Two days ago it was the 28th anniversary of the last World Cup match between England and Belgium. The Renato Dall'Ara stadium was the setting where Peter Shilton, Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker, among others, faced off against the selection of Michel Preudhomme and Enzo Scifo. The performance of the red devils in Mexico '86 and the victories against South Korea and Uruguay in the group stage were more than enough reasons to believe in victory. The good Belgian sensations contrasted with the rarefied atmosphere in the Anglo-Saxon team. From England, the press launched a campaign against their coach, a performance that the good Bobby Robson silenced based on victories.
There was much more at stake in Bologna than there is today in Kaliningrad. The protagonists were aware that the details would become valuable, a fact that was noted from the beginning of the meeting. The shot at the post by Ceulemans, captain of the Belgian team, preceded a poorly disallowed goal for the Three Lions. Paul Gascoigne combined with Gary Lineker, who saw John Barnes unmarked and served up a measured cross. The English attacker volleyed the ball into the net, but the goal did not go up on the scoreboard. The referee pointed out a non-existent offside in the auction, since Michel De Wolf enabled the iconic Liverpool player John Barnes.
In the seventieth minute of the game, David Platt entered the pitch. The 23-year-old midfielder had a great campaign at Aston Villa and was one of Bobby Robson's regular replacements. Despite trying, he would not be able to change the dynamics of the match until minute 120. Paul Gascoigne was driving the ball in order to avoid the agonizing penalty shootout when he was brought down by a Belgian defender. The referee decreed the foul. It all came down to that shipment. "Gazza" hung a ball looking for something different to happen after two hours of equality. In that instant, a supporting actor became a leading man. The ball passed the defense and fell to the right leg of David Platt, who connected an unstoppable volley, even for Preudhomme. That attentive and worried look of Bobby Robson turned into satisfaction and joy. Euphoria gripped every Englishman at that moment, and rightly so. There was no time for more. England was in the quarter-finals.
A long time has passed since that June 26, but the situation can be extrapolated to the current one. When both teams know each other so well on an individual level and the talents are matched up to the point of canceling each other out, the protagonists can be totally unexpected. The recent history of the world championships shows that there are always supporting actors performing Oscar-worthy works. Mario Götze in Brazil, Asamoah Gyan in 2010 or Fabio Grosso in Germany 2006 are good examples of this. With both teams qualified, Kaliningrad is the best setting for players to submit their candidacies.
Starting at 8:00 p.m., we will see a Belgian team that has an undeniable Anglo-Saxon touch. This stems from two factors: the presence of Roberto Martínez on the bench and the fact that many of his great players compete in the Premier League. Given this fairness, the red devils can stand out figures like Axel Witsel or Michy Batshuayi, who is surely from the game. On the English side, both Loftus-Cheek and Jamie Vardy occupy that secondary role. Both have sufficient credentials to star in a memorable chapter in the history of the World Cups. Soccer coincidences, since 1990 England has not carried out a great feat in a World Cup. If the Southgate team achieves a similar feat, David Platt will smile as he smiled on June 26, 1990.
Written by Mario Tena
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