England take on Croatia tomorrow in what is only their third ever appearance in the World Cup semi-finals. Chief Sports Writer Scott Wilson looks back on the two previous occasions when England played in the last four


England 2 Portugal 1

Having seen off Argentina in an ill-tempered quarter-final, England made their World Cup semi-final debut against a Portugal side that had already displayed their class by knocking out the reigning champions, Brazil.

In front of almost 95,000 supporters at a sold-out Wembley, two goals from Bobby Charlton settled a game that is generally regarded as one of the highest-quality encounters England have ever been involved in.

Playing in white, as opposed to the final when they would be sporting red, England started confidently and claimed the lead on the half-hour mark.

Left-back Ray Wilson released Roger Hunt beyond the Portuguese defence, and while goalkeeper Jose Pereira left his line to make a successful challenge, the ball broke kindly for Charlton to slot home with his right instep.

The next 50 minutes were extremely tense, but despite the presence of Eusebio as Portugal’s key creative force, the English defence held firm.

Nobby Stiles was charged with the task of marking Eusebio, and the defensive midfielder performed superbly, tracking Eusebio’s runs and successfully supporting his back four. There had been calls for Stiles to be dropped in the build-up to the game, but Alf Ramsey stood firm and his faith was rewarded.

Even so, England needed a second goal to be able to breathe a little more easily, and it arrived with ten minutes left.

George Cohen floated a long ball towards Geoff Hurst, and the striker turned before rolling a slide-rule pass into Charlton’s path. The North-Easterner did not have to break stride to fashion a shot, and duly fired a trademark rising drive beyond Pereira.

The Northern Echo: England's Bobby Charlton (third l) celebrate scoring his, and his team's, second goal with teammates Roger Hunt (c) and Alan Ball (third r), to the dejection of Portugal's Alberto Festa (second r), Jose Pereira (r, on floor), Alexandre Baptist

There was a scare two minutes later, with Portugal pulling a goal back from the penalty spot after Jack Charlton used his arm to keep out a goal-bound header from Jose Torres. Had the offence occurred today, Charlton would almost certainly have been sent off and subsequently missed the final.

Eusebio dispatched the spot-kick, and with Portugal piling on some late pressure, George Banks made an excellent late save to deny Mario Coluna.

Charlton was hailed as the hero as England held on to set up a final against West Germany, but the former Manchester United midfielder ardently believes that Stiles’ defensive work was the key to England’s victory.

The Northern Echo: England's Bobby Charlton (sixth l) turns to celebrate scoring the opening goal as teammates Jack Charlton (l), Roger Hunt (third l), George Cohen (r) and Alan Ball (behind Cohen) acclaim the opener. The dejected Portugal players are Mario Coluna (seco

“Nobby Stiles was handed the job of containing the force and talent of a player who was moving towards the zenith of his powers,” said Charlton, in the recently-released book, 1966: My World Cup Story.

“Some said it was the finest game I ever played in an England shirt, but nobody needed to tell me that all my efforts would have come to nothing if Nobby hadn’t made himself the embodiment of our determination. He kept safe all our ambition and the hopes of all his countrymen.”

England: Banks, Cohen, J Charlton, Moore, Wilson, Ball, Stiles, B Charlton, Peters, Hurst, Hunt.


England 1 West Germany 1

(West Germany won 4-3 on penalties)

England’s most recent World Cup semi-final appearance came 28 years ago, and pitted them against the might of West Germany, finalists in the two previous tournaments.

Bobby Robson’s side booked their last four place with a dramatic quarter-final win over Cameroon, and while they started in Turin’s Stadio delle Alpi as underdogs, they matched their opponents stride for stride in a game that is widely regarded as one of the most dramatic in World Cup history.

There was little to choose between the teams in the first half, with Paul Gascoigne driving England on from the heart of midfield and his opposite number, Lothar Matthaus, proving similarly influential for West Germany.

Gascoigne fashioned England’s best first-half chance, drilling a shot straight at German goalkeeper Bodo Ilgner, and with Chris Waddle also causing problems down the left-hand side, the second half began with Robson’s team on top.

Things changed in the 59th minute, though, as England fell behind in extremely unfortunate circumstances. Andreas Brehme’s free-kick took a huge deflection off Paul Parker, and the ball looped over a back-pedalling Peter Shilton before nestling in the net.

The Northern Echo: DESPAIRING DIVE: Peter Shilton can't keep out Andreas Brehme's free-kick after it took a huge deflection off defender Paul Parker

England needed inspiration from somewhere, and it came via Lineker, who had also scored two goals against Cameroon. Parker picked out the striker with a cross from the right, and after cushioning the ball on his thigh, Lineker spun away from Thomas Berthold and Klaus Augenthaler to drill a left-footed finish past Ilgner.

The Northern Echo: SWEEPING HOME: Gary Lineker scores England's 80th-minute equaliser in their 1-1 draw with West Germany

There was plenty more drama in extra-time, with Gascoigne picking up a booking that would have ruled him out of the final had England progressed. Lineker turned to the bench, sensing the Newcastle-born midfielder was struggling to contain his emotions, and Gascoigne famously ended the evening in tears.

The Northern Echo: YELLOW CARD: Paul Gascoigne pleads for leniency - but the midfielder would be booked for his foul on Thomas Berthold

Jurgen Klinsmann missed two glorious extra-time chances for West Germany, but England also had their chances to settle things before spot-kicks. Waddle hit the post, and was also fouled in an incident that could easily have led to a penalty.

This was to be England’s first penalty shoot-out in a major competition, and things started well enough with Lineker, Beardsley and David Platt all scoring.

West Germany also scored their first three penalties though, and the evening turned when Pearce aimed his spot-kick too close to Ilgner.

Olaf Thon scored West Germany’s fourth penalty, and England’s hopes were dashed when Waddle blazed his spot-kick miles over the crossbar.

“That semi-final was the best match of the World Cup,” remembers Brehme, who scored his side’s first penalty. “It was a fantastic match involving two great teams – it was the final before the final. For 120 minutes, the game went one way and then the other.

“England had an exceptional group with Gary Lineker, Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoigne. Paul was a great player, the same as when I played against him (for Lazio). He had everything – he could win the ball, he struck the ball well, he could beat his opponent in a one-on-one. Technically he was strong, and tactically too.”

England: Shilton, Parker, Walker, Butcher (Steven 70), Wright, Pearce, Beardsley, Platt, Gascoigne, Waddle, Lineker.