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1986 - Robson's men wake from slumber

The 1982 World Cup marked the end of an era for Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking as well as for manager Ron Greenwood, who was replaced by Alf Ramsey's prodigy Bobby Robson, another Ipswich manager.

Robson reluctantly left the East Anglian club, with whom he won the UEFA Cup in 1981, to take the England job - and, not unlike Ramsey, received a barrage of abuse from the tabloid press after failing to qualify for the 1984 European Championships.

However, he had much more luck on the World Cup stage and guided England to both the 1986 and 1990 finals. On the way to the first of those tournaments, Mexico '86, Bryan Robson comfirmed his importance to the England team when he hit a hat-trick as Turkey were demolished 8-0.

'Captain Marvel' also scored in the return leg against Turkey at Wembley and netted one against Finland as England topped their qualifying group unbeaten ahead of Northern Ireland.

But as the tournament came around, he picked up an injury and had to play in a shoulder harness. It was a big blow for England, who were drawn in Group F with African qualifiers Morocco, Poland and Portugal.

The opening matches of the World Cup group were far from exciting, with Monterrey locals dubbing them 'The group of the sleeping' following a series of low-scoring encounters.

England's first game against Portugal ended with a 1-0 shock defeat for Robson's men when Carlos Manuel caught out a flat-footed defence and slotted the ball past Peter Shilton.

It was obvious after the first game that midfielder Robson was struggling, and Aston Villa's Steve Hodge replaced him after 60 minutes. Robson's former team-mate Ray Wilkins, then of AC Milan, was also having a hard time and seemed to have forgotten how to attack.

Yet England had qualified well - so despite a lack of form, the manager persevered with the players who had got them to the finals, disregarding calls for a change of line-up.

Wilkins and Robson were back in midfield for England's next match against Morocco, which finished in a drab 0-0 draw. Robson had been taken off injured after a typically marauding performance during which he dislocated his already injured shoulder and Wilkins had been sent off.

Lost one, drawn one, with the captain out injured and his midfield partner banned for the next match. But what looked like disaster actually turned out to be the turning point of England's campaign.

With changes forced upon him, boss Robson replaced his missing duo with Steve Hodge and Everton's Trevor Steven. He dropped playmaker Chris Waddle for Peter Reid and swapped AC Milan striker Mark Hateley for Peter Beardsley, who partnered Gary Lineker in attack.

Tottenham's Glenn Hoddle was the only survivor in England's midfield and the new line-up had to beat Poland - the toughest opponent in the group - to be sure of progressing to the next phase.

The new formation clicked, and after only eight minutes Everton's Lineker ended his goal drought, going on to complete a 35-minute hat-trick in an impressive first-half display. England had secured a 3-1 triumph, sealing progress to the next stage behind surprise group winners Morocco.

The increased number of teams in the tournament meant an extra knock-out round before the quarter-finals, and England drew group B runners-up Paraguay.

Robson's team had hit form, with Lineker the dangerman. He was playing off the back of a 40-goal season for Everton that had earned him the Player of the Year accolade. The Golden Boot was also to come his way.

In the heat of Mexico City, the Paraguay defenders couldn't handle Lineker and Beardsley, and in the 32nd minute Lineker put England 1-0 up.

In the second half, Beardsley netted past goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez to make it 2-0 and Lineker got his second of the game to give England an excellent 3-0 victory.

The result earned them a quarter-final against favourites Argentina and their talismanic superstar Diego Maradona. But nobody could have foreseen the controversy Maradona was to cause in the sides' clash at the Azteca Stadium.

After a goalless first half, the game was finely balanced. The turning point came when England defender Steve Hodge attempted a pass back to Shilton.

His looping ball back was a bit too short and, as Shilton ran out to punch it clear, Maradona leapt with the goalkeeper - and punched the ball over him into the open goal.

With England ready to take the free-kick, the ref pointed to the centre spot - the goal stood. And then, five minutes later, Maradona scored possibly the greatest goal in World Cup history to make it 2-0.

He took the ball from his own half, dancing and twisting through the English defence, rode several challenges and slotted the ball home past a sprawling Shilton with an exquisite finish.

But England were not finished, and Robson introduced John Barnes, in the 76th minute to make something happen. The Watford winger did just that, providing an 81st minute cross for Lineker to head home and give England a lifeline.

Barnes continued his exploits down the left and provided an almost identical cross for Lineker, but this time his point-blank header somehow glanced wide. England were out.

  • If you have any thoughts you can email Dominic Raynor.
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