Memories · Sport

The final we wanted, exactly 31 years later

If you are old enough, and into your football, you will remember the 1990 World Cup, hosted by Italy. The first World Cup I was old enough to follow was Mexico 1970, still the best football tournament I can remember. 20 years later “Italia Noventa” came close to matching it. There was so much to enjoy, from englandneworder’s official song reaching #1, through the unexpected success of Jack Charlton’s Ireland team, to the way England progressed to the semi-final. It only tailed off at the end, at the semi-final stage.

We wanted an England v Italy final. Both teams lost their semi-finals in penalty shoot-outs and the teams met instead in the play-off to decide 3rd and 4th place. It was an enjoyable enough game, played in good spirits. Bobby Robson picked some of the squad players who hadn’t featured in earlier games, like Tony Dorigo at left-back. He had just signed for Leeds, who had been promoted back to the top flight a couple of months earlier after 8 years away. Italy won 2-1. We tried to pretend that it was the final, and that the following night’s game (West Germany v Argentina) didn’t matter. If only.

This all happened exactly 31 years ago: Italy 1 England 0 was on 7 July 1990, Germany 1 Argentina 0 was the following night. And last night, 7 July 2021, England beat Denmark 2-1 in extra-time to go through to the European Championship Final, where they will play Italy.

Usually I check the dates and results of past sporting events on the web, but all of my research for this piece has come from memory and from printed material. In front of me right now I have “The Official History of the FIFA World Cup” (a Father’s Day present from 2018, just before Russia hosted the tournament) and my 1990 World Cup Book which came free with a multi-pack of blank TDK video cassettes. Here they are, along with the Guardian complete guide to Euro 2020.


Just as I did in the 1990 World Cup, I have been filling in the results of Euro 2020 as the competition has progressed, as you can see below.


I didn’t enter the scores for the final two games in 1990. It doesn’t feel right to enter them now.

Throughout the current tournament I believed that the final would be this coming Saturday. That’s what my printed guide says, “Saturday 11 July”. In fact it’s on Sunday, which is 11 July. It took 31 years, but at last we have got the final that we wanted.


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