup
King Kev’s unhappy swansong

Spain 2-4 England (Friendly: 18th February 1987)

This friendly in the Bernabeu will always be remembered for the performance of a Barcelona striker, wearing the Real Madrid-esque all white of England. Spain had started well and Emilio Butragueno gave them the early lead. But England weren’t behind for long when Glenn Hoddle’s looping cross found Gary Lineker’s head: 1-1. Only minutes later Hoddle’s free kick found Viv Anderson’s head, he knocked down for Lineker who slid home the second.  Early in the second half Lineker played in Peter Beardsley who’s shot was parried by Andoni Zubizarreta into the path of his Barcelona club mate Lineker who headed home for the hat trick. But Lineker wasn’t done yet, Beardsley played him in on the edge of the box and Lineker found the bottom corner for 4-1 and his best ever haul for England. Spain got a consolation when Ramon Vasquez headed home after a short corner but it was Lineker’s night. It all prompted Zubizarreta to walk into the England changing room at full-time to find Gary and exclaim “Bloody Hell!”

Lineker demolishes Spain

England 0-0 Spain (European Championship Quarter Final: 22nd June 1996)

England had concluded Spain’s home party with that damp squib of a 0-0 in 1982, now Spain stood in England’s way at Wembley in the Euro ’96 quarterfinal. England were hot favourites coming off their 4-1 drubbing of Holland, but Spain had been quietly impressive in the group stage and wouldn’t be a pushover. England struggled to breakdown the tough Spanish midfield of Fernando Hierro and Miguel Nadal (uncle of tennis star Rafa!) The best chances of the half went Spain’s way when Gascoigne was dispossessed and Kiko found himself through only for the offside flag to rule out his goal, replays showed he was marginally off. Then Julio Salinas was judged offside as he struck home and again Spain were left frustrated, with the replay showing he was clearly onside.

The second half became an attritional battle with Darren Anderton flashing a shot across the face of goal.  Then came a glorious chance when Gascoigne’s cross found Shearer but he blazed over the bar with Zubizarreta advancing. Kiko thought he was through late on but Gareth Southgate’s beautifully timed challenge denied him a shot. Golden goal time ensued with both sides cautious and penalties followed. Shearer did what Shearer does and gave England, then came Hierro who clattered the bar and handed England the edge. David Platt and Amor both converted and suddenly it was on 1990 penalty Stuart Pearce, who buried the ghost Turin with a thunderous strike. Both team converted their next kicks and it was down to Nadal to keep Spain alive, he went down the centre Seaman saved and England were through.

Stuart Pearce scores his penalty against Spain Euro 96
Pearce exorcises the ghost of Turin

England 3-0 Spain (Friendly: 28th February 2001)

This friendly was largely forgettable but for two curious points of history. Firstly it was played at Villa Park, England’s first game on a six-year tour of the nation’s grounds whilst Wembley was being rebuilt. But more importantly it was their first under the guidance of a foreign manager, enter Sven-Goran Eriksson. The game was a typical new manager match with Sven getting a feel for his side. But on this evidence he found the core of his side quickly with Beckham, Campbell, Ferdinand, Scholes & Butt all starting and going on to play key roles at the following year’s World Cup. However the hit and miss start also saw caps for Chris Powell, Michael Ball, Gavin McCann and Andy Cole. On the pitch Nick Barmby broke the deadlock to give England a first half lead, Emile Heskey came off the bench to push home a second from a corner and Ugo Ehiogu added a third from another set piece for an easy 3-0 win, and a satisfactory start for the Swede.

Barmby gets the Sven era off to a winning start

England 2-2 Spain (Friendly: 15th November 2016)

Gareth Southgate strode out at Wembley in his final game as interim England boss all but assured of the permanent job, in this the most recent clash with Spain. England took an early lead when Jamie Vardy was upended and Adam Lallana put away the resulting penalty. They doubled their money early in the second half when Jordan Henderson’s looping cross found Vardy for 2-0. It seemed this was the triumphant coronation of King Gareth, but Spain hadn’t read the script and in the 89th minute Iago Aspas pulled a goal back. Then in injury time Isco snuck in behind Eric Dier to push the ball past Tom Heaton for 2-2. Southgate was deflated, but 15 days later he was finally confirmed as England’s 15th permanent manager.

Isco slides home a late leveller

So there are the highlights of England’s past meetings with Spain, overall its 13 wins, 9 losses and 3 draws. A new chapter will be written on Saturday night.

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