Back in 1986, England’s squad was a joy to behold, with Manchester United’s Bryan Robson as captain and Tottenham’s Glenn Hoddle and Gary Lineker providing the attacking flair.
And although the World Cup in Mexico will be remembered by England fans for the way they went out (a moment of genius and a moment of deception from one Diego Maradona), Bobby Robson’s team looked as though they were on course to peaking at the right time and, after a shaky start, looked like world beaters.
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Despite being knocked out in the quarter-finals by Maradona’s Argentina, Lineker won the Golden Boot, with six goals. They looked poor in their first two games, with a defeat by Portugal in the opener and defeat by Morocco in their second group game.
But they moved through the gears and, after clinching qualification with a 3-0 thumping of Poland, went on to replicate that performance with the same scoreline as they vanquished Paraguay in the first knockout stage.
And they were ready to take on Argentina, led by one of the greatest attacking players the world has ever seen.
But within the space of five minutes early in the second half, Maradona would sink England. In the 51st minute, he punched – yes, punched – the ball into the back of Peter Shilton’s net, putting the South Americans ahead. Then just four minutes later, he scored arguably the greatest ever World Cup goal, weaving his way through England’s defence before humiliating Shilton and rolling the ball home.
The introduction of John Barnes and Chris Waddle later in the game was enough to spark a resurgence, with Lineker bagging in the 81st minute, but England crashed out, with a bitter taste of injustice in their mouths. It was worsened by the fact that Argentina went on to win the tournament, with Maradona picking up the Golden Ball as best player.
The kit that England side wore was a screaming classic, and one of Umbro’s great shirts of that era.