Chapter 20: An Englishman, A Scotsman And An Irishman Go To The World Cup...
  • Chapter 20
    An Englishman, A Scotsman And An Irishman Go To The World Cup...

    The 14th of June had arrived and with it so too were the Quarter finals for the 1970 World Cup. For this, all four games would start at the same time and both the BBC and ITV for British viewers would broadcast both games involving the Home Nations though it would be said that many British eyes and even perhaps the rest of the world were casting their eyes over to the game between Scotland and England in which the two old rivals had been brought together for what looked to be an epic rematch and that match itself would be shown live on ITV (or on STV for Scottish viewers). For the other Home Nation there, Northern Ireland would take on Uruguay which would be shown on the BBC but sadly, they barely got a noticing from the rest of the British press as it was quite obvious nearly everyone wanting to cover that other certain game. Still, there was the Northern Irish press team there along with a few hundred Northern Ireland fans among the small twenty-six thousand supporters in the stadium proudly wearing green and white while waving their Hand of Ulster or Union Jack flags in one corner of the stadium with even a banner being raised saying 'Are you watching Dublin?' which is an obvious dig at their southern neighbours. However the rest of the stadium is filled quite a number of the supporters in the ground are either curious Mexican locals or the vast majority being that of Uruguayan fans who have all made the trip north in the hope that they can repeat their own heroic shocks of 1950.

    As the teams emerge from the tunnel, they are stunned to see the vast Estadio Azteca looking quite empty, barely a quarter full to put it midly. It's strange that there is hardly anyone here though it's more likely that most of the locals are watching Mexico's game with Italy over in Toluca. Still, a game has to be played and the Dutch referee blows his whistle to start the game. As the teams start playing, it is an interesting thing to note that two of the smallest countries left in this World Cup are playing against each other and it will guarantee that no matter whoever wins, a nation with less than five million people will be in the last four. Nonetheless, Northern Ireland nearly get off to a perfect start with just two minutes play when George Best sends the ball towards Dougan in the penalty box who fires the ball towards the goal, only for it to meet the hands of Ladislao Mazurkiewicz and keep the game goalless. As typical with this World Cup, this game along with the other games have all kicked off at noon due for television viewers in Europe but it means playing in the baking hot Mexican heat which is never good for anyone and Northern Irish manager Billy Bingham knows this as he tries to keep cool in the shade while all he can do is watch his team to try play Uruguay.

    Bingham knows that South American teams play very different to European sides and he expected this Uruguay side to be no different, yet he didn't expect them to be quite physical as they started performing many bad tackles on the Northern Irish team in the thirteenth minute, Atilio Ancheta brings down George Best that looks like it almost breaks his legs and leads to many angry Northern Ireland players to confront the defender and the referee has to step in to ease tensions; it has also become clear that the Uruguayans have marked Best and in doing so to make sure he can't cause damage decide to inflict damage on Best in perhaps the worst way possible. Thankfully for Northern Irish viewers, Best gets back up on his feet and Ancheta, who has been given a yellow card by the referee for that moment, glares at his attacker and gets back into the game. From a free kick Northern Ireland are awarded which ultimately comes to nothing, the game carries on and it does become quite brutal with bad tackles taking place with neither side getting nowhere near a goal and the referee trying desperately to keep the game flowing. So much so that during that first half, Northern Ireland goalkeeper Pat Jennings would later re call years later that he spent more time being a spectator to near brawls on the field rather than someone trying to get a shot on target. The humid conditions are likely a factor to this and as the Ulstermen try to play the game, few of them have any thoughts about how the other game is getting on...


    Jennings (left) and Best (centre) talking over things with manager Bingham (right) sometime during the 1970 World Cup

    To the surprise of perhaps no one, very few in mainland Britain took any interest in that game as the overwhelming majority of British viewers tuned into ITV to watch the big Quarter-Final encounter between Scotland and England. Other than the fact it was not only another big game between the two oldest footballing nations in the world or that it was a rematch of the final four years ago or even the fact that it would be the first to be played in the Americas, it had more importance that it would be between the World and European Champions which gave build up to it a unique edge like no other game prior had done. Alf Ramsay and Bobby Brown, now both knighted as 'Sir', both famously said in a pre-match interview to the press that no longer did either side see the other as inferior but as a worthy equal that either wanted to beat. Truly, it was Champion vs. Champion, mouth watering for the press no less. That all said, some cynics feared that it might be something of an anti-climax as the last game between the two sides was only back in April in the British Home Championship where they played out a dull 0-0 draw at Hampden with many finding it not good enough for if either of these two sides were to go all the way if they played like that. However even before a ball was kicked, there was good news for the Scots and bad news for the English in which England goalkeeper Gordon Banks wouldn't be playing in goals due to apparent food poisoning and that the backup keeper, Peter Bonetti, would play in goals. That said Brown had warned his players not to think that Banks being out would make things any easy for them as there were ten other English players on the pitch too...

    With an estimated twenty-eight million people in the UK alone tuning it to watch the game live, it would also be remembered by a certain generation of the first England/Scotland game to be broadcast in colour for the first time were the white shirts and navy shorts of England and the blue shirts and white shorts of Scotland were now clear to make out and the very image of them lining up in the hot afternoon Mexican sun made for quite a surreal image that so far removed from either Wembley or Hampden. However many would think that this was the first game between the two to be played in colour though it turns out that this a classic Mandela effect as funnily enough the Home International game between the two was the first to be broadcast in colour. With that all said from the moment the two sides walked out onto the pitch and into the blazing Mexican summer sun, there was a serious edge in the air as whoever won this game would surely have a good chance of playing in the final and maybe going on to win the World Cup.

    The stadium in the Estadio Nou Camp in León is filled to the brim with over twenty-three thousand curious locals who are all willing to see the oldest International football teams in the world take place in their city and of a small number of England and Scotland fans who've made the long journey out to Mexico. The game kicks off and right from the get-go, it proves to be a thrilling game with it being quite an open game and the spectators' heads going from left to right like a tennis match and it seems only a matter time until one side opens the scoring and in the twenty-first minute, Gemmell brings down Edwards just outside the penalty box and England are awarded a free kick. Many bodies are gathered in the box and despite some of his teammates motioning to the England captain to cross it to them, he focussing on Cruickshank's goal and finds an opportunity. The referee blows his whistle and Edwards kicks the ball over the Scottish wall and right past the arms of the poor Scotland keeper to slam the ball into the back of the net and put England a goal up so soon. There is great excitement from the handful of England supporters in the ground who are glad to get the early goal while their Scottish counterparts can only look on with dismay of being sucker punched by a fabulously free kick. They now know they have to come out and fight but it does look to be a tall order...


    England fans making themselves heard during the Quarter-Final with Scotland

    England start to outplay the Scots, the heat clearly getting to the latter, and even in the early moments of this match, it seems that England have this game already in the bag and no sooner than that opening goal in the twenty-ninth minute, England nearly get a second with Allan Mullery outwitting Cruickshank, only for the ball to just narrowly go over the bar. From the bench, Bobby Brown has his arms crossed and can only shake his head at how poor they are playing, with all the talk of Banks having food poising, he has to wonder if his own team have gotten a nasty bug of some kind. It is painful viewing for Scotland fans and joy for England fans which Ramsay feels satisfied as there was a great deal of criticism over his team not being all that good, no doubt victory here would shut them up. That all said just after the half hour mark, Scotland do find themselves back into the game with Bobby Lennox finding himself in a good position in the thirty-third minute when he fired a rocket at goal but it was down to Bonetti who got a hand to it to deny a Scottish equaliser.

    The strange things is that Scotland actually begin to start to control the game and end up looking more like the team that are going to score yet despite England looking ropey, the Scots can't find a way and it is with great relief for those watching south of the border and those in the north some annoyance that the first half ends with England leading 1-0 though are quite lucky to hold onto it still. When the teams walk off the pitch some wonder what will happen next; some think England will hold on to this result and add to it, others think Scotland will score and go on to win themselves, but very few that day will know just what madness was to follow in that stadium...

    Meanwhile in the capital city just as that game was nearing the end of it's first half, so too was Northern Ireland's game with Uruguay. After forty minutes, it is still goalless and the small crowd are voicing their anger at wanting to see goals being scored. Then in the forty-third minute, Pat Jennings for perhaps the first time during that whole game is called into action when Julio Morales fires in a great ball, only for Jennings to dive to the left to keep it out as the South Americans are awarded a corner kick. When the ball flies into the box, Morales nearly scores again with a header and like before, Jennings comes in to keep the game scoreless. The first half is then over and the two teams go off the pitch with some of the players exchanging dirty looks with each other over the dangerous play that has been taking place, in some ways it could be said that a powdered keg is waiting to blow off at this rate. Bingham knows that they have to break the deadlock somehow.

    Following a half time team talk and hearing what the score was in the England/Scotland game was at this moment in time, they returned to the pitch with some renewed hope that they could win this with the score still firmly deadlocked. This time the Ulstermen start playing a more silky South American style of football with George Best showing how it's done (then again, he has been doing this on football fields in England that are more like mud baths than pitches) and bizarrely enough, Uruguay start playing a more physical British style of play which makes the game look really strange for some. Both sides go near throughout the game for the opening goal, but sadly none are successful and up in the commentary box many of them are struggling to try and make the game more interesting, amusingly though the only bit of entertainment comes from the motley group of Northern Ireland fans singing in one corner of the ground with some lewd lyrics that BBC commentator Alan Weeks apologises to the viewers for some 'industrial language.' Surely something has to happen soon or this game might be about to head into Extra-time and with more of this heat, who would want that?

    The players return to the sun-drenched pitch with some of the players thankful to get some cool shade while both supporters in the stands can be seen enjoying their ice cream and using fans trying to keep cool. The second half then begins with Scotland now fighting with renewed belief that they can do this and clearly England are starting to look rattled early on this second half and surely it is only a matter of time until Scotland get what they deserve. Then in the forty-eighth minute of the game, it does happen. Denis Law takes the ball up the field before back passing it towards Tommy McLean who takes the ball and looks out for Bobby Lennox motioning him to cross the ball up to him, in which the Kilmarnock player duly applies. Moore tries to stop the ball landing at the foot of the Celtic striker, only for Lennox to leap into the air and header a downwards header that Bonetti has no chance to grab and thus Scotland are back in the game.

    Lennox celebrates with his teammates and Busby applauds his team's great fighting spirit to come back an he looks over to see Ramsay shaking his head and then starts talking with his assistant coach, no doubt talking about who to take off and who to come on thanks to the new substitute rule in place. There is a further moment of drama in the fifty-first minute when Moore makes a wonderful tackle that he used in the Brazil game which he snaps the ball off the feet of O'Hare and the Derby County player is caught completely unaware of what has happened and Moore passes the ball towards Mullery only for him and Stanton to make a collision into each other. It is a clear accident in which no one is at fault, but both players try to argue with the referee over who they think was to blame, instead the Argentine referee is having nothing of their lip and decides to book both players, much the annoyance of both teams, their managers and the fans all shaking their heads at such a stupid act.

    Nonetheless, the game quickly restarts and just five minutes later from that incident, Law takes the ball from the half way mark and goes on a run like a man possessed to win and no English player can't seem to stop him with him dodging them with such skill and the closer he finds himself near the penalty box, many in the stadium start to rise with them all thinking that another goal is coming. The moment just as he is right outside the box, he strikes the ball towards the right of the net and there like with that first Scottish goal, there is no chance of Bonetti catching that and Law's screamer sends Scotland 2-1 after coming from behind to stun the World Champions. It is truly a wonderful goal and ITV commentator Hugh Johns would say during the aftermath of the goal was, "Truly you have to say that is magnificent! Denis Law has struck a sword through English hearts everywhere!" Also unknown to the players that somewhere in Argentina, a young boy watches that moment on television and declares that he would like to try that run someday...


    Scotland fans celebrate taking the lead against England
    One has to wonder how the reaction back home in Scotland was like as probably everyone is celebrating like they've won it as England try to desperately find a way to get back into the tie, however there is still a long way to go yet and next up would be a moment that that point out the madness that this game was to descend into. In perhaps one of the most bizarre and more painful moments of the World Cup, Martin Peters, in the sixty-seventh minute tries to get his head onto a cross by Alan Ball and Cruickshank keeps his eye on the ball the whole time as he rushes to his left not looking where he is going. He gets a hand to knock the ball over the ball but as a consequence of not looking where he is running into it, he slams into the goalpost and falls to his side, completely knocked out cold. Pretty much everyone in the stadium grows quiet, fearing something bad has happened after a few seconds of him not getting up. Peters fears something bad has happened and motions for attention to come his way.

    Thankfully, the Scottish medic team is on their way and try help the unfortunate Scottish keeper who is still out cold. For about a minute they try to bring him back and even the English medic team in a moment of panic run out towards their Scottish counterparts to try and help out. By now both sets of players are surrounding the stricken keeper fearing the worse has happened, however there is a great cheer and applause around the stadium when Cruickshank does slowly rise up while sitting down clutching his head looking dazed but nonetheless alive. That all said he is clearly not looking good to carry on playing so without any choice, Bobby Brown turns towards Bobby Clark, the Aberdeen and backup Scottish keeper and tells him to go on. With England's Gordon Banks not playing in this game, the match itself would be forever known as a tale of two keepers with both backup keepers having to play in this match.

    Cruickshank is helped off the pitch as Clark rushes on to go in goals as now he is suddenly placed into a corner kick situation. The kick takes place in the seventieth minute with Edwards taking it, the ball crosses into the box and much to the horror of the Scots, England score thanks to a header by Peters with the score now at 2-2 and all square once again. Regardless of what's happened, no one will be asking for their money back in terms of sheer drama and goal scoring taking place. Also just a minute later after that goal, Charlton goes off and Colin Bell goes on but that doesn't mean both sides have everything to play for. In the seventy-sixth minute, Edwards nearly strikes home a wonderful volley that Clark makes a bumbling save that he nearly drops, thankfully he doesn't make a fool of himself there, though nerves are looking to starting to show for the Aberdeen keeper and he with many others will have likely forgot about the other match taking place...


    Scotland keeper Jim Cruickshank before his injury during the game

    In the other game with Northern Ireland, the game is still 0-0 though that doesn't tell half of the story in which the game itself has been quite a rough affair in which both sides can't seem to get a lucky break. That is until the seventy-fourth minute in which John Cowan was brought down and it was once again that man, Ancheta, who strikes again and brings the Northern Irish midfielder down with many of his teammates all crying foul to the referee. Thankfully for them, the referee agrees and he runs up to Ancheta to show another yellow card and with brings out a red card to send him off. The Irish supporters can be barely heard cheering this action as the Uruguayan teammates try and hopelessly fail to make the referee to reverse the sending off, however the choice is final and Ancheta makes the walk of shame as he leaves the field and leaving his teammates a man down but thankfully not losing any goals just yet. Even after this, Uruguay players are still furious with what is happening and it takes another two minutes before things have calmed down, though like with many things, the heat is getting to everyone.

    Surely now with their opponents being a man down, the Ulstermen have the advantage and they begin to try and prove this but showing the weak defensive flanks that the South Americans have. Towards the end of the first second half, it's clear that this game is Northern Ireland's to lose now and right up into the eighty-third minute of the game, George Best decides to end this game for good and with him dancing around the left side of the Uruguayan penalty box, he gets around several defenders before he lobs the ball right towards the right hand corner of the net, scoring yet another wonderful goal that rivals that goal with Mexico but more importantly, it is a goal that puts Northern Ireland 1-0 up in the dying moments of the game and he is surrounded by his teammates who know they are so close to the last four if they can just hang on.

    Uruguay, shocked and angered by how things are looking dire, now desperately try to get a goal back but now all the Northern Irish players pull back to 'park the bus' as to make sure that their losing opponents have no chance to get back in this game. They try and try but it's no avail and after a pretty stuffy and defensive minded performance from Northern Ireland, the final whistle blows and great celebrations follow as little Northern Ireland have won this Quarter-Final and are in the Semis for the first time since 1958 and across the small yet troubled country, it is a moment that all can celebrate together. As the celebration on the pitch carries on, Bingham then comes out from the dugout to congratulate his players, but instead they grab him and host into the air and begin to walk around the pitch with him on their shoulders. It is a truly great moment and while this game might not be getting not that much noticed unlike their larger neighbours, it feels like there is something that this Northern Ireland team can do. The question now is who will they face and could the great George Best win a World Cup on his own?


    Northern Ireland players celebrate after their victory over

    During the time in which Northern Ireland was closing in to victory, things were hanging in the balance between England and Scotland when the game rolled into the last ten minutes. Nothing seems to happen for the most part up until the eighty-third minute, Bobby Brown makes a change when he brings on Jimmy Johnstone for Denis Law, whom the latter is not at all pleased of going off as he feels he's been doing all the hard work for Scotland during this game. Both teams are scared of losing to a last minute goal from somewhere and start playing without any of the fury that they had earlier. Speaking of substitutions, Norman Hunter goes on for Peters in the eighty-fifth minute as both managers start to feel like Extra-time is looming and it no one wants to screw up at this point. That is until right of the death when Scotland's O'Hare finds himself in a good position and looks like he'll score a dramatic goal, but Moore is just in the right place at the right time as he just manages to deflect out O'Hare's goal out for a corner kick and the Derby County player can only put his hands on his head in disbelieve how close he was for scoring and becoming the hero for his country.

    With that the game finishes at 2-2 and now the game will be played for a further thirty minutes and curiously the first time that this two old rivals will play Extra-Time together. As much as it has been a great advert for British football, it has been nerve shredding for fans on both sides and there is still a lot more to play which is not quite perhaps what those with strong anxiety watching this game will want. The two managers start giving their players new tactics on how to finish this game off and before anyone knows it, extra time begins. In the ninety sixth minute, Edwards makes a fabulous run at it and fires it past Clark and thinks he has scored, however his joy is quickly gone when the referee strangely chalks it off, leading to much booing from the England fans in the ground thinking it was a clear goal. Then to make matters worse for England in the hundred and eighth minute, Johnstone makes a great move around the English defence and hammers home the ball to put Scotland 3-2 up, GOAL!

    The game has become an utter madhouse with the pressure and heat making both teams open and in this case, England's defence crumbles and the fear that not only England might on the way out but also is the added fear that the team to knock them out might be none other than the Scots is one to cause terror in their hearts. Following that goal, the game becomes quite bad tempered with both sets of players becoming more agitated, no doubt thanks to the blistering hot sun and the referee looks to be on the verge of losing control of the game and it not be that of a surprise if this match was to end into an all out brawl between both teams. England though seem to find inspiration from someway as if someone has lit a fire up their backsides as they go hunting for a goal to draw level but despite their efforts, Scotland hold firm and before they know it, the first fifteen minutes of extra time are up with Sir Alf Ramsay knowing he just has another fifteen minutes to go to keep a hold of their World Cup. He knows he can't let those Scots ruin everything for him, after that defeat at Wembley three years ago, he won't give up so easily.


    Charlton during the game with Scotland

    The second part of extra time begins with both teams all watered down in mostly their own sweat and both are out to find the goal that might have huge implications for the game as a whole, if Scotland score then they are surely through, if England do then the game turns on it's head once again. Jock Stein, sitting next to a stoned face Bobby Brown, is sitting down on the bench with his hands over his mouth feeling the strain as what is happening, it is a game not for the weak of heart giving how much this game would give anyone a heart attack, God knows how millions back home are feeling, most likely the hospital attendance has spiked because of this game. Then in the hundred and seventeenth minute it all happens. Duncan Edwards is seen making great passing towards Francis Lee and then with the knowledge that time is against England, he sends the ball up towards Colin Bell who utterly slams the ball into the right side of the goal with Clark making a dive for it. It looks like he'll save it, but the ball just narrowly rolls under him and all he and his teammates can only do is watch the ball go in for a goal that brings England back to 3-3 to add more drama to this game of utter shear insanity. Clark slams his fist to the ground in anger that it was such bad luck and for the joyful English supporters, more to add to their list of Scottish goalkeeping blunders they always have a habit of taking great delight in.

    It is true madness out there with the game clearly becoming the one everyone will remember from this World Cup and England now have their tails up with them going in for the kill for their fans yelling 'Attack! Attack! Attack!' while Scotland are looking more like the team on the ropes and nothing like the team that was so close to winning the game earlier. England keep pressing and in the the final minute of the game, England's efforts are awarded with a corner kick with even Bonetti running up from the goals to help with what will surely be the last moment of the game. Edwards takes a deep breath as he feels his heart is hammering against his chest as he prepares to take the corner, this has to be it he must be thinking as he looks into the face of the Scottish players all hanging around the penalty box looking weary about how the game has panned out. The whistle blows and he kicks it towards the box, Scotland fans can only hope the ball is kicked away but the ball lands right into the box with a mad scramble of players trying to get on it and Bell nearly strikes the ball home but Clark knocks it away...but in his horror, into an incoming Mullery who with perhaps the easiest effort he is ever going to get just taps the ball in...

    GOOAAALLL!!! 4-3 to England!!! Scenes of utter bedlam follow with the Mullery get piled up on by his players and their supporters in the ground can be seen celebrating like wild, the same with millions across England, and even the local Mexican crowd can't help but join in with the celebrations for witnessing perhaps the craziest game of football anyone has seen, only downside was that it was not the final. That said in all these scenes of jubilation, not everyone is happy as the distraught Scottish supporters simply don't know what to do and the players who felt like they have all been given the biggest sucker punch of all are all lying on the ground absolutely heartbroken at what has happened in the dying moments of the match. Scotland captain John Greig tries to get the players back on their feet for any small but hopeless chance of hope they might have even in the dying embers of the game. Most however can't do it for the fact they have lost it right at the death and most sympathy goes for Clark who has face buried into the grass feeling like he has brought shame for himself and his country. However his teammates console him just for the last push and the nearly inconsolable keeper gingerly has to move back into his position.

    Sadly for Scotland, any hopes of a fruitless comeback is short-lived as the referee blows his whistle for full time and England are through to the Semi-Finals in the most dramatic of fashion. It has been a true champions game with all the drama and excitement that some where hoping for with it later going down as the greatest England/Scotland match ever while also being labelled as the 'Match of the Century' by most outside of Britain whom the latter had boasted the 1966 final was the match of the century though even they would have to say this game possibly topped that. Sir Bobby Brown himself is heartbroken, but Ramsay comes over to shake his hand and congratulate him on the game.


    Johnstone leaves the field with the rest of the team after their heart-breaking 4-3 loss in the Quarter final to England
    "Well done dear chap," Ramsay consoles Brown. "A bloody good game that was, gave us a huge scare there. I'm sure at this rate, Scotland will be World Champions within the next decade I'm sure."

    "A-Aye," Brown croaks, his voice filled with emotion. "Good luck for the rest of the tournament."

    Ramsay then allows Brown to leave to comfort his players while Ramsay heads over to his jubilant England players. That all said as he looks over to the losing team, he can't help but feel sorry for his Scottish counterpart to lose in such a heart-breaking way but knows that pressure is still on his players to go all the way and that they have answered most critics of what some think of his team. Brown and Jock Stein on the other hand can only look back at the Scottish supporters in one part of the ground holding their scarfs up and playing a bittersweet rendition of 'Flower of Scotland'. The sad truth is that Scotland are out of the 1970 World Cup and though he or anyone else doesn't it know it then, this is to be his last time as Scotland manager and the question of what happens next will remain to be seen.

    Though with one British team out, two more are still in with a fighting chance...

    ...And breath. Yes, this is pretty much OTL's West Germany vs Italy game but given to England and Scotland here to the match of the century here. Once again I hope you enjoyed this update and don't forget about NI here doing their part and as always, here is the last four as they stand:
    Northern Ireland vs Brazil

    Italy vs England
    You know the routine of who will win and why, plus I'm taking requests for this TL for anything football related or even outside of football here E.G trains in the UK, to get a mention here as I like to give something back to the small number of fans who enjoy reading this TL. Until then, catch you all later for the last four!
    Chapter 21: When Best Met Pelé
  • Chapter 21
    When Best Met Pelé

    After their dramatic victory over the Scots, England were awarded a place in the Semi-finals where they would take on Italy while on the same day and very same time, Northern Ireland had the unenviable task of taking on this mighty Brazil team who pretty much everyone was already writing down as the ones who were going to win not only that game but the whole tournament outright. That all said there was something interesting about the latter Semi-Final in which was a main talking point in the build up which was simply that this game would see Pelé taking on George Best. It was pure box office by just the mere sound of it; the two best footballers at this World Cup and perhaps in all of the world were about to face of each other in what was hoping to be an exciting game and no one needed to be reminded of how this game was such a David vs Goliath story. When the Northern Ireland team walked out onto the sun kissed pitch alongside the Brazilian team in the Estadio Jalisco stadium in Guadalajara, the largely Mexican crowd had clearly made their support for that of the Brazilians and the Northern Irish players could just make in one corner of the ground were a small number of two hundred motley Northern Ireland fans were trying all they could to make themselves heard with no doubt pretty much all of Northern Ireland would be watching the game live on ITV (England's game would be broadcast live at the same time on the BBC which meant the only thing the average British viewer was going to get that day on June 17th was nothing but football).

    As the game began, the men dressed in green and white knew that this, other than their last Semi-Final in 1958, would be the biggest game in Irish footballing history and with the might this Brazilian team had along with the following they had received from the Mexicans, Northern Ireland were not just underdogs but maybe even said to be the underdog's underdog given how so much the odds were all stacked against them. They wouldn't have time to think on this thought as before they know it, the Spanish referee blows his whistle to start the game and right from the very start, the Seleção were tearing down on the Northern Irish flanks with it looking like that they would score at any moment without even five minutes played and in the second minute of the game, Jairzinho nearly does this to open the scoring but his shot is saved by the hands of Pat Jennings and the Northern Irish keeper knocks it out for a corner kick for Brazil which is taken but thankfully Northern Ireland manage to clear it. Any neutral watching this would no doubt be shaking their heads at just how the two sides looked so difference in their play in which the Brazilians were zipping the ball around like fun in the humid Mexican heat.

    It's by no means good to watch from a Northern Irish perspective but nonetheless manager Billy Bingham has told his players prior to the game to have pretty much hold every player back near their penalty box with the feeling that this Brazil team will do nothing but attack and only then should the men in green can break forward if they see a rare opportunity in the Brazilian defence. It might seem quite a ludicrous idea to play this deep and inviting so much pressure than looks like they'd be doomed to failure, however and much to everyone's amazement, the plucky Ulstermen defence is holding and no goals have been scored after ten minutes. So astonishing is this that after Jennings saves yet another attempt by Pelé in the tenth minute, some of the Mexican crowd who had been all for the Brazilians can't help but start to applaud the Northern Irish for their great underdog character they are showing in the face of impossible odds. Surely it can't be done...?


    When Best did meet Pelé though sometime after their meeting in 1970


    While Northern Ireland were in the middle of their battle with Brazil, England were locking horns with the Italians in the Estadio Azteca, a team that had been through a difficult period for not qualifying for the last Word Cup and losing the European championship final in their own backyard, all thanks to Scotland of all teams. As Ramsay watched the game with his team nearly taking the lead in the twelve minute thanks to a Hurst attempt on goal that is saved by Italian keeper Enrico Albertosi, he couldn't help but think but wonder if the Scots had gotten this far then it would've been quite likely that the Italians would be out for Scottish blood and the game could've been a riot. Ramsay had been wondering about that idea since yesterday if Scotland losing had been the right thing, though there was one thing he would thank the Scots for and that was effect of what they'd done to the Italians and that they weren't as strong as many thought they were despite the hot climate out here in Mexican was more suitable for the Italians. Another curious thing about this game was the kit England was wearing; it wasn't the usual white kit they'd wear but rather a unique and never before seen away kit being a yellow shirt and blue shorts. Why it was decided to use this kit no one will really know but it is a curious piece of English football history.

    With all that said by this point, England had pretty much the better team throughout this first half so far, clearly the Italians seem to lack a team of match winners and it would only be a matter of time until they scored; then again this perhaps wouldn't been so easy if the Italians had won in 1968 or qualified for the last World Cup so maybe the Scots had indivertibly helped? A bizarre thought but right now those sort of thoughts were not to be thinking about as there was a game to play. England seem to be doing fine, then in the fifteenth minute and from out of nowhere, Riva fires the ball past Bank's hands (now feeling better after his food poising scare which had ruled him out for the game with Scotland) and the England keeper looks back fearing the worse. But the ball just clears past the post and Riva has his hands on his head thinking that Italy had taken the lead, either way, England have been let off the hook here.

    Then just a minute later after Banks kicks the ball high up the field, Mullery get's himself on to it and passes the ball up the Edwards who see's Cera coming right at him, only for him to think fast and pass the ball downwards towards Charlton who strikes the ball home right into the back of the net. 1-0 to England and the small number of traveling England fans celebrate and can be seen waving their Union jacks along with the occasional St. George Cross flapping around the stand. Just the start Ramsay was hoping for and he's thoughts about the Italians might be about to be proven right though he knows that had Riva managed to score just before that goal then things would have looked very different for the defending World Champions.


    Italy and England captains Facchetti and Moore shake hands prior to the Semi-Final, note England wearing a rare away yellow kit
    For Italy, it is a hard one for them to stomach and with that opening goal they have let England score, the Azzurri then try to find a goal from somewhere to get back level but this England team now are able to hold off any Italian attack that seems to come their way and Ramsay's words of this being a better English side than the one that won the tournament back on home soil are starting to be proven right and one that the England manager hopes will convince the cynics and doubters about his selection in which despite the success he has brought for his nations, it seems that you just can't satisfy everyone which in this case is the English press. That being said though, it does seem that the game with Scotland has lifted a big weight off the English and they are playing like they have been freed from a ball and chain and playing like World Champions as what many of their supporters expect them to do. Lord knows the reaction if they had lost to the Scots in that Quarter-Final...

    What does seem more strange for anyone expecting the Italians to play with that flair they are known for and that everyone loves to see is that the teams seems just really average. Not that that is to take anything away from England's game it just seems rather strange to see Italy looking like they are under pressure from somewhere. Whatever the reason, all that does happen is that it seems to get all the more better for the Three Lions as in the twenty-seventh minute after end to end action, Duncan Edwards decides to volley with the ball that hurtles through the air, hit the crossbar, bounce downwards to the ground then goes upwards where it hits the roof the of the net and that stunning goal puts England 2-0 in front. A game that is going beyond perfect for the English though not without some bad scenes.

    Following that goal and with the Italians looking clearly out of it and with a mountain to climb, rather than try to double down on getting back into it, some of the Italian players decide to involved with that other bad view of the Italian game; play acting. The men in blue try to plead to the referee that the goal is offside but the referee orders them back to ready for the restart of the kick off and rather than try and change the game they end up looking like a bunch of bad tempered kids. Though none of the England players know it then, this game is far from over...

    Over in the other Semi-Final and much like with England, Brazil were by far the better side in this match with Northern Ireland. Though unlike England who had been able to break the deadlock, the Brazilians despite all their tremendous pressure have had no such like in which the plucky Northern Irish team had kept the score still at 0-0 after half an hour of the first half gone. Granted, the Northern Irish have had a (very) few number of chances to try and score themselves, thanks mostly to George Best and to a lesser degree, Dougan. Nonetheless, most of the chances were all coming from Brazil. In the thirty-second minute of the game, Craig Dave is given a yellow card by the referee and Brazil are awarded a free kick outside the penalty box. Thankfully for the Ulstermen, the attempt is saved by yet another by Jennings. The Tottenham keeper smiles as he gets up with the ball, there have been rumours surrounding him that big offers in Europe are on the cards for him to join some of the biggest clubs out there thanks to his performances throughout this World Cup that next to his fellow countrymen Best, have helped dragged the little nation this far.

    A minute later after the free kick, Jennings kicks the ball up the field where Cowan gets to it quickly before making a lightning fast pass towards Best who decides to take on the Brazilians himself as he plays their silky style of play that is unlike anything the men in green have played before. In fact, he plays that style so well that some would wonder if the Northern Irish team had snuck a Brazilian player in a green top and before anyone knows it, he strikes home a shot into the right-side that goes past the hands of Brazilian keeper Félix and in an aftermath moment that causes nearly over fifty thousand people in the Estadio Jalisco, along with millions more around the world to go silent in shock, little Northern Ireland have by all forms of logic a goal ahead against the mighty Brazil. Best is dogpiled by his teammates as they celebrate that goal and the small traveling supporters can't help themselves but wildly celebrate in the stands.

    Reportedly as many were watching back in Belfast, their were no criminal activity taking place as the game was being played and when Best scored, pretty much everyone came rushing outside pubs or their home to let out their unconfined joy showing how much this really meant for Northern Ireland as a whole. Despite Brazilian pressure and a very late attempt by Rivelino to try and pull one back, once again saved by grateful hands of Jennings, the game ends with the incredible fact that Northern Ireland are leading the Brazilians and if all goes to plan, they are just another forty five minutes from not only creating one of the greatest shocks in the history of the World Cup, but close to reaching the final. Some of the small number of Northern Irish fans who had a camera on them all start to take picture of the scoreboard that would famous in not only Irish football history, but British footballing history as the scoreboard would read the following...

    Brasil 0 - Irlanda del Norte 1
    When the team left the pitch the Northern Ireland couldn't help look up to see the reaction of all those Mexicans who were all just staring in shock that their chosen team they wanted to do well in this tournament was suddenly behind. But what really got them was when Billy Campbell told the rest of his countrymen to look up at where their fans where situated and whom were causing all the noise in this large stadium that was quiet like a library. Such was the gravity of the situation starting to sink in that for some of the fans couldn't help but be in tears as they, probably like the rest of anyone connected with Northern Ireland, couldn't believe what was happening and that their wee nation could actually get to the final. That said, there was a nervous embarrassment among some of the team as they entered their dressing room over that despite leading the game they had actually done hardly anything to justify being in from. Did they honestly deserve to be in front after how we'd played? The answer is probably not, but this was something special that none of them


    Northern Ireland fans during the first half of the Semi-final with Brazil

    The funniest thing about that game was the halftime team talk which all that happened was to have Billy Bingham look at them all silently as they were all seated for about a minute...then he burst out laughing which the rest in that dressing room joined in.

    "Christ above," Bingham chuckled in disbelief. "I don't know how ye've done it, but yer ahead in this bloody game! Tell me, are we aren't the real Brazil team in disguise, right?"

    Some of the players after this quietly made their way towards the outside of the Brazilian dressing room when they pressed their ears up against the door to hear their manager Mário Zagallo giving them harsh loud words in Portuguese and some couldn't help but laugh whenever they heard their manager say one of their names, most of the time it happened to be George Best which it didn't take much to put two and two together to realise that they were marking out Best for their plans in the second half.

    Eventually some member of the Mexican FA saw those players up against the door and quickly ordered them to get back to the Northern Irish dressing room, but nonetheless all of this had helped ease the tension for most of the players. That said, there was a feeling in the back of the mind of many of the players that this was all a little bit too good to be true as after the break, the players returned onto the field and into the blazing heat of the Mexican summer...

    At the same time as Northern Ireland and Brazil kicked off the second half, England and Italy would start their second half though for the latter is looked like an awful task to try and come back from 2-0 down. But then with this heat that could cause havoc with any team's defence then who knows what might happen? From the start however, England carry on playing good football and the Italians were clearly under pressure with some of their supporters in the ground getting on their backs fearing that it was all about to go wrong for them as they started to cry out much abuse at their players. England though kept pressing and nearly scored to make it 3-0 in the fifty-third minute by an attempt by Peters though has his shot saved and thus avoids more humiliation on the Italians. To their credit, the Italians have been giving England a fair bit of trouble on the left flank and Edwards is unable to try and stop them and the Italians nearly score thanks to Riva in the sixty-first minute who's attempt is saved by Banks.

    Some of the England fans in the stadium, already assuming victory is theirs, start singing 'God Save The Queen' and a little bit of 'Are You Watching Scotland?' However joy does come to the Italians in the sixty-eighth minute when Boninsegna finally scores for Italy thanks to a brilliant volley in which he wastes no time to grab the ball from the back of the net and rush back to the centre circle to get the game restarted quickly and the confident England fans in the ground start who were making all the noise all go silent and all start looking at each other with nervous looks. Another ten minutes go by and it becomes quite an open game with Italy making what seems to be a last big push to try and push for an equaliser and maybe even find a last minute winner.


    Some scenes during the Semi-Final between Italy and England

    There is great tension now in the stadium and Ramsay shows no emotion sitting on the bench with his arms crossed as the ball goes back and forward up the pitch and there is a big scare in the eighty-third minute thanks to an Italian corner when Riva has his head on the ball in which almost seems to go in, but in a moment that rivals his wonderful save against Brazil in the group stage, Gordon Banks somehow manages to keep it out with Riva and perhaps everyone else on the pitch stunned at what has happened and leads to a big 'What If' moment in Italian football history.

    Within the final few minutes, things do start to get ugly as though Italy now have a lifeline to pull back a dramatic equaliser, the Italian players for some reason start to play act at times with some strange 'injuries' falling down easily and even causing the referee to book some England players for these fouls even if most were hardly that deserving of a card. Whoever thought this idea to play act would though no doubt be happy as now the Italians were starting to get on top of England here and Sir Alf Ramsay could only look on and wonder if things are about to go wrong...

    In the other Semi-Final, the Brazilians came out quickly looking determined to avoid huge embarrassment and put these Irish upstarts in their place. The effect is immediate as within the first minute of the second half, Northern Ireland get off to the worst possible start when Jairzinho pulls off a great move past the Irish defence and finally becomes the first player in this game to finally to get the ball into Jennings' net and Brazil have got the goal they pretty much deserved. The Mexican crowd roar with approval as they make no secret of who they are wanting to win and some of the Northern Irish players can only shake their heads in dismay of giving away the goal so soon with the game already level.


    Jairzinho celebrates his equaliser for Brazil against Northern Ireland, right at the start of the second half

    As feared by some of the players, it was too good to be true and Northern Ireland now have to try and not to play deep as what they had been doing throughout the first half and now have to start moving players up the field more to try and be more adventurous in this second half. However this Brazil is clearly fired up and is doing all it can to not only take the lead, but win this game handsomely to really batter the underdogs into the group. Attempt after attempt goes by and all of them are from the players wearing yellow shirts and blue shorts. Even George Best looks powerless to do anything to help his country to regain the lead as the man marking the Brazilians have planned is working and It is clear who might be the winner in this game after all.

    Northern Ireland are utterly battered all over the pitch and tempers are starting to be frayed in which there is a total of five Northern Irish players are booked for some bad tackles on the Brazilians. Yet despite all the odds being against them, the men in green and white have somehow managed to the score level at 1-1 for nearly thirty minutes of the second half and it seemed like perhaps pulling of an upset was possible, though extremely difficult. However, it couldn't last forever as reality would hit the Northern Irish in the face as in the eighty-second and eighty-sixth minutes of the game, a double from Pelé in quick succession finally put an end for Northern Ireland's impossible dream of World Cup glory with Brazil leading 3-1 and now cruising to the final. While no one can deny that Brazil deserve the lead, the way that those goals happened so suddenly was an utter gut punch.

    Best tries one last attempt with a long range shot at goal but alas, his shot clips the corner post in which even a mere consolation goal for Northern Ireland never happens and with that, the referee blows his whistle and the Brazilians celebrate for getting into the final. The Northern Irish players are devastated that they just couldn't make it, but kindly the Brazilian players come over to the Ulstermen and the teams shake hands and swap shirts round with a cameras pointing towards Best congratulating Pelé as two of the tournament's best players see each other as worthy equals in their own rights. Brazil are happy of what they have done, but no team in this tournament had ever given them much of a scare than Bingham's merry men who now have a third place spot to deal with. Question, who was it they were to face...?

    Just as the game with Brazil and Northern Ireland was coming to an end, so too was the game with England and Italy in which while the former were still hanging onto their 2-1 lead though the latter is the one in the closing minute doing all the attacking in the search to find the goal to take this game to Extra-time. It is a far better performance by the Italians though the main criticism to be levelled at them is why couldn't they be like this much earlier in the game. The game towards the end seems to drag on with neither side breaking down for another goal to be score and right up in the final minute of the game, Sir Alf Ramsay can be seen finally getting off the bench and running towards the touchline to start yelling at the referee pointing at his watch asking that full time is over.

    A moment later, the referee dully applies and with that England have made to their second final after the tightest of victories winning 2-1 over Italy with the Italian players falling to their knees in despair that their hopes to reach the final have gone up in smoke and that all efforts came little too late. As Ramsay comes over the field to congratulate the players, Peters comes up to him and asks him one question that probably every Englishman wants to know. "Sir, do you know who we're playing in the final?"


    Ramsay being interviewed by a BBC reporter following their victory over Italy

    At first he is unaware of who the team will be though he does have a hunch that Brazil might be the team to face but for now, he just wants to bask in the glory of the fact that he has taken England to their second World Cup final and still have a chance to defend their crown in the Mexican capital just a few days later. Soon enough, word gets round that England will be facing the Brazilians in a rematch following their encounter in the group stage and it is perhaps the final that everyone wanted being the current World Champions taking on the young pretenders.

    A day before the final however, there is one final match to be played for the losing teams in each Semi-Final in which Northern Ireland and Italy are drawn together to play in the Third Place match which in some ways is the game to avoid the wooden spoon. This time however there is joy for the Italians for a single goal from Riva is enough to defeat a tired and heartbroken Northern Ireland team that has Italy winning the bronze medal. As sad as it was for the Ulstermen to fall so close from reaching the final, they had become quite a few people's favourite team for the fact of their sheer underdog nature that had captured the attention of many plus the adventure that the Northern Irish had in Mexico would go down in football legend.

    Indeed, the story of the Northern Ireland team at the 1970 World Cup become almost legendary with it them being remember as the team that scared Brazil and in 2000, on the 30th anniversary of that World Cup, the BBC would make the critical hit documentary film called 'Little Giants', which told the story of Northern Ireland's brave exploits and featured interviews from Bingham, Best, the rest of the squad and even some of the few lucky fans who went to Mexico to support their team. They may have not won the World Cup or even third place, but when they returned to Belfast, they were greeted at the airport by a huge crowd of fifty thousand people to welcome them home and many wanted Billy Bingham to be knighted and with all the mad celebrations that followed the squad when they returned, one has to wonder what if they had managed to win the World Cup. More like Sainthood dare it be said. Nonetheless, little Northern Ireland were out of this World Cup and the world would tune in to watch the rematch they were all looking forward too...

    And there we are, the Semi-Finals are done and dusted and now we move onto the final in which for some of us in the final that probably should've been had things been more kinder but alas, that's life. Anyway hope you enjoyed that update and hopefully you'll look forward for the final update of 1970, until then, catch you all later!
    Chapter 22: Us Against The World
  • Chapter 22
    Us Against The World

    Following Brazil's hard fought 1-0 victory over England, Pelé had time to chat to Duncan Edwards after the final result and thus wished him and the rest of the England team all the best and hoping that they'd meet again in the final. Few would've thought it would've happened that the two teams would meet again given some of the other teams that the two teams had to play in the knockout stage, but in the end the two sides were to be reunited once again. For many, it was the final that everyone predicted and some even hoped would happen and it was interesting that for the first time in the history of the World Cup that the two winners from the last two tournaments would meet in a final so there was indeed a great deal of interest from a world wide audience who were showering the Brazilians much praise but sadly there didn't seem that much for England though nothing to do with on pitch activities. While the defending champions had gotten to another World Cup final which was greeted with great delight back home, it's fair to say that England getting this far was treated with a degree of lukewarm from the local Mexican populace.

    It is fair to say from the moment they arrived, they haven't been all that liked as for starters, Bobby Moore was arrested in Columbia for apparently stealing a bracelet though later the charges were later dropped though this was not the worst of it as in what really was the real stinker for the whole campaign and what could only be described as an international diplomacy disaster was comments made by Ramsay and especially the English press was that of criticising the country from the poor food, mainly after what happened to Gordon Bank's food poisoning and of how ramshackle everything was. Not surprisingly this didn't go down well with the Mexicans and the England team found themselves jeered by most of the Mexican crowd wherever they played and they had only gotten more and more hated the further they went on. It was rather cruel in all fairness but alas sadly they had only gotten themselves to blame for having what felt like a whole country against them so to quote Bobby Moore years later he would say that it was like they were against the world.

    But even if all of the above hadn't happened for the English contingent, they still wouldn't find any sympathy from the locals as pretty much every Mexican that loved the beautiful game all wanted this Brazil team to win and not because they were a neighbouring Latin American country, but because of the way this Brazil side had played throughout this tournament which had captivated the world and perhaps to no one's surprise had won them many fans along the way which had saw them end up as becoming the people's team to lift the World Cup that year. That might have not been the best confidence booster for the English player but on the day of the final early in the morning, the England team are all gathered inside the hotel lobby where they are watching highlights of previous Brazil games in this World Cup on a small and rather batter looking television set and are watching the highlights from the last Brazil game with Northern Ireland. Sir Alf Ramsay then turns the volume down to get his players attention, they themselves are all, like many others across the world, are left amazed by the skills of this Brazil side which even though they already played them, they never really had the chance to look back on them and admire them.


    Moore (left) and Ramsay (right) sometime during their stay at the team's hotel in Mexico
    There is a long silence in which the England manager glances round at the assembled players sitting around him before finally starting to speak. "So then...we're in our second final and it'll be this Brazilian team is who we'll be playing against that hope to take the World Cup from our hands."

    He points towards the screen in which just so happens, planned or not, to be the moment in which Brazil scored their third and final goal against Northern Ireland. There is more silence among the players who are all curious to hear what Ramsay has to say, not to mention several hotel staff members who happen to know some English are secretly hearing the team talk.

    "They might the darlings of this World Cup, but let me tell you a little secret...they are a bunch a bloody con men!" The England manager suddenly barks up again with a notable disdain in his voice as if he sick to death about this Brazilian team.

    Perhaps to no one's surprise, there is a loud gasp among the players and those hotel staff members listening with several of them exclaiming in shock at their manager's statement.

    "You're joking!" Martin Peters calls out.

    "Rubbish!" Keith Newton adds.

    "Gaffer, you can't be serious!" Duncan Edwards cries out fearing that the manager has had too much sun. "You can't just write them off like that when they managed to beat us before!"

    "Silence!" Ramsay commands in which the room goes silent again. "How are we suppose to beat them if you have that attitude? They might as well have won then if you are all wanting to give up. No listen here as after doing some research on them I've found the secret to take them down, they are preparing for the biggest con trick in football and there is a weakness to them..."

    The players all lean forward with curiosity at a supposed weakness in that team that Ramsay had spotted. "Everyone is going on about what a great attacking side they are, but have you heard any of them talk about their defence now...?" His words leave his players silent with many of them thinking for a moment about that supposed fact and several of them muttering 'no' to the England manager.

    "Exactly," Ramsay carries on. "Everyone from Canada to New Zealand are all talking but nothing but that attacking front line though they all seem to forget that our Irish friends have shown the world a crack in that Brazil team that no Tom, Dick and Harry has ever bothered to comment on and Northern Ireland almost knocked them out had it not been for two late goes from that Pelé chap. In summery, they might be all fine and dandy up front but their defence is hopeless and if you can get past that front line I think we have nothing to fear for today if we can press them hard give them a taste of their own medicine. So in summery, in utterly hopeless team that can't defend for their lives. So what are you lot waiting for? It's time to defend that trophy and bring it home, lads."

    It's unknown if that sort of advice was the best thing to say but what it does do is make the English player rethink their views on this Brazil team that maybe they can ignore all the hype swirling around the Brazilian team and focus on how to exploit the weaknesses as what Ramsay has pointed out to them and just maybe they can actually defeat this Brazil side and defend the cup from the clutches of the Brazilians....

    It is a determined looking England squad that line up in the final with the packed Estadio Azteca of over hundred thousand people in there, the majority of which are all in favour of the men dressed in yellow and blue to be their chosen team and thus England have to make do of being the pantomime villains of trying to deny the trophy to Brazil. However Ramsay has also instructed his players that it's not a bad thing that with everything seeming to be all against them as it will fire them up and surely make them play better as winning it will good 'take that!' feeling to anyone who wanted them to fail throughout this World Cup. Once the anthems are done and the handshake from both captains take place, the referee blows his whistle for the 1970 World Cup Final to begin.

    From the start of the game, it proves to be quite an exciting encounter with perhaps to the surprise of many watching with England doing all the pressing in the early exchanges of the game and putting the Brazilians under the cosh on their flanks and during that time find themselves getting quite deep in that Brazilian half. The men in yellow do seem taken aback by this burst of aggression from the English and seem to be a far contrast to the team that played some beautiful attacking football. As crazy as this might sound but maybe, just maybe, Sir Alf Ramsay was right about this Brazilian team of being a bunch of conmen and having an utterly hopeless defence?

    In the twelve minute of the game, England's early pressing is awarded when Moore manages to make a sliding tackle on Tostão who was charging down on the counter before quickly slipping the ball up towards Alan Ball who flicks it up towards Edwards who goes for a long range volley towards the Brazilian goal but the ball is only barely knocked over the bar by Félix in which goes out for a corner. The following corner doesn't come to nothing but for the thousands of people in the ground, it seems like the English are playing more like Brazil here and the Brazilians and Mexicans are not liking what they feel is the whole dream outcome of a Brazilian victory going off script. Can it really be happening?

    Action shot during the final with Brazil and England
    Funnily enough, that shot on target by England turns out to be what is needed for the Seleção to finally come to life and this time start to turn the tables on England as Brazil begin to strike back as the upfront duo of Pelé and Tostão work together to cause chaos near the English goals with a near goal for the men in yellow happening in the fifteenth minute in which Pelé lets one rip at goal in which Banks has to make a dive towards the left to punch it away from goal to keep Brazil out. Nonetheless, the Brazilian team that everyone with their attacking style of football is familiar with is back and striking back against the champions, no doubt back by the Mexican crowd cheering them on to victory and making no secret of who their loyalties lie. and Jairzinho nearly strikes home the ball towards goal about a minute later with Banks once again having to dive in and save it. For the neutrals, it is a thrilling final that many were hoping it would be. It's all going to plan so far of frustrating the Brazilians up until the eighteenth minute when Gérson makes a pass up towards Pelé outside the penalty box which Moore tries to replicate that wonderful tackle he did in the group match, it does make Pelé stumble, but he carries on and fires home the ball into the back of the net to put Brazil a goal up in the final

    An almighty roar from the stand follows from the crowd and the English players can only look on at the celebrating Brazilian players and feel gutted after all that hard work they put together at the start of the game has all come to nothing. To be fair though for the English, it had been an open game in which either side could have scored the first goal and in this case it just so happens to be that Brazil get that vital goal. Now Brazil start to take their game up another gear as the team now go on the hunt to find another goal and for the next few minutes, England seem unable to get a foot on the ball as Brazil seem more than happy to zip the ball all over the field and things look set to go worse for England in the twenty-third minute in which Gérson nearly makes it 2-0 and it's only thanks to once again Gordon Banks to stop it from going in and is pretty much the one English player so far that is keeping England's head above water.

    The whole game is a true meeting of two brilliant football nations with either side showing of their skills such as Brazil playing silky football and England with their strong physical game, especially in defence for the latter, which makes for interesting comparisons. Duncan Edwards despite not having much luck with the ball following his early chance on goal is really pushing himself to his limit as before this game started, he knew that this was going to be the toughest game he has ever faced in a England jersey and in the thirty-second minute tries to make a pass to Peters only for it to be snatched by Everaldo who punts the ball up the field. It is looking to be Brazil's game up until the thirty-seventh minute when, against the run of play, Moore does replicate that tackle and passes the ball up towards Mullery who then crosses the ball to Edwards who is waiting for it before diving in to header the ball home and strike home the equaliser for England. Game on! The crowd, other than the fair number of England fans in the stadium celebrating the goal, are silent at seeing England somehow get one past this Brazil team that has drawn the game level, it was just the same as in the last final when they came back from a goal down...


    England fans celebrate the goal that makes puts the game level
    Was it all a bit luck that England got that goal there? Perhaps but in truth none of the English players will care for that as to finally get past that defence that their manager has pointed out was suspect does wonders to help boost morale to hopefully plan ahead. That all said and knowing that halftime is near with a few minutes to go, the England players start playing back in defence to prevent a Brazil goal from happening and keep the score like this or in the best case scenario they can somehow get another quickfire goal from somewhere though it is highly unlikely for the latter to happen.

    That all said, the English players themselves are stunned that Ramsay's tactics are working but there is a feeling in the air that surely it can't be all too good to be true? That indeed turns out to be the case as Brazil end up firing shots back at England in which prevents any late English attack to happen and anyone looking at it can only say that Brazil will regain the lead before the break. Despite an almighty Brazilian onslaught in the English defence area, the first half ends 1-1 and the players trot off the field to catch their breath on what has been quite an exciting game of football that has certainly been worth everyone's money for those in the stadium.

    That said, it's difficult to say which team is the happier though there is no doubt is the more happier manager which happens to be Sir Alf Ramsay who will be happy that his plans have worked and that the equaliser couldn't have come at a better time and now with it being half time, he can get the players together to cool off and plan out for what they should do for the second half. For those who had questioned him about saying that his England team could beat this Brazil team and for lying out in the sun too long, he can't help but have a large grin on his face as they walk down to their dressing room as he gets the players ready for a huge second half to follow...

    Following a rather straight forward team talk at half time from Ramsay who simply said to his players for more of the same, the England players rush out onto the field in which the Brazilians are already waiting for them and wanting to get the game restarted and thus a huge forty-five minutes of football begins in which anything could happen as the old saying goes. The second half begins and the game starts at quite a tight pace with both sides trying to outdo each other like a chess game with the silky style of Brazil and the physical style of the English both making for very different contrasts to each other yet neither seem quite able to get one over the other after five minutes of the second half gone. Then in the fifty-first minute of the game, Moore manages to replicate that tackle from the group game and passes it up to Peters who makes a run with it before giving it to Edwards who without thinking and trying to replicate what he did in the first half, Edwards fires the ball into the top left of the goal past the grasp of Félix which, to the amazement of over one hundred thousand people inside the Estadio Azteca, puts the World Champions 2-1 up in the final and thus complete the turn around.

    Other than the small number of England fans in ground celebrating and clearly on cloud nine, the stadium is stunned in silence as now Brazil have gone from being 1-0 up to be in a losing 2-1 position which to many was not part of the script and quickly the Brazilian team makes a mad dash to try and get back into the game. From the bench, Ramsay can't help himself but leap from his seat and punch the air as if he knew that he was going to be vindicated after all those questions asked about his sanity in trying to top that Brazil side. Also, what this also does for him is give a message to his opponents that they were not going to give up this World Cup without a fight.

    That all said Brazil don't buckle from find themselves behind and pretty much just keep repeating their pressure on the English defence. Despite all this, England hold their ground from the wave of attacks though the heat and humidity that is starting to get to some of the players and no more so than Edwards. In the fifty-seventh minute while making a sprint with the ball, he is ruled offside despite it looking like he was onside and the England player confronts the referee to express his displeasure with some seeing that the heat is starting to get to him. However, the referee is having none of it and Edwards is given a yellow card for his verbal actions, much to the delight of the Mexican crowd who hope that Brazil will start to fight back soon, though time is starting to run out if they are not too careful...


    View from the England bench just before the goal that put England 2-1 in the final
    After that booking, not much happens then with England starting to look like they will park the bus on Brazil seeing as they are holding the lead in this final but Ramsay is worried that Edwards is growing more agitated by the minute as rather than keep an eye on the game, he seems to focus his attention on Edwards and knows that anymore reckless actions by him could see him sent off and losing a man in the final would be the last thing Ramsay needs. So in the sixty-first minute when Brazil get a throw in, Ramsay makes the substitute of bringing on Francis Lee for Edwards with Bobby Moore being made the captain for the rest of this half.

    While Edwards does look unhappy of being taken off, it does seem good timing as the now former captain looks like he wants to start another argument with someone and whatever happens next, Ramsay knows he'll have to let Edwards cool off. The large stadium crowd is quite subdued up until four minutes later when Moore passes the ball up to Terry Cooper, but his shot proves to be just a tad too powerful as Cooper stumbles forward trying to get a foot on it, only for then Jairzinho to snatch it off his foot and start running with it. He charges down the field before crossing it over to Pelé before he in turn strikes it past Banks who despite his efforts to stop it going in, it's not enough as he and his fellow coutrymen can only watch helplessly as the ball finds itself lost in the netting which of course puts Brazil back level in what is turning out to be a thrilling final which has sent the crowd roaring in approval and most likely are not going to be asking for their money back for the sheer entertainment.

    The fact that Pelé scored in the sixty-sixth minute of all things, a number meaning so much to any Englishman, in the final against England means that the irony is not lost on anyone in the know and even Ramsay now leaning back with his arms crossed has to wonder what luck did they deserve for the Brazilian equaliser to happen at that time of all times. With the crowd cheering them on, Brazil start to crank up the pressure and the England team is now starting to look disjointed and clearly rattled from that goal and the only thing they can do now is to move out and start pressing. A plan that was to ultimately decide this final.


    Peters during the final taking on some of the Brazilian players
    England's rather reluctant tactic of trying to counter the Brazilian's pressing with pressure of their own ends up leaving their previously rock solid defence weaker and this is just what the Brazilians have been waiting for in order for the game to turn in their favour. The waves and waves of yellow shirted players laying siege on the English defence pays off handsomely in which in the seventy-first minute, Jairzinho curls in a wonderful volley that outwits the England back four and once again puts Brazil back into the lead and look of utter despair and frustration on the faces of the English players says it all.

    With less than twenty minutes to go from what is now looking more than certain now a Brazilian victory, any plan the England team had for this second half falls apart and Ramsay can only watch helplessly as he knows his country's grip on the World Cup is on the verge of being ripped off from by Brazil, a team that he will privately admit to himself are far from the worse team to lose to but he can only hope that things will not get any worse. Alas, despite a late rally to try and hold off Brazil going in for another goal that will surely kill the game off, that plan goes astray.

    In the eighty-sixth minute and with not much time to go and with even some sections of an ecstatic crowd about to spill onto the pitch to celebrate Brazil's coronation as World Champions, Pelé lets the ball roll out with no one nearby which to some looks like he is given up to play any more of this game, only for Carlos Alberto to come out of nowhere and strike the ball home to cause more misery on Gordon Banks and In the end, that would be it. The referee would blow his whsitle to end the game and Brazil are the new, and many would say deserved, World Champions and despite some promise from England after taking the the lead, their quest to defend the World Cup has ended in failure.


    Pelé celebrating with his teammates and some of the delighted crowd over Brazil's victory over England in the final
    The England players are exhausted, weary and to add more salt in the wound for them are nearly trampled in the pitch invasion that follows from Mexican and Brazilian fans all wanting to celebrate this great and glorious moment for a team that many will say was destined to win and for the many decades from then on will say was the greatest team to lift the World Cup. Despite English heartache, they have played their part in what has been a terrific game that much like this Brazil team will say was one of, if not the greatest World Cup final ever played. In the middle of all the madness and the shower of praise being poured onto the Brazilians, there is one nice moment between Pelé and Moore coming over to congratulate each other for the game and for both being worthy finalists.

    Granted England may go home empty handed which might sour things for all England fans but Sir Alf Ramsay is sure that a lot more will be seen of not only England throughout this new decade but from the other British teams in which after the team return home, makes the bold claim during a press conference that there will be a British team in another final within this decade either England or one of the other Home Nations to play for silverware. This may seem like tall claim, Ramsay has seen something in which others haven't and considering the talent the Home Nations do have, he might have a point.

    What ever happens now, a brave new world has appeared and while the swinging sixties might have ended, a new decade of football has started with a bang and for some this might be the moment in which football not longer becomes a mere sport but so many more things from culture, art and a way of life. Whatever happens, the Home Nations will be there to be part of it.

    1970 ALT 3.png

    Final results of the 1970 World Cup

    And there we are, Brazil as 1970 champions. Nothing original there but hey, it's that Brazil team, any TL with them not winning the WC that year would go beyond ASB and would likely see me being kicked of AH because of it, haha! Anyway, next update will take us to Euro 1972 and there will be a British team taking part in it, question is who will it be and will they do well? Find out next time and I hope you enjoyed this update :)
    Chapter 23: Playing For Pride - 1972 European Championship
  • Chapter 23
    Playing For Pride


    While England may have lost their grip on the World Cup to Brazil, a team that no one could argue totally deserved it, much was expected from the Home Nations as the new decade began. Things though would turn out to be very mixed to say the least in which while the United Kingdom's football club teams were enjoying success and thus many believed that this success at club level would translate to international level began with nothing more that total football domination and carry on with the British remaining the real kings of football. While club level it had gone well with Glasgow Rangers and Tottenham Hotspurs for example winning both the UEFA Cup Winners Cup and UEFA Cup respectably in 1972, things hadn't gone to plan for the Home Nations as qualification for Euro '72 had proven to be a disaster for most. Wales failed to qualify for yet another tournament and even Scotland, the current holders, to everyone's surprise failed to qualify which they would be unable to defend their crown. However the biggest shock was in the qualification Quarter-Finals was with England being knocked out by West Germany which meant for the first time England since 1950 that the English would not be playing at a major tournament. The sudden downturn for the British teams all had their own problems with Duncan Edwards making the unexpected choice to retire from international duty with England, which many claimed to have had a factor in failing to make Euro '72, Wales having bad luck and the feeling of not reaching a tournament since 1966 and Scotland, the now former European champions, undergoing a down period with Sir Bobby Brown leaving his post as Scotland managed for failure to qualify and the quest to find his successor would begin.

    While all the teams on the British mainland had failed to qualify, there was however one team from across the Irish sea that the UK could rally behind which was none other than Northern Ireland and one that everyone in that country badly needed to bring a feel good factor to Northern Ireland. Following their brave run in the last World Cup, they had brought joy to a troubled country that had, briefly, caused tensions on both the Protestant and Catholic divide to be put to one side during that run in the World Cup for both to celebrate in that wonderful summer of 1970. Even after when the team returned, the troubles seem to mostly vanish and any brewing religious tensions that there were very minor and it seemed football had done it's part to help mend any divide there was...Then came infamous day known as Bloody Sunday. January 30th 1972 would go down as one of the darkest days in Northern Ireland's history in which Thirteen unarmed civilians were shot dead in Derry/Londonderry as British paratroopers opened fire on a banned civil rights march and later a fourteenth victim would die a few months later having been shot by a paratrooper (decades later many of those paratroopers who opened fire would be trialled for their actions though some might have felt it was all too late). The next few months up until that summer prove to be one of the violent years of what was to be known as 'The Troubles' and the formation of the IRA in that time yet in the middle of this living hell, the Northern Ireland football team had managed to make it to Euro '72 as the sole British (or just the Irish representative, depending what side you where on) and one that the timing to appear at yet another tournament was very much welcomed news to bring to the people of Northern Ireland and could not have come at a better time. Question was though, could they really united a country that seemed far more divided that what it was during the last World Cup?

    When the Northern Irish players landed at Brussels Airport and were greeted by the local press and many excited locals who had been waiting to see the Fourth ranked best team in the world arriving in their country. However with all the troubles that had been going on back home, some UEFA higher ups feared that the Northern Irish team would bring along supporters who they thought might be carrying bombs with them and could cause chaos across Belgium and even just after Northern Ireland did quailfy, UEFA seriously considered expelling the team from the tournament with all the drama that was happening at home. This didn't go down well with the other British football associations who backed the Northern Irish saying that their supporters, also known as the 'Green and White Army', had always shown a fantastic reputation and support for their team at home and abroad and the idea of banning the team was quickly forgotten about, though the supposed plan still irks Northern Ireland supporters to this day thinking that they were trying to be screwed over by those at the top. But in all fairness, it wasn't surprising given that bombings and killings were the only things that the world seemed to know when one mentioned Northern Ireland then that is what one would think about. Though their team had done some good, Billy Bingham and his players knew that had a job to bring glory to their wee country and put all the hell and troubles to the dustbin to history, it was time for football to play it's part in helping heal the wounds and when a country needs a hero, Northern Ireland could count on a certain George Best.


    George Best during his 26th birthday in May that year
    While it seemed that with someone like George Best in the team leading the charge, it seemed as though all would be good and considering how well they had done in Mexico two years ago some would have expected for Northern Ireland to go one step better though alas, things can change in just two years and George Best was no exception to that. From a man who might have been able to win a World Cup on his own from that summer in Mexico, many look on that time as the peak of his international career and from then on things had started to go downhill thanks to what was to be the start of his now well documented drinking problems and the 1971/72 season had been something a poor one in which Manchester United ended up in eighth place and most of the time Best found himself absent from much training sessions and even made the shock announcement that his was retiring from football but later had a change of heart.

    In the middle of this drama, he had helped Northern Ireland to qualify for 1972 though it must be said it was rather debateable in which how much help he had really done in which while had had scored in the group stage, it was actually the help of his teammates, now having left from clubs in England and Scotland to play on the European continent which had been key to help them win the group and during their Quarter-Final tie with Yugoslavia, George Best didn't even score in the 3-0 aggerate victory for Northern Ireland and some even said he was more like a passenger in that team rather that actually dragging them all the way like he had done before. Pretty much this signalled to many of how much in a short time that Best was declining and how on Earth he was going to help Northern Ireland to glory here in Belgium was a mystery to everyone there.

    That said, strange things had always happened in football and who was to say that George Best would defy his critics and end up dragging Northern Ireland all the way to the final in which compared to the World Cup in which there were eight games to reach a final, there was only a Semi-Final to navigate in order to get to the final so it wasn't impossible if Northern Ireland could do it. Was 1972 be a year for unlikely heroes to be made?

    Northern Ireland's first game on the 14th June would be played at the Emile Versé Stadium in Brussels where their opponents would be Hungary with West Germany and host Belgium would play in the other Semi at the same time. As the players walked out onto the pitch, there was below half full with just over sixteen thousand spectators to watch the game and only about two thousand of those in the ground were Northern Ireland supporters, the rest where mostly locals and the odd Hungary fan who could be seen waving a Hungarian flag. It wasn't a good atmosphere by any means and when they lined up for the anthems to be played, some of the Northern Irish players, mainly the Catholics in the side, looked noticeably quite uncomfortable as they knew God Save The Queen would be played first before the Hungarian anthem; there was still that tension among some of the Catholic players in the team who didn't want to have that as anthem due it's connections to the loyalists in Northern Ireland.

    What they hadn't realised though that Billy Bingham was very well aware of their problem that some of the players had over with the anthem and had privately made plans to use a different anthem that he got the idea from the Welsh rugby team who used Land Of My Fathers as an anthem and one that he was sure would be suitable for the players who were uncomfortable. So when the band standing behind the players began to play the anthems, to the surprise of the players, it wasn't God Save The Queen that they heard, but none other than Danny Boy (or Londonderry Air as some would call it). Footage of the players can be seen with them all looking noticeably stunned and bemused at this and even some of the players such as Martin O'Neil could be seen with his eyes filled with tears as it is a tune that means a lot to the players and everyone back home to bring them all together as shown with the players all placing their arms on each other's shoulders as a mark of standing together.

    It is said among many Northern Irish historians in which that moment really became a watershed moment not just in football terms but rather the whole country in which many in Northern Ireland would begin to identify themselves as neither British or Irish but rather just Northern Irish. Many of the players would always reflect on that moment with fondness with George Best going on to say that the moment was perhaps the most emotional he had ever played for Northern Ireland and no doubt many in the team all shared similar feelings about it though the one fear just before kick off was as for being such a emotional moment, would they have the strength to play the game?


    The Emile Versé Stadium in Brussels; the location of the Semi-Final with Northern Ireland and Hungary

    For that answer, that wasn't to be the case as instead the team seemed more fired up to play for Northern Ireland and when the game started, they began to push forward into the Hungarian defence and Best passes the ball towards Derek Dougan, who had made his move to AC Milan right after the World Cup in 1970, nearly fires Northern Ireland in front in the eighth minute but his shot is knocked upwards by Hungarian keeper, István Géczi, and the Northern Irish forward is showing the football world that there is more to them than just George Best. The Hungarians aren't any pushovers however as they begin pushing forward into the Northern Irish half and this time the Hungarian captain Ferenc Bene nearly strikes home a goal in the thirteenth minute but Pat Jennings makes sure that it won't go in.

    Disappointedly, Northern Ireland's early attacks in the game fade to nothing as Hungary start to boss the game around and Bene nearly attempts another shot on goal in the nineteenth minute, but his attack is snuffed out by Sammy Nelson who makes a well timed tackle before taking the ball up the field and sending up towards Dave Clements. As the ball gets towards Clements, he does get a foot to it but he is barged into by Lajos Kű who quickly see's a yellow card and the Irish are awarded a free kick. A lot of pushing and puffing for both teams follows as both are playing unattractive workman like football and not stylish play like some would be hoping for as the East German referee ends up stopping and starting the game due to some dubious offside moments and fouls that makes it difficult for either team to find a rhythm to play to.

    Then in the twenty-seventh minute, Tommy Jackson runs with the ball on the flank and passes the ball towards O'Neil who sends the ball up towards Best who finds himself inside the penalty box and prepares the fire Northern Ireland in front. He shoots but to his disbelieve, Géczi somehow manages to keep the ball out thanks to his leg getting in the way after he dives the wrong way as the ball rockets upwards and Best, and perhaps any Northern Irish person watching, can only place his hands in shock at just how that ball just didn't go in, either way it is the save of the tournament there and one that Best fears that his country might regret missing.


    Nelson during the Semi-final with Hungary
    Northern Irish frustration starts to build up as despite having a number of good chances, Northern Ireland just can't quite seem to get the ball into the back of the net even with Best and Dougan trying everything to help. Then in the thirty third minute, István Szőke rushes into the Northern Ireland penalty box and Alan Hunter attempts to slide in and whip the ball off his feet, unfortunately he just times it badly as the tackle just so happens to be just into the box and as soon as Szőke falls, the referee books Hunter and points for a penalty to take place. It is then down for Jennings to try and stop it as Bene goes up to take it, Jennings goes the right way and with that he just manages to save it and the cheers erupt from the Northern Irish fans in the ground over the fact that they just avoided a bullet and Pat Jennings will pretty much guarantee himself that he will get a free beer in every pub in Belfast whenever he returns.

    From the touchlines, Billy Bingham yells at his players on the field to not lose heart and for them to get back into the game and the players make the most of that Hungary penalty miss in order to try and grab the lead themselves. Northern Ireland begin to fight back and in they begin to look more of the dangerous team in the game and in the thirty sixth minute, an error by Lajos Kocsis allows Hunter to thread the ball up to Best who takes the ball with him and run it down the field with a few of the Hungarian players trying to stop him, but yet while Best may not be in his prime anymore, he hasn't lost that touch and he makes great movements in trying to avoid the Hungarian players. Then he crosses the ball over towards Dougan who knows exactly what to do and with the Hungarian keeper caught off guard expecting Best to score, Dougan takes his chance and the ball rockets into the right hand corner of the goal but alas the ball clatters on the corner and a chance to take the lead has gone astray.

    The Northern Ireland fans in the stadium are enjoying themselves that their team is putting up a good game and yet the Belgium police are wary of them just in case someone in that mad, joyful crowd is carrying a bomb; which given that there is strangely a more larger police presence around where the Irish fans are shows how much the Belgium police aren't taking any chances. The first half of the game carries on at a more tighter nature as neither side seem to want to lose a goal before the first half is over and thankfully for both sides, the first half ends at 0-0 and in all fairness, either side can win this game, question is will have to be settled in extra time or penalties?

    The second half goes off to a dramatic start and not for the more good reasons. In the forty-eighth minute, O'Neil is brought down by István Juhász in quite a vicious tackle that makes the Northern Irish players scream out for a foul and the referee goes out and Juhász see's a yellow card though some would argue that the tackle deserves a red card. Back and forward the game is so open that no one can honestly predict who might be the winners in this game could be. In the fifty third minute, Dougan tries to score another goal but his attempt is poor as the ball flies over the bar and just two minutes later, Sammy Mcllory goes on as a substitute for O'Neil who hasn't been the same since his tackle and the weakened O'Neil stumbles off and fears that perhaps his tournament could be over before it's even started depending on his injury.

    To try and get their team to raise their spirits, the Northern Irish fans begin singing Danny Boy and there is a likely chance that perhaps at least one place somewhere in Northern Ireland there is a person singing it too. Over ten minutes go by and nothing happens with both teams failing to get a shot on target with it looking like tension gripping both teams with no goals still scored by this point. Then in rather perhaps unexplained reasons in the seventy-second minute of all minutes giving the year 1972 has been for Northern Ireland, Danny Hegan crosses the ball towards George Best who bounces the ball on his chest and with a little twist, he volleys the ball from outside the eighteen yard area and the ball rockets towards the goal where it hits the crossbar, bounces downward and goes up hitting the roof of the net and Best's outstanding goal helps put Northern Ireland in front and finally break the deadlock. It is a goal that only someone like Best can score with the Northern Irish fans celebrating like wild and even the local Belgians in the crowd watching the game can't help but applaud for witnessing perhaps the greatest goals they've ever witnessed.

    During the celebrations, Best would make a jog up towards where most of the press and media are located and throws up a rude gesture as if he was wanting to get one over those many critics who have doubted him and have called him nothing more than raging alcoholic. Then again not many notice it as do as the the traveling fans in the ground and those watching on television back home, all of which can hardly believe that now they are so close to the final and on the verge of doing something that the great side of 1970 couldn't have done. However the Hungarians are not giving up as they begin to push back for an equaliser which they hope they can get before the game is over and they do manage to go on the break and attack the Northern Irish flanks where they do trouble the defence and there are three shots on target in the seventy-eighth, ninth and eighty-third minute on goal, all of which thankfully never hit the back of the net but amusingly, miss by going past left and right of the post and over the crossbar.


    Jennings and Best look at each other in the dying moments of the Semi-Final
    The game is now in the ninetieth minute and there is three minutes of injury time and Hungary are now throwing everything forward to find that certain goal which in all fairness depending on how well they have been playing since Northern Ireland took the lead, they do deserve it. Then right in the last minute of injury time, Hungary are awarded a free kick right outside the box and Bingham throws his arms up in frustration that they have to call it this late in the game. Sándor Zámbó goes up to take it and there is no doubt many Northern Irish fans praying, both either Catholic and Protestant, hoping that the ball won't go in. The ball is fired and everything seems to go in slow motion as the ball flies over the wall and Jennings dives to the right and soon see's that he's just going to miss grabbing the ball and fears the worse as the ball seems to be going in. The ball however just goes past the post and Jennings would later say the ball was so close to the post that it pretty much scraped the paint of the pole and after a few seconds of laying on the ground, it only just dawns on him that Zámbó has missed and that was the last chance Hungary had. Surely it was victory now?

    He quickly kicks the ball far up the pitch and before he knows it, the referee blows his whistle and in perhaps the most dramatic and greatest moment in Irish and British football history, Northern Ireland have beaten Hungary in a nerve shredding 1-0 victory and are in the final; their first ever final. George Best falls to his knees and points to the heavens, no doubt thinking of those who have lost their lives to the troubles. Northern Irish fans are on cloud nine and some try to invade the pitch, but the Belgium police stop them and instead, their wild celebrations carry on in the stands and eventually spill onto the streets of Brussels where no fan will sleep tonight and will end up staying on the streets where they'll be there for the final.

    How any of the many fans out there in Belgium will get tickets for the final is another matter though in the meantime, they'll just enjoy the moment. They say a great tragedy can bring people together and achieve greatness, the Northern Ireland football team of 1972 has, against a background of the troubles, booked their place for the final and now it can be said that all four Home Nation teams have gotten into a final for any of those who are wanting to still cling onto the fact that the British are still kings of football despite the start of the decade not starting all that well for the Home Nations. For Northern Ireland, a land which has been crying out for something to cheer about and feel proud about themselves, their plucky football team has not only played for pride but has also made it to a final and now all that is standing in Northern Ireland's way of glory will be a strong and much fancied West German side, all to play for in four days time. Question now was could they do it?

    And here we are in 1972 and Northern Ireland make to Euro 1972! It is similar in the old TL though there are a few changes here and bit more information given out which I think helps flesh out the TL such as talking about the Troubles that by chance in 1972 was probally when it was at it's worst; all of this I think helps improve it. I know some of you will say that NI didn't do well to even qualify though given how different in terms the Home Nations are with their National Sides, it's not far off to think that if some of their players did perform E.G George Best, then they would certainly have done better. Also how would the Northern Irish public reacted to seeing their team play a major tournament during that year?

    Now then, off to Brussels in which Norn Iron will take on the Germans and the hopes of becoming European champions. Will they do it? Find out next time!
    Chapter 24: Müller vs. Best
  • Chapter 24
    Müller vs. Best

    The temperature inside the Heysel stadium on the 18th June was hot, humid but thankfully not at boiling levels that could affect a player's mindset trying to play football. It would be a stadium that would be well known for another but far more tragic event years later but that is another story...however speaking in terms of football, today would be important as this would the European Championship final of 1972 and at the end of the day, a new champion would be crowned. The stadium that could hold sixty-thousand spectators was however only holding just over half that number with some thinking that the crowd could've been much bigger had the host nation Belgium made it to the final, however the two teams that were to compete would be West Germany and Northern Ireland and the vast majority of the supporters in the ground were German in which many had all made the short journey over the border to be here. As the two teams walked out onto the field to the great reception that awaited them, the Northern Irish players felt like despite being in the Belgian capital, it did feel like it was an away game somewhere in West Germany considering how many of their supporters were here all up there on the terraces.

    They glanced over to see where their fans where and there was indeed about only six thousand plucky Northern Ireland fans in the ground who most of them had been at the Hungary match just four days ago and had stayed the extra few nights in Brussels trying to book any hotel that could take them; some of them had didn't have any money having used all the money they had to get to Belgium and instead had no other choice but to camp it out on the streets like homeless people. Though they were thankful for the fans who had made the journey out here, the gaps in the terraces were painfully evident. It wasn't like Windsor Park where there would be nothing but a field of expected faces trying to cheer their team on to victory, but the Northern Ireland fans could hardly be blamed for the lack of fans that had turned up. Times were tough and The Troubles had made life hellish for the people back home with stories of bombings and fights between Protestants and Catholics being not uncommon in daily life; even to add more salt in the wound, the Belgian authorities refusing the Irish FA to give out more tickets to their supporters due to the never ending fear of a sudden bombing. Even if the Troubles weren't even a thing, that wasn't the only thing make life hard as there was also including the hyper inflation, high unemployment and never ending industrial disputes and strikes that were not exclusive for Northern Ireland but the UK as a whole and to top it all off, that wasn't even including the amount of pundits and neutrals who didn't give the Northern Irish a chance against the much fancied West Germans and one BBC pundit that shall not be named even made the bold claim that it wasn't worth if for their fans to support their team knowing that defeat was the only outcome. It seemed as though the game was already lost even before anyone had kicked a ball.

    They were all saying that while the final was a mismatch of sorts that Northern Ireland were the clear and massive underdogs and that the contest would be a contest between masters and pupils, they still admired how they had gotten this far and that everyone was licking their lips of the prospect of Gerd Müller taking on George Best, arguably the two best forwards in Europe. Northern Irish manger Billy Bingham didn't care for everyone thought of his team or their rather feeble hopes of victory but he knew that they had character to take on anyone, however he did find it quite arrogant that everyone seemed to think the West Germans were unstoppable. That might be on paper however they had failed to qualify for the last World Cup and although Northern Ireland had gotten there and had stunned the world just at what they could do, everyone seem to deliberately forget their heroics. It seemed that the only way to shut up this confident boasts was to beat the Germans and back home from Belfast to Belleek, there were many gathering in bars and living rooms all huddled around television sets drinking nervously into their beer as the game started, Brussels seemed like a world away for those watching the game on television.


    Some lucky Northern Ireland fans in Brussels for the Euro '72 final
    With a blast on the referee's whistle, the game began and despite the massive roar of the crowd that greeted the kick-off, Bingham's voice could almost be heard above the rest of the crowd with him shouting, "Put it up to Dougan! Put it up to him!" Hamilton tries to hold the ball in order to find the right time to send it up the field, however his attempt is quickly snuffed out by Günter Netzer and takes it into the Northern Irish half and it looks like an early goal within the first few seconds of the match is about to happen, however Netzer's pass to Erwin Kremers is thankfully caught by Liam O'Kane before he passes it back towards his Nottingham Forrest teammate, Tommy Jackson and thus avoids an early embarrassment for Northern Ireland. The West Germans right in the early exchanges of the game are looking to be the more likely team to score with Northern Ireland unable to get out of their own half, even George Best seems unable to do anything to get forward and the only thing that he and his teammates can do is just try to fend off the waves of attacks from the Germans.

    However despite the Germans best efforts, they have been unable in the opening fifteen minutes of the game to break down Northern Ireland's resolute backline and with that the game has proven to be much more surprising than anyone had thought as neither side had scored and the ball had barely moved outside of a thirty yard stretch of grass in the middle of the pitch, with the ball being snatched of a player's foot almost as soon as whoever received it. It was a battle in the midfield with Dave Clements locking in a tussle with Uli Hoeneß trying to outdo each other. No punches were being thrown thankfully but the surface of the grass proved to be challenging for both teams as sliding tackles took place as the referee's whistle was barely out of his mouth as these tackles went on and it was quite strange that no card had been shown so far, maybe this Austrian referee was trying to not have a stop/start game like others would've done.

    As the game then crept into the twenty minute mark, the West Germans were starting to show their strength and just a minute later, they were awarded a corner kick and pretty much everybody gathered round the penalty box as Kremers fired the kick and Müller almost fires West Germany in front had it not been for the ball hitting the crossbar and the German supporters behind the goal can only let out a groan as a glorious chance goes begging. Best and Müller both stare at each other as they both run out of the area and Best has been aware of the build up of the meet between him and the stocky little centre-forward, nicknamed 'Der Bomber' by the Germans themselves which bemuses Best and many others knowing how much the Germans are trying to live down their wartime past.


    Pat Jennings during the final
    Then just seven minutes later, 'Der Bomber' himself manages to get past Pat Rice and Sammy Nelson with a well planned run which takes him right towards the edge of the penalty box before he curls in a wonderful shot that Pat Jennings leaps forward to try and get a hold on it, but he can only watch in despair as the ball thunders past him and crash into the back of the net to send the West Germans 1-0 up. A great roar from the mostly German crowd follows as Jennings picks the ball up and kicks it out the centre of the field in frustration, it has not been the wonderful clean sheet record he had in the last World Cup. The pundits who have all predicted an easy win for West Germany were probably feeling quite vindicated that their predictions seemed to become a reality.

    From then on the West Germans start turning the screw down as they try to look out for another goal while at the same time push and pull the Northern Irish players around like ragdolls which is so apparent that even those who expect a mauling by West Germany can't help but feel sorry for them as they struggle to keep out waves of German attacks, that is not including the fact that unlike Müller who has certainly showed up in this game, George Best has been rather absent throughout this first half as he has yet to make a shot on target. That all said as the whistle for half time was blown, it hadn't been the mismatch final that everyone had thought it would be as the West Germans walked off leading 1-0. That all said, some were already quite sure as to who would be lifting the trophy in an few hours time.

    The watching Northern Ireland fans, both in Heysel and back home weren't feeling all that down as some had feared for a rout in this first half alone and in some ways had been proud that their team had gone toe to toe with one of the continent's great footballing nations and had come out mostly unscathed and while they hadn't had much of a shot on target, West Germany hadn't been much better having not made much clear up chances themselves despite having a deserved lead. All that was needed surely was for the team to get the ball up to the feet of Best and hope for a little bit of magic that could come out of it, after all, they were only just a goal down. However as the team were walking off the field, George Best himself was already getting a sense that with how poor he had been in this first half that his critics were going to be already writing down on how they felt his ropey form was going to hurt his country's chances. Question was could he really help turn things around in that second half?


    The West German team lining up for the final


    It is a set of mixed emotions among the travelling supporters on how they feel about their team's chances though there is a small number that have reasons to be cautiously optimistic, the Northern Irish players themselves however all felt rather despondent. They had gone into the game hoping to cause an upset earlier on, but now they could see why everyone was placing bets on the West Germans to do well; they were good, bloody good in fact and there really shouldn't be any shame of losing to them considering their reputation. Yet Billy Bingham reminded them they were only a goal down and that the pressure was all on the Germans as they had failed to qualify for the last World Cup and would be hosting the tournament within two years meant that they too would also be under pressure to win much more than anyone might have had for Northern Ireland. Quite a lot of mind soothing seemed to take place throughout the interval and by the time the Northern Ireland team returned to the filed, they had looks of confidence that weren't there when they went off. Bingham sat on the bench along with several other players and members of staff as the second half began and all of them knowing that this was going to be the most important game in the history of Northern Irish football.

    Despite him building up their confidence that they could do it, privately, he actually had doubts that they could topple this West German side and he could only hope they'd make themselves not look foolish out there. Those who had watched the players dressed in all green closely noticed that there was a slight spring in their step and even swagger that wasn't there before and much to everyone's amazement, Northern Ireland began to push forward with Best and Dougan leading the charge. But just as they had stunned the Germans in the early moments, the German players began to get back in the game and push back the underdogs and began laying siege to Northern Ireland's suspicious yet solid defence; pretty much a repeat performance of the first half. However with pretty much every West German player pushing forward into the Northern Irish half, Bingham ordered Best to move up the field and away from the mass of players surrounding the Northern Irish penalty box. Then in the fifty-fourth minute, Pat Rice manages to find his foot on the ball and before it can be snatched by a German player, he lobs it over to Best who takes the ball without up the field and is unmarked as he runs with the ball with pretty much no German player near him.

    The West German fans and their manager scream at their players to get back and stop Best, but the cunning Ulsterman knows what to do and for what is perhaps the first time in the whole game, George Best finally gets a shot on target and the ball goes right past the hands of the stunned West German keeper, Stepp Maier, who tries to save it but to his dismay Best makes a cheeky chip over his head and from out of nowhere and against the run of play, has shot Northern Ireland back into the game and belly flops in celebration on the field towards the corner flag with pretty much all his teammates dogpiling on him. The plucky number of Northern Irish fans in the stadium have now finally something to cheer about and the overwhelming numbers of West German supporters are stunned into silence at what has just happened. From the bench, Billy Bingham gives his players the thumbs up knowing that it's game on.


    Pat Rice before lobbing the ball over to Best
    The West German players hadn't been expecting this, they should have remained in front and not looked back and now there were looks of shock that the players exchanged with each other, the game wasn't going to go the way they had expected. The next few minutes of the second half prove to be quite a scrappy affair with Jupp Heynckes trying to win the ball at every opportunity just as O'Neil and Jackson would be too. Those overconfident pundits who predicated a West German victory can only watch on nervously as the players in green start playing a brilliant game of football which helps makes the final feel more open rather than one-sided as it had been for the whole game. That all said, despite now getting a fair bit of possession of the ball, Northern Ireland struggled to find a shot on target and then in the sixty third minute, Northern Ireland are awarded a corner and Bingham knows that these are probably the only time in which Northern Ireland can score from right in front of the nervous looking Northern Ireland fans standing behind the goal.

    Mcllory takes the corner kick and Dougan tries to get his head on it but it is knocked out of the box by Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck going near the centre line, however the ball is caught by O'Neil who witnesses several big German players coming towards him, so instead he does the only thing he can do and cross it over to Best who makes a quick check of the goal before firing it home and making Maier dive to the left to get it. The German keeper does it his hands to it but he can't get a good enough grip on it and the ball cascades up from his grasp and hits the roof of the net and sending any Irishman in the ground into utter raptures. Against the odds, Northern Ireland have come back from 1-0 down to lead 2-1 thanks to two wonderful shots from that man, George Best. Even Billy Bingham can contain himself as he and Terry Neil, who is also sitting on the bench, embrace each other and dance around like lunatics yet who can blame them? Northern Ireland is in dreamland! If the wildly celebrating Northern Ireland fans in Heysel Stadium are anything to go by, lord knows just what is going on back home with celebrations like it's New Years Eve. Pretty much everyone cannot believe what they are seeing, it hadn't seem possible at half time and now they have the unbelievable chance of becoming European Champions...or have they?

    In the middle of the celebrations, things become rather bizarre in which the goal is been mark as being offside with it being that George Best was seemingly to be in a offside position though it is hard to tell given how fast everything went and while the Germans can all breath a sigh of relief, there is confusion and anger among the players in green in which the Austrian referee is surrounded a swarm of angry Northern Irish players all wanting to know as to why that goal was chalked off. The poor Northern Irish supporters who just a few seconds ago seemed to be on cloud nine had suddenly found their hopes and dreams utterly crushed in a rather cruel fashion and some even began to jeer and start to act rather restless and the Belgian police force having to keep and eye on the Northern Irish fans all take various looks of fear at each other over that the worst might happen...


    Der Bomber at work...

    In the typical and rather unfortunate situation of things going horribly wrong for the Irish, that chalked off goal would be the moment in everything started to fall apart for the Ulstermen. Northern Ireland players after realising their arguing with the referee was going to get them nowhere end up having to reluctantly get back into game but it is clear that some of the players are still fuming over what happened and those in question look like the ones that might be the ones who'll lose their heads and this slack play would come to bite Northern Ireland as just five minutes after that controversial moment, the salt is poured into the wound further as Müller (who else?) strikes back with a goal thanks to a great teamwork goal thanks to Netzer and Kremers to lead the game with the score at 2-1. It is a frustration moment for the Green and White Army as some have to wonder why this must happen for them and even George Best seems unable to help drag Northern Ireland out from this hole of despair.

    It seems that with constant German pressure now firmly being the theme of this second half is that the rout that some had predicated looks like to be a sure thing. One thing is certain that whoever scores next will surely be the goal that will well and truly decide this final. As the match wears on, the Northern Irish players were starting to look tired and had done pretty everything they could to take the game to the Germans but alas it looks to be all for nothing. Despite making two substitutes to try and freshen up the team, Bingham's players look like they were being pushed to their absolute limit and in the seventy-sixth minute, Müller goes on his own with the ball and despite the likes of Alan Hunter and Dave Craig trying to stop 'Der Bomber', the German centre forward takes the ball and for some reason decides to strike it forward from quite a distance from the eighteen yard line and everyone watches with held breathes as the ball goes flying and Jennings prepares to make a save for it.

    Instead he only just misses out on grabbing it as the ball rockets past him and hits the top right hand corner that gives him his hattrick and puts West Germany further into the lead with the score now reading 3-1. The West German supporters find their voice again and start making all the noise knowing that they have surely got this game in the bag thanks to a wonder goal from that man and the Northern Irish players are absolutely exhausted, they just haven't got anything left in them. In the closing moments of the game, many West German supporters start appearing on the side lines waiting to begin a pitch invasion, it is only a matter of time. The only bit of amusement in the game is from the downhearted Northern Irish fans chanting out to the man who broke their hearts chant the following; "Gerd Müller, you're a wanker! You're a wanker!" Wherever or not he knows what they are saying is unknown but it is clear that he is not going to be the most favourite man in Belfast that is for sure.


    Some happy West German fans in Heysel
    By this point, the game looks to be well and truly out of sight for Northern Ireland and this means that the West Germans have the game in the bag and as of a result they end up taking their foot off the gas but even with this, Northern Ireland just can't seem to find to find even a consolation goal and for the neutrals who were hoping for an epic clash with Best and Müller in seeing who would be the best. In the end, it would be the German that came out on top that it must be said that George Best was far from his best and with that, the final had turned into a rather one-sided and anticlimactic outcome that what a few expected.

    Finally after a bruising last few minutes of added time, the referee blows his whistle and West Germany are the new European champions with their supporters making a mad rush onto the pitch to celebrate putting all the ghosts they might've had to the past and now turn their sights on in the World Cup taking place in their home country in 1974. Bingham goes over to his distraught players who felt they could've done it, but the truth being was that they were up against it and the fact that they went toe to toe with West Germany and come out with their dignity intact despite the score line showing otherwise was truly something special. Both players exchange handshakes and the number of Northern Irish fans in the stadium began applauding and chanting for them in which the players walk over to them and applaud back at them for supporting them all this way.

    Best though is feeling upset, he probably can imagine he can help the team make it to the next World Cup in two years time but at the same time only dawns on him that this was perhaps his only chance of winning silverware for his country and now that chance has gone. There is also the question regarding his own fitness and what will be well documented stories about his drinking and how his international career seems to be on the wane and for a player considered by some as one of the greatest players ever, it is a sad fall from grace. The other question though is will Northern Ireland ever make it to another final? In future, time will tell but for now, this was West Germany's time in the spotlight.


    The winning West German team

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    Final results of Euro 1972

    And so we come to the end of Euro 1972 and also is Northern Ireland's hopes of winning silverware. Pretty much the same victory for the Germans as OTL though a slight change here from the old TL is that Northern Ireland aren't so that good here as I have to try to keep a bit of realism here, ok, that's not saying much considering you have Northern Ireland in a final but still...

    Anyway, next update we head off to West Germany for the 1974 World Cup and will we see all four Home Nations there and or if not, who will miss out on the next flight out to West Germany? Find out next time and let me hear what you have to say about predictions and how are you enjoying the TL so far? :)
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    Chapter 25: Money, Money, Money... - 1974 World Cup
  • Chapter 25
    Money, Money, Money...


    With the West Germans winning Euro 1972, it gave them the feel good factor needed for them to increase their hopes of winning the 1974 World Cup in which they were hosting it were hoping that they would win it in their own backyard. Strangely for this World Cup, there wouldn't be a knockout stage but another group stage, two of them in fact, that would be the second round (or Semi-final depending on how one would look at it) and whoever would win either of those two group stages would qualify for the final. The game was also undergoing major changes off the field and that change would be in the form of commercialism; television would be the game's new paymaster and this also included major sponsors throwing money around. Looking back on the whole thing in hindsight, the 1974 World Cup could be best described as a 'get rich slow scheme' and when the Scotland, England and Northern Ireland teams arrived in West Germany (with the poor Welsh missing out on it again), each of the players had mixed results on this new experience.

    Players such as George Best, who had done a fair bit of this sort of flash lifestyle at his time at Manchester United, got to grips with the sponsor offers very well as if it was second nature though he seemed to handle it better than how his football had gotten itself too by this point in the decade. Some of the other British players heading out to West Germany didn't do too bad though the rest either didn't do well or couldn't really care about it. The latter probably had a point as this was the World Cup and it was all about playing football and that should have been the main thing rather than trying to promote some new footwear from either Puma or Nike. The three British teams that had made all had a tough time in qualification with England squeezing past Poland in the final group game at Wembley and Scotland getting the better of Czechoslovakia. Northern Ireland also somehow managed to getting the better of Bulgaria and Portugal, despite most of the players, especially George Best, being past their prime, and were only allowed to play their games at Windsor Park at the last minute due to security fears, which prove to be unfounded as tensions between the two religious sides in the country had reduced and football had, in some ways, helped to make things better.

    In addition, their fans would join the hordes of Scottish and English fans all making the trip to West Germany to support their team. For the group stage, Scotland were drawn in Group Two with champions Brazil, Yugoslavia and Zaire; Northern Ireland were given a tough selection in Group Three placed in with the Netherland, Sweden and Uruguay while in Group Four, England were given without question by many being the group of death in which they would be joined by Argentina, Italy and Haiti. Nonetheless, three teams set off to the continent with the usual goodwill messages from all over from fans, politicians and even royalty all of which wishing them well in hte World Cup. Regardless though, it was time for football...

    The first Home Nation to play would be the Scots though it was fair to say that there was a lot expecting from the Scots. When Sir Bobby Brown left the position of Scotland manager after their failure to qualify for the last European Championship, it was always going to daunting for anyone to fill the his boots and the poor fellow in the role would be under great pressure to try to not only match what Brown had done but maybe go one step better; an impossible task in any sense of the word. Who would be it? None other than Willie Ormond. Previously having only managed St Johnstone and only having a handful of caps for his country having played at the 1954 World Cup, he wasn't quite a glamorous appointment though even before taking over for Sir Bobby Brown, he wasn't even the first choice.

    The first person to be given the role to replace Brown would be Tommy Docherty though in his short time as manager, he suffered a mixed bag of results before being lured away to manage Manchester United. So thus it all fell to Willie Ormond who was given the rather thankless task of taking Scotland to the World Cup in 1974. However, it was fair to say that things all started off on the wrong foot for his time as Scotland manager when they suffered a horrendous 5-0 loss to England at Hampden Park in 1973 which, to add further humiliation to a defeat at the hands of the Auld Enemies, the match in question was to celebrate the SFA's 100th anniversary. Not the result that Scot would've wanted and one that even today few would want to remember in a hurry.

    However one year later after that humiliation though, Ormond would redeem himself as they made it to the World Cup finals in West Germany and there was good confidence from the players that this team, which included pretty much all of Leeds United's Scottish brigade, had a good chance of making an impact at the World Cup. Yet while they got off to a winning start against the group's whipping boys Zaire 2-0, there was an uncomfortable feeling that they should've scored more goals as Yugoslavia and Brazil would be certain to score more goals and this was made very apparent when Yugoslavia would destroy the African minnows 9-0. To make matters even harder for the Scots, their second group game would be playing the world champions, Brazil.


    The two captains shake hands before the start of the game
    It's unknown what most Brazilians were thinking of when they were to play the Scots on the 18th June, but one thing was for certain was that many in Scotland had been waiting for this game the moment they found out they were to be drawn to play them and the thought of playing the World Champions was an exciting one and with Pelé no longer playing for Brazil, there was a genuine feeling among the Scottish players as they lined up for the anthems in Frankfurt that they could make an upset in this game. Some cynics thought the Brazilians would be all over the Scots, but as the game went by in it's opening few minutes, it became clear that this so called unstoppable Brazil team weren't so big as everyone seemed to rave about. True they were threatening with a goal during the match but Scotland didn't seemed scared by them as they held their ground and another thing to notice was this Brazil team was no where near the high quality that had stunned the world four years ago.

    As the game progressed, Willie Ormond looked around the Waldstadion and only did then really notice the huge hordes of Scotland fans, now nicknamed The Tartan Army by folks in the press and media. There does seem to be a larger crowd of Scots here and pretty much everyone in the ground is cladded in tartan of some kind and were all doing their part in cheering for Scotland; nice to know that they had support out here, though the German police were understandably on edge, would they be like the England fans that they could fight at any moment at the drop of a hat suddenly? At times Scotland did the occasional shot on target but many of the attempts were coming from Brazil but David Harvey was doing his best to keep the ball out of his net.

    The Brazilian fans in the ground and watching it back in South America were more nervous than their Scottish counterparts, they had started poorly in a 0-0 draw with Yugoslavia and a sudden defeat here could end be damaging to their hopes of retaining the World Cup, even the Brazilian punters watching the game felt a cold feeling up their back that seem to tell them that something wasn't right here. Try as Brazil liked, they just couldn't get the opening goal as the first half ended 0-0. Ormond must've been breathing a sigh of relief to survive this onslaught, they had nothing to fear and that title of World Champions was just a name that didn't make one invincible, after all, Scotland had shown that in a certain game in 1967...

    The Second half would prove to be more of an entertaining game with Scotland now starting to cause trouble for Brazil, now looking rather rattled with them looking like they were running out of options. This style of play was only tempting the Scots to strike with Willie Morgan trying to nutmeg Marinho Peres in the fifty-third minute of the game, he didn't succeed but his attempt no doubt made for great entertainment for the folks watching the game back home, after all, how many could say they attempted that move on Brazil? Ormond glanced over to his Brazilian counterpart and could see that Zagallo wasn't looking at all impressed by what his side were doing. The Tartan Army would've thought a draw with the champions would've been a good result, but there was some who thought that winning would be the greatest thing ever. Then in one heart stopping moment in the 67th minute, Joe Jordon fires home a header on the Brazilian goal but his attempt is saved by Emerson Leao.

    However, he stumbles forward and the ball finds itself into the path of Bremner, who is not expecting it. "GET IT IN!" Cry out his fellow teammates, Ormond and perhaps every Scot watching the game in the stadium or watching on TV; all wanting the ball into the back of the net. Billy Bremner's reflexes aren't that sharp as some would like and he has very little time to react, but thanks to his teammates, the best he can do is toe poke and everything seems to go in slow motion as it seems to aim past the goalpost. Bremner notices this and makes a further tap in before Leao can grab it and the stadium grows quiet like a vacuum has sucked out all the noise as they await for what might happen next. Slowly, and not exactly the most exciting move seen in a World Cup, the ball casually rolls in past the goal line...

    Bedlam; absolute sheer bedlam after the goal is scored and the Tartan Army are making an absolute racked to the point in which the stadium might even crumble in on itself with some of their delighted fans trying to make a beeline to the field to embrace Bremner, but those are caught by the police and are pushed back to the stands or some of them having perhaps too much to drink end up getting led out of the stadium by the police. The small number of Brazilian fans in the ground can only look at each other in shock at what is happening, are they, the World Champions for goodness sake, about to make an early exit from the tournament? The same is applied to the Brazilian players who now have to find a way back into this game, though in truth, Brazil only have themselves to blame for letting the game turn into Scotland's favour. Time is now running out for the Brazilians...


    The moment Leao drops the ball into the path of Bremner
    Some tackles start to take place thanks to Brazil as they fund themselves trying to fend of Scottish attacks down on their flanks. This goes on now for the rest of the game and in the seventy-second minute, Scotland are awarded a corner kick and in yet another heart stopping moment, Jordon tries to header on goal again and it looks like Scotland will find themselves 2-0 up, though the Brazilian keeper this time prevents further embarrassment on Brazil. That all being said, Brazil should be back in this game, 1-0 leads are often dangerous to hold on to as the longer it goes on for, the more chance there is for the winning side to concede and that is what Brazil are hoping to do if they are wanting to save their hopes. No one can tell if the game is going quickly or slow if you are either a Scot or a Brazilian, but one thing is certain that the game is turning into a nail biter of a game.

    A series of attacks from both sides happen but neither keeper are troubled by them and this goes on right up until the last minute of the game with the Brazilian fans jeering their side's performance while some Scots start yelling out for the referee to blow his whistle. However, a large number of Scotland fans can be seen singing 'Flower of Scotland' in the dying moments of the game to express their pride. Incidentally, the lyrics 'To send them home to think again' become more fitting for this Brazil side that now see an early exit from the World Cup. Then the final whistle is blown and the traveling Scotland fans rise as one to celebrate their famous victory over the World Champions. Indeed, the moment itself will go down in history as not only one of the greatest moments in Scottish football, but in British football too. Once again the happy Scotland fans try to invade the field yet again but the police won't let celebrate their moment of glory with their heroes.

    It would be hard for supporters to decide if this result of becoming unofficial world champions yet again was more special than beating England at Wembley in 1967. Following this victory, Scotland win the group by drawing with Yugoslavia in their final group game, the latter sneaking into second place at the expense of Brazil. It was hard to know how well Scotland's World Cup hopes might have been going forward but one thing was certain, Scotland were going into the second round and the traveling Tartan Army were preparing for a great tour of West Germany. Who would be brave enough to doubt their hopes?

    1974 ALT 1.png

    Final results of Scotland's Group at the 1974 World Cup

    When it came round for Northern Ireland to start of their World Cup campaign, there was much to be expecting from Northern Ireland in which the plucky team that had the nerve to score against Brazil in the 1970 World Cup Semi-finals and managed to get to a final two years later. However, this was not the Northern Ireland team that was before and while things change, the change here was not that good, mostly regarding one certain George Best. Reaching the final of Euro 1972 would be with hindsight the last hurrah for George Best for after that, things began to fall apart for him. That season with Manchester United would end up being a disaster for him in which his last competitive game for the Red Devils in January of this year and would fail to show up for training though that wasn't the worst of it.

    Best would be arrested and charged for stealing but these charges would be dropped but the worst was in that season, Manchester United would be relegated and his fitness would then go into freefall; the only good thing to report of what was a truly disastrous season was the fact that Northern Ireland had were heading to the World Cup though even his place on the plane wasn't a foregone conclusion. His poor form that year had not gone unnoticed but Northern Ireland's new manager Terry Neill who had seriously considered dropping George Best for the World Cup, an unthinkable thought by many though judging by his ropey form it wasn't hard to see why. Best though would get the nod to be included in the team for the World Cup though it is said that it wasn't Neill's choice but rather from those in the IFA who in seeing the football world turning more to commercialism who in seeing George Best being already well established as a commercial celebrity in his own right, demanded that he should be in the team no matter what his form was like.

    That said, George Best would end up be part of many advertisement campaign prior to the World Cup who was more than happy to take part in them, mostly with those advertising drinks though none of this would see him form improve when it was really needed for the World Cup. In some ways, some would say that because of this star appeal at the expense of the rest of his teammates, George Best was practically shoehorned into the squad and it is quite likely that had Neill not been forced into having him part of the team by the IFA, then there is a strong possibility that George Best might've not been included for the World Cup jamboree in West Germany and with hindsight, many have begun to wonder if him not going might have changed things for Northern Ireland and for good reason.


    Just one of the many things you could find Best's face on during the earlier 1970's

    Northern Ireland might have been thinking good things when they saw their group had no real heavy weights to show with perhaps maybe Uruguay being the real team that looked a problem and a Dutch team that no one had a clue on how they would perform. Northern Ireland's first game with would against Sweden in Düsseldorf in which despite the Ulstermen looking like the better team throughout, they were were unable to make the most of the chances they got most thanks to George Best's poor finishing in which the groans from Belfast might've been heard and it was sad to see this for had this been the George Best of four years ago then Northern Ireland would have surely been leaving the Swedes for dead. In the end the game ended in a 0-0 draw and while this wasn't the end of the world, it really could have been much different had Northern Ireland scored in the game.

    Next up would be Uruguay who were needing a win following their opening game loss to the Dutch yet for the Ulstermen, they knew that a victory would be more than enough to surely book their place in the next round. Things would start of quite good in which Chris Nicholl would open the scoring for Northern Ireland in the twenty-sixth minute and it looked as though another open would happen soon enough yet once again, the problems with George Best reared it's ugly head as despite him clearly trying this time, his finishing was utterly dreadful in which he couldn't score and so bad was it that he was taken off to be substituted with twenty minutes to go, a choice that was to have huge consequences for with just five minutes to go, Uruguay scored to ultimately draw the game and thus, Northern Ireland's own hopes of progressing were looking shaky though after all the chances they had, they had only themselves to blame.

    It was then in the aftermath that drama gripped the camp in a story that would have had the red headed tabloid press drooling at over the rumour going around that for the final game with the Dutch, Neill had decided to drop Best. It was a shock though some felt that it was only a matter of time given how much of a busted flush George Best had become though it was the IFA trying to meddle with the team selection to try and shoehorn Best into the side with alleged stories that he had to start every game no matter what to due to apparent secret deals with various sponsors that wanted him to and if he wasn't then the IFA could be hit in the pocket. With all this nonsense going on behind the scenes, Neill would blink first and Best would find himself back in the starting XI at the last minute much to the surprise of many, though really it wouldn't have mattered if Best had started that final game...


    Chris Nicholl, one of the standouts from that Northern Ireland team

    What happened in Northern Ireland's final group match in Dortmund was to be nothing short of a disaster. In a game plague with an uncertain pre-match for the Ulstermen no thanks to the question if Best would play, the Northern Ireland team looked weary and scared even and in both the fifth and forty-fifth minutes of the first half, Northern Ireland gave away two penalties which saw the Dutch sitting happily on a 2-0 lead on the end of the first half and with a mountain to climb; technically speaking Northern Ireland could still go through with a draw depending on what happened in the other match with Sweden and Uruguay but it was clearly a faint hope that no one could feel they could do it after what had happened. The only one to be absolutely sure was to win but then again this would be the famous Dutch team of 1974 and their brand of 'total football' that the Ulstermen had to deal with.

    It would get worse from them as George Best looked a shadow of himself and couldn't help find a way back into the game as the Dutch really clicked into their game plan and with that would score another two goals near the end to put them far in front with a 4-0 score line and any faint hope that anyone had for Northern Ireland getting something in this match to try and go through was crushed. George Best would thought finally get the ball into the back of the net during this game late on but alas it was nothing more than just a mere consolation goal in what had been in truth a rotten game for the Ulstermen and with that, brought the end of Northern Ireland's 1974 World Cup campaign though there would be more to follow in the aftermath of Northern Ireland's exit.

    George Best would find himself out of favour with the team; true the IFA would get the money from sponsors for having him starting all the games but would all come at literally a cost with Best's position with the Northern Ireland team going forward and that World Cup was to be the very last appearance the world would get to see George Best at a major tournament. The thought of the national side going forward with the man who had been the force of nature that had dragged the team to major tournaments for nearly a decade would be missing for the team and the thought of anyone trying to fill his boots would be a daunting one and what was to happen for Northern Ireland? No one knew...

    1974 ALT 2.png

    Final results of Northern Ireland's group at the 1974 World Cup

    Last but most certainly not least to make up the Home Nations out in West Germany would be England who would find themselves placed in a group of death with Argentina, Italy and Haiti. That all said despite making it to the World Cup and getting the tabloid press behind him, England manger Sir Alf Ramsay couldn't shake off the fact just how vicious they could be when things didn't go well for the national team even though they had made it to two World Cup finals in a row ever since they won it in 1966; they just seemed like they didn't want to be satisfied unless they would win the damn trophy. So right after the Poland game in the qualifying rounds in which England would win at Wembley, Ramsay made the shock announcement that he would leave the England job after this World Cup, even if they were to go on and win it. It was hardly the best preparation he'd admit for the team going into this tournament but he had felt like he had overstayed his welcome in the job and now would be the time to step down for some one with fresh ideas to take the team forward.

    It didn't make things easier as England's first game would be against Argentina and for the South Americans, memories of that Quarter-final in 1966 were still fresh in the minds of any Argentine and here was a chance for them to get revenge over the English. All around Stuttgart many England fans could be see around the area and there was a few unfortunate incidents with English supporters chanting 'Two World Wars and One World Cup' to the German public and even a scuffle or two between Argentina and England fans which many hoped wouldn't have happen. Thankfully as the large crowd filled up the Neckarstadion, there was a good atmosphere as the teams lined up for the anthems to be played.

    Right from kick off England looked the more dangerous team as they held possession and their fans were enjoying the moment, yet Ramsay remained expressionless as Argentina showed that they weren't backing down so easily and Aldo Poy nearly scored for Argentina in the eighth minute only for Ray Clemence to make a great save by diving to the right. Ramsay yelled at his players on the touchline to get forward and not let them score early in the game, though the game was slowly turning into a bad tampered game with sliding tackles taking place and Clive Thomas, the Welsh referee, was trying all he could to make the game move along and not book anyone, though both sides would argue that perhaps there should've been a booking with how things were going.


    England and Argentina making it tough for each other during the first group game at the 1974 World Cup
    Twenty five minutes had gone by and despite good chances for either side, no one had scored and the game was becoming more of a battle than anything and some were wondering if there would be a goal in this game. Then thankfully in the twenty-seventh minute, Kevin Keegan makes a brilliant move around Roberto Perfumo who passes the ball up towards Mick Channon who slips it under the grasp of Daniel Carnevali and fires England into the lead. Though England might have the opening goal, Argentina are far from out of this game and they keep pressing, however just three minutes later and after having the ball past to him, Enrique Wolff drops a clanger as he fails to get a grip on the ball before Martin Peters whips the ball of his feet before charging forward with the ball who rather then give it to one of the strikers up front, he decides to go it alone and fires home a long range shot that to the amazement of many, it goes in and in just a few minutes, England are leading 2-0. The England fans start milking the moment throughout the first half and it doesn't help the Argentine players who are growing frustrated and Carlos Babington is given a booking right near the end of the first half and when the first half ends, few will doubt that England will throw this away.

    The second half see's then Argentina flying out of the traps and determined to get something out of this game and for about ten minutes, they look the more better team that should score and the loud England fans that were enjoying the game all suddenly go very quiet. Then after a brutal push forward, Ramón Heredia scores in, rather ironically, the sixth-sixth minute and Argentina surely have something to sing about then with the score now 2-1. Chants of 'Are-gen-tina!' start to be heard from their supporters as the players keep pressing forward and Ramsay is now fearing that all the team's hard work could be ruined. But England hold on thanks to a few subs that help plug up the defensive wall that keep Argentina out for now. The game goes at quite a lightning pace when before anyone notices that soon it is the eighty-seventh minute of the game and England have to hold off one last push as Argentina come in again and Mario Kempes rushes in with the ball before crossing it over towards Agustín Balbuena who slides in in the box and he sends the ball hitting the crossbar and Clemence makes a mad save that keeps the ball directly on the line. The Argentine players protest that it's a goal, but Clemance, still lying forward on the ground holding the ball is damn well sure that the ball hasn't crossed the line as if many Englishman watching the game at home.

    The referee isn't sure himself and instead heads over to the linesman to get his view of the situation. Many hearts are in the mouth of many and after what feels like ages, the referee points at the centre circle and the traveling Argentina supporters celebrate wildly. Ramsay himself is unhappy and yells out a barrage of abuse at the Welsh referee in which in the modern game would have seen him given a red card and sent to the stands. Then after a few manic moments, the game ends 2-2 and it is the Argentines who are the more happier after the game, one would've thought they would've won the game. That being said, there is still two more games to go but Ramsay now fears the claws are out to get him.


    More action during the game with England and Argentina which ended 2-2
    It was far from the start that Ramsay would have wanted and as he feared, the English press came to attack him for what they felt was him throwing away a 2-0 lead in which in truth there was no excuse for that other than the fact England lost their bottle in the moment. Nonetheless they had gotten a point from the opening game and up next would be minnows Haiti in Munich in which England were expecting to crush them with ease and that is what happened; England would utterly destroy Haiti by seven goals to nil which would go on to the highest score line that England had ever won at a World Cup by and thus it did seem to put England in a good position going into their final group clash with Italy though in some ways, it wasn't all that easy in terms of outcomes. As the table stood in Group 4 prior to the final group games to be played on the 23rd June, it was extremely tight with England and Italy both tied with three points and Argentina two points (Haiti having nothing) and there was great uncertainty which of those three big footballing nations would make an early exit.

    With this in mind, Ramsay was sure as hell going to make sure that England would progress, but he was notably cautious prior the teams coming out of the tunnel at the Neckarstadion in Stuttgart as Italy looked like a team with a point to prove. As the teams emerged from the tunnel, they were greeted by thousands of their own supporters cheering and waving their flags and it was the atmosphere that Ramsay would've wanted as England fans hadn't exactly made the best first impression when they arrived despite warnings from the FA not to bring up any WWII related stuff. However things had gotten better with reports that Italian and English supporters mixed together around Stuttgart, though both sides had deep down worries that one of them would be going home and that was always a horrible feel to have mainly with the pressure of this game as one of them might not be able to go through to the next round. As the game started, Italy were the team that were making themselves known as the likes of Mazzola and Anastasi running down the England flanks and trying to find the opening goal early on in this game and Mazzola almost did find the opener in the sixth minute but the grateful hands of Clemence stopped it from going in.

    The England fans could only watch, sometimes behind gaps in their fingers as they watched the Italians utterly hammer England with the Azzurri having a point to prove to show their worth and get revenge on England for beating them in the Semi-final in the last World Cup. The poor defensive line of England that had come under criticism in the English press was right under the cosh trying so hard to keep out the Italians from scoring. After twenty minutes of what was quite honestly a one sided game, England finally started to push back and their own supporters cheered loudly for them that finally something good was happening for them. However in the twenty-fifth minute, Norman Hunter would bring down Causio and would be given a booking from the ref. Ramsay rubbed his chin in thought of how to stop this Italian team, his team had been way too cautious and should've been more adventurous in moving up the field, so he get's on the touchline and begins barking orders for the players to do just that.


    Sometime during the first half in which both England and Italy try to find the opening goal to the game

    About six minutes later, England finally start making inroads in the Italian half and the first England chance comes to Kevin Keegan in the twenty ninth minute when he tries an ambitious shot from 30 yards outside the box but Dino Zoff knocks it up over the bar and out for a corner kick. A sudden chill goes up the back of many Italian fans in the ground as they begin to fear that their lack of scoring a goal with all the domination that they've had will come back to haunt them, and it does. In the thirty-eighth minute, after England start to turn the game around, Martin Peters takes the ball past several of the Italian defence line before he crosses it up over to his fellow Leeds United player, Allan Clarke before he tucked it under the arm of Zoff who tries to make a mad attempt to save it, but he is unlucky as England go 1-0 up.

    The Italian players all looked stunned, after all their possession and how well they had worked the game throughout, they only have themselves to blame for letting them go behind in the game that they should've been leading with all the chances they've had, alas as the old saying goes 'football is a funny old game'. Italy do try to stage a late comeback just before the break, but they are too slow to make any steam as the first half soon ends and their supporters jeer them as they leave the field with the England fans applauding their team's efforts and are very much liking what they have seen so far. Now they needed to extend their lead and see this game off as word soon gets round in the other match, Argentina are leading 2-0 at the break and looking set to go through and with it unlikely that Haiti can cause a huge upset, it is down to either England or Italy to avoid an early exit here.

    That said, the end of the first half does bring with it some rather infamous scenes in which the pressure of an early exit is getting to some of the Italian players and there are squabbles between them and the English players and as of a result the West German referee has to try and calm the situation down though it is rather a sorry image to see a bunch of grown men acting like that, if it wasn't for a major game then the scene might have been almost something straight out of Monty Python. Nonetheless, it was still a slender 1-0 lead for England and Ramsay knew that they needed another goal and avoid throwing a win away like with Argentina. Surely though his players could do it though?


    For the second half, the Italians try all they can knowing that if they can't get something here, they are facing elimination from the tournament but to their credit they actually start to play some good football and this time England find themselves looking rather all over the place with Italy clearly out with a point to prove. The English defence does all it can to stop the Italians to make an impact though there are a few heart stopping moments in which Anastasi nearly slipping in the ball into the back of the net in the fifty-third minute though it is only thanks to the hands of Clemence to keep out that goal and keep it at 1-0 for England.

    Italy though keep pressing and England start to look rather rattled and seem unable to get forward and the feeling for an Italian equaliser seems a sure-fire thing to happen though the question is a matter of when it might happen and sure enough, the worst fears of the English happen in the sixty-fourth minute. It is Cappello who ends up firing in the goal for Italy with an utter rocket of a shot that nearly rips the back of the net and with that, Italy are back in the game and no one can say that they don't deserve it and it is now all hands to the deck for England.

    The rest of the second half would end up being a tense affair for England but also for Italy in which while both have four points, even that might not be enough as it can all go down to goal difference with how many Argentina can get in their game with Haiti; a win is pretty much is needed by both to go through. England fail to get forward most of the game, never mind trying to get the ball into the back of the net but neither can Italy who are desperate in trying to find the winner which for whoever finds it will pretty much book their place, but as it stands there is no clue as to who will be in a better place here.


    All tense faces in the final group game with England and Italy
    In the final ten minutes of the after so much Italian pressure which all in the end came to nothing, England do start to probe up the field to try and find a shock late winner themselves though they have to be careful in making sure they don't leave themselves exposed at the back. There is nothing though that England can't do in order to try and win the game for themselves and thus before long after what is a right nerve shredder of a second half for both teams, the final whistle blows and now it the question on everyone's mind is who made it through?

    England, Italy and Argentina all end up on four points though it with England who win the group thanks to goal difference and it is with said goal difference that decide the fate for the latter two. The Argentines end up beating Haiti 4-1 and in the tightest and most heart-breaking fashion for the Italians, it is Argentina who by the very slimmest of goal difference sneak through in second place and Italy are dumped out of the World Cup. There are more than a few sighs of relief from the English knowing how very different things might've gone had fate not smiled on England there.

    When the team got back to their hotel they are greeted by a large group of delighted England fans standing outside the hotel awaiting for them as they get off the bus. It is here that they can finally relax and get themselves ready for what is follow and they soon found out the news that they would be in Group B along with the hosts West Germany, Sweden and Scotland. It was to be another group of death to go through, not what anyone wanted but alas, only two Home Nations were left and would one be left standing?

    1974 ALT 3.png

    Final results of England's group at the 1974 World Cup

    And so England and Scotland are through, Northern Ireland though crash and burn in the first round though. Anyway both have a difficult group with the schedule list as follows:

    Game One

    Scotland vs. West Germany
    Sweden vs. England
    Game Two
    England vs. Scotland
    West Germany vs. Sweden

    Game Three
    England vs. West Germany
    Sweden vs. Scotland

    Group A is pretty much the same as OTL except Yugoslavia replaces Brazil, so, what are your predictions for the scores and the group? Will either England and Scotland make it to the final or is it a step too far? Find out next time and hope you enjoyed this big update! :)
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    Chapter 26: It's Not Gone All Well...
  • Chapter 26
    It's Not Gone All Well...

    While Northern Ireland had made an early exit home after a rather poor set of performances in the first round, it meant that both England and Scotland would be now the only British teams left in the World Cup and the 26th June would see both teams play with Scotland playing West Germany first off which would be followed by England taking on Sweden following that game. The BBC would cover the former game games live and ITV with the latter and there was great excitement for Scotland fans going into this game as they had played the Germans in a friendly the preceding year and drawn with them 1-1 which gave them hope that not only could they match that result but maybe better it (though they would lose in the reverse leg 2-1 just back in March). Indeed, there was good reason to think that if they could defeat Brazil, the now ex-World Champions, then surely the same could happen for the much fancied West Germans? On the day of the game in Düsseldorf, the Rheinstadion is filled with over sixty-seven thousand spectators with just over a thousand of them being Scots with the rest of the ground being filled up overwhelmingly the local German population.

    As the teams walked out, Scotland captain Billy Bremner looked around seeing the German flags flying around and part of him had to feel a little bit sorry for the people as he was vaguely aware that since the end of the second World War, the citizens really didn't want to celebrate patriotism due them trying to live down their war time past and how any German pride might awaken some ugly thoughts; the World Cup was probably the only time the German people could have the chance to celebrate in taking pride in their country. It only seem to come to the Scotland captain to think just how lucky he and his fellow countrymen really were to show off their Scottish colours freely and in some ways that they in some ways took that fact for granted. As the two teams then lined up for the anthems, he could see the odd Scotland supporter in that mass of German fans waving a Lion Rampart flag or wearing the usual bit of, admittedly, rather tatty tartan clothing that one could easily have bought from one of those cheap tourists shops around the country (and no no doubt would have made a killing on selling them to any Scotland fans heading to West Germany), nonetheless it made them easy to be seen quite easily in the vast crowd here.

    Scotland started the game in order to try and make it difficult for the Germans as they begin to keep the ball away and this causes the home fans to jeer the Scots and even their own team for not getting a grip in this game like they expected them to do. It all makes for a very strange atmosphere where it seems neither team has the backing of the support here and for the next ten minutes of the game, the Scots prevent West Germany from scoring and the longer it goes on, the jeers and whistles in the ground start to become more frequent with the small Scottish support in the ground trying their best to cheer on their players and unknown to the Scottish players was that there were many more supporters left outside the ground that didn't have a ticket but no doubt would be listening on any portable radio set to cheer their team on regardless. Finally in the fifteenth minute, Müller finally makes a shot on target but the ball but David Harvey saves it to keep the score at 0-0. Scotland manager Wille Ormond knows that if they can at least come away with a point from this game, it would set them up nicely for the next game with England, one that many have focused their attention too and one that the Scotland manager hopes that his players haven't been caught up in the hype of it all.


    Scotland and West Germany lock horns in their first group game of the second round
    As the game goes on, it seems like it'll be a repeat of the of the Brazil game in which the Brazilians made the mistake of underestimating the Scots and the underdog nation would go on to put them to shame by dumping them out of the World Cup, the West Germans themselves don't look all that comfortable and their fans are giving them plenty of stick up there on the terraces for good reason. Going into this game, they suffered some humiliation in which they were beaten by East Germany in their final group match to come in second place and finishing in that place for having the advantage of being the host nation did not gone down well for the locals. Speaking of which in the twenty-first minute, many Germans in the ground all have their hearts in their mouths when Joe Jordan has a golden chance to take the lead for Scotland when he slams the ball on goal but his shot is knocked over the bar by Maier and a nervous sigh of relief is felt around the stadium but it does show that this West German team might be under pressure. The chances of getting a shot on target for the hosts are pretty poor it must be said as in the first half with Scotland getting seven shots and the West Germans have only managed to poor three shots in which the Scottish goalkeeper has had not much hard saves to make though the main field of interest is in the midfield in which Bremner and his fellow Leeds United teammates in the Scotland team are all preventing the Germans from getting something from this game.

    If you are Scottish, you'd be saying it is great first half, if you are Germans then it's been a dreadful half though for everyone else it has been rather insipid which hardly anything dramatic happening in which it becomes clear that the main plan for the Scots isn't to go all guns blazing but rather play the long game with the hosts until they crack and finally give them a sucker punch. That said there is really nothing to talk about in this first half other than Sandy Jardine getting a yellow card in the 43rd minute which afterwards, the first half ends 0-0 and the halftime whistle is greeted by jeers from the crowd as the teams walk off. As the West German players walk off, those fans situated around to the mouth of the players' tunnel start rubbing their fingers and thumbs together, a reference to the much-publicized dispute over bonuses that has soured the players' relations with the German public since the start of this World Cup and it would seem that that this distance between the fans and team can only be fixed if they not only show their worth in this game, but win the tournament itself.

    So far, it's not all gone well at least as far as things are on the pitch. There has even been many rumoured stories in the newspapers flying around from the West German camp that some of the players have even threatened to not play in this World Cup unless their bonuses were to increase which has, wherever it's true or not, not gone down well with the German fans and has only added more fire to a now far more damaged and broken relationship between the players and supporters; as what legendary Celtic manager Jock Stein said, "football without fans is nothing." For the Scotland players who themselves were offered some, with some hindsight looking back on it, rather questionably deals that would help make them money but would turn it down, they might as well thought that they had dodged a bullet if things with the Germans are to be seen to be believed.

    "Are you still on strike?!" one angry middle aged German fan yells out at his team as they sheepishly head down the tunnel; doing so, bizarrely, in English, for the benefit of the Scots. Willie Ormond smiles knowing that perhaps they can make things worse for the Germans in the second half and plans out for the players as what to expect to do in the upcoming second half...


    Some other moments during the game in which Scotland hold the Germans to a 0-0 draw at the break

    When it comes round for the Second half to start, the West Germans now start playing to their worth as if they have all gotten a fire placed up their backside and they do start to create good chances and the hostile crowd do seem a bit supportive to them...just a little bit. The Duel threat of Willie Morgan and Tommy Hutchinson, on the left and right flanks respectively, also prove their own worth as they fire in crosses for Joe Jordan to open the scoring and there is one such glorious moment in the fifty-seventh minute in which the ball is passed to him by Hutchinson in which not only is the goal open, it's gaping for him to score. All that happens next for every Scotsman watching that game is an almighty cry of disbelieve as Jordon slid in to tap it in, but for crazy reason, the ball somehow misses his foot by what seems like a quarter of an inch. Jorden falls to his knees before finally falling face down on the field with him absolutely sickened that he couldn't get that ball in and his teammates all have their hands on their heads all in utter shock that the best chance for Scotland has gone and now the consequences for missing such a chance could come back to haunt them.

    West Germany known they have been let off the hook and, after a few bits of sweat wiped off from their foreheads after seeing that chance, they begin to make amends for themselves as the Scots now look weary as if missing that chance has sapped all the life out of them but nonetheless now seem to formulate their plan to act more on the defensive. As the game rolls on, it is starting to look likely that it is set to be a goalless draw that will not go down well of the hosts for their chances to try and win the group and reach the final. With this in mind, the Scots seem to enjoy the moment of playing the villains in this game if they are the ones about to gives the hosts nightmares. A couple of substitutions are made on both sides but neither really make much of an impact and when ones looks at both managers upon seeing their reactions over how poor the changes have been, it's unknown who is the more happier here.

    By the time the game is in the seventy-sixth minute, the game is still firmly deadlocked and the crowd is now becoming more restless as the game as fear is starting to grip them as the prospect of a second, possibly crippling defeat, is on the cards as they had already suffered a major setback by East Germany last week. A sudden defeat by Scotland could be fatal for the hosts. Then not long later in the seventy-ninth minute, the West Germans, now being willed on by the desperate crowd, get a chance when Billy Bremner makes a poor touch on the ball which the ball finds it's way to the feet of Müller who then slides his way into the six yard box in which the Scottish defence is caught off guard and with this, he simply prods the goal in and Harvey goes close to try and save it, but the ball just manages to find a way under him and to his and many of his fellow countryman's horror, West Germany now lead the game 1-0 and now the Scots are the ones looking like the ones about to face defeat in this game.


    The moment West Germany take the lead in the game against Scotland

    From all around on the terraces and in many homes and bars across West Germany, there is an outpouring of relief from the supporters as flags suddenly are risen up and are being waved all around knowing that victory has been snatched from the jaws of defeat if they can just hang on for the final. The Scotland players all look on in despair and now they have to try and find way to snatch a point in this game if they have any ambitious going further. In the eighty-second minute, Jordon looks to be the one Scottish players trying to drag his team back into the game as he attempts a rather ambitious volley from thirty yards out from the box but instead he blasts it way over and his miss is greeted by sarcastic cheers from the large German support in the ground.

    Scotland do try all they can in trying to find a goal yet no matter how hard they try or whatever skills they know of trying to save a game, they all just can't seem able to find said goal as the West Germans seem more than happier with the slender lead and as of a result, end up pulling most of their players back in order to make the defence as stack as possible to the point in which nothing can get through. To add more to the despair of the Scots, the Germans despite having much of their players back nearly make the day worse for their opponents in which in the eighty-six minute, Heinz Flohe (one of the substitutes) is given the ball and charges down the field on a counter attack in which there is hardly in Scottish player marking him and the noise in the stadium rises as there is a likely situation that the hosts are going to extend their lead.

    Thankfully for the Scots, the move is prevented thanks to a late sliding tackle from Sandy Jardine who boots the ball away but alas it is only just a mere consolation as Scotland fail to make the most of it in which before long after trying to hard to break down the German defence, the final whistle is blown and the Scotland players can only look at each other with heartbroken expressions after all their effort of getting something from this game has all been for nothing. The game has ended 1-0 to West Germany and that is all that is needed to help them get on their way for what they hope is reaching the final. For the Scots, the pressure is now more intense as they have to win their next game and the one after that to have any chance of getting to the final, and it's against England of all teams they have to pressure then.


    A despair ridden Bremner after Scotland's defeat to West Germany

    Speaking of England, later that day the English would play Sweden in Stuttgart and hoped that they could do better than what had happened for their rivals. After hearing about Scotland's loss to West Germany, Sir Alf Ramsay knew that England had to simply beat the Swedes in order to have any chance of making it to, what he was hoping for, a straight third final in a row. That all being said, his players, his staff and several travelling FA officials all noticed that he looked rather uncomfortable at the start of the day and had seemingly gotten more nervous an hour before kick off. What was wrong? He was in fear. Fear for failing and facing the wrath of the tabloid press though admittedly his fears were understandable if anyone knew their history.

    Back in 1958, England had defeated by Sweden, who had been the hosts in that World Cup in the Quarter-Finals and ever since then, the England manager and several players who had been playing at that World Cup and had this uncomfortable feeling about playing the Scandinavians and all this wasn't including the fact that the Swedes were a damn good team. They themselves had always had played their part in any World Cup and this World Cup was no exception in which while they had managed two 0-0 draws and a 3-0 hammering of Uruguay in the first round, they had gone through unbeaten so it would be utterly foolish of anyone to simply write off the Swedes as they weren't a Brazil or West Germany.

    Nonetheless just prior to the game starting, there is a great sea of people in the stadium at Stuttgart and the England fans are making themselves know by flying a sea of Union and St George Crosses flags in their end of the ground, yet Ramsay is possibly the only Englishmen watching that game knowing that it won't be all plain sailing for them. When the game does start, neither side really show their worth early on in the game despite the knowledge that whoever might win this game had a damn good chance of going through to the final depending on other results to follow. To most of the England fans watching the game in the first ten minutes, there is a sense of frustration that their side is wasting chances and making various slack passes in which the Swedes have no trouble in stopping the English from getting anywhere.


    England players line up for their game with Sweden
    England do get a great chance in the fifteenth minute in which Alan Ball after running through a sea of yellow shirts goes for goal but alas his shot instead cannons off the crossbar and the Swedes survive another day. The English though over the next five minutes do seem to have a lot more touches on the ball compared to the Swedes but alas the frustrating thing for the English supporters watching as they want to see goals as they are needed now. However in the 27th minute in the game with the game still at 0-0, Mick Channon sends home a rocket of a shot that hits the back of the net and it seems that England have the breakthrough...or do they? For some odd reason, the Uruguayan referee rules the goal offside which to the confusion of the English and this is quickly replaced by outrage.

    Norman Hunter has a few rough words to say to the referee though to add to this troubles he is given a yellow card from the referee after getting into an argument over a goal in which he felt he was wrongly ruled offside. It is stupid booking to get with Ramsay sitting on the bench shaking his head in disbelieve, his mood not improving in the slightest. Nonetheless, England keep pressing to try and find the opening goal and it seems that the supporters won't have long to wait for in the thirty-first minute of the game, some hope for England does arrive when Mick Channon attempts a shot at the goal which looks like a repeat of Alan Ball's goal but this time the Swedish keeper Hellstrom makes a brilliant save to deny England the chance of breaking the deadlock.

    The game is difficult to make who will come out of top as it is a very open game with both sides very evenly matched. Those at home watching on TV while sitting on their chairs must've been wondering when the goals would come from and who would score them. Slowly and surely as the game enters the final ten minutes of the first half, England are by far the more dominate team and the travelling England support are greatly excited by what they are seeing as it hopefully gives them an idea of who might be the better team in this game. Despite a couple of chances coming for Sweden, England are clearly the better team here yet have failed to get the ball into the back of the net. Then in the 43rd minute, a goal is scored by a bad error from the keeper which sends one of the stadium in raptures...but it's not England.

    Yes, it is against all the odds that it turns out that the Swedes have broken the deadlock. Ralf Edstrom, the goal scorer celebrates wildly with teammates and supporters while the English part of the ground are silent. What makes it more painful for England is that the goal came from a sudden counter attack and in that moment England were left exposed and Ray Clemence despite his best efforts can do nothing to stop it. In that moment, Ramsay's fears about the Swedes seem to be about to come true. His moment of shock is quickly replaced by anger in which he yells at the players to get back into the game, but with just two minutes left, they fail to find a quick fire equaliser and they walked off, despite looking like the better team throughout the game, 1-0 down at the end of the first half with their own supporters booing them as they head down the tunnel. What on earth were they going to do now?


    Sweden celebrate their goal against England

    There are a lot of words expressed at halftime between Ramsay and the players over what to do and the word for the England manager is just keep it up as sooner or later they will break down the Swedes and get the goal they feel that they deserve. To England's credit, they do start bossing the Swedes around at the start of the second half and it would seem that they are very likely going to score, yet the cunning Swedes 'park-the-bus' on England and for the rest of the game keep them out from scoring. It is not a good look and the English players are all showing signs of frustration that they can't seem to play their style of game and the best they can do is just keeping trying and hope Ramsay's prediction becomes true.

    The best chance so far for England in the second half in which the English have a corner kick in the fifty-seventh minute in which Channon finds his head on the ball and attempts to header the ball onto goal, however Hellstrom pulls off a masterful save from close range in which he barely has time to knock it over the bar which all in the end helps keep the Swedes in the lead in this game at least for now. That said Sweden aren't resting on their laurels so easily as about six minutes later after that chance for England, Roland Sandberg attempts for a shot on target himself but alas his shot blazes over the bar. Nonetheless, it does show that England have to be careful if they wish to avoid going further behind.

    In the sixty-ninth minute, Ramsey decides to make a substitute in which turns out that he takes off Allan Clarke, who for the most part has done not much in this game and in his place turns out to be a young Kevin Keegan who now makes his first appearance at the World Cup and from the get go, he does seem to make a difference as he tries to convert chances but sadly much like the rest of the team he can't seem to find a way through that frustratingly stack Swedish defence that clearly have no intention in letting their guard down and show that they too want to win this game.

    Mick Channon during the match with Sweden

    After eighty-three minutes and with all the pressing coming from England, they still haven't been able to score and there is now an ever growing feeling among any Englishman that this World Cup looks like it might be slipping away from them and now the Swedish supporters are the ones making all the noise in the ground. However in that eighty-six minute would be the moment that would be of great controversy for England. Kevin Keegan during a move near the box is brought down right on the edge the by one of the Swedish defenders and every English person either on the field terrace or back home all cry out for a penalty. Surely they deserve this after all the hard work they have been trying?

    Alas, for some bizarre reason which nobody knows why, the referee waves off the penalty claim by only booking the Swedish defender who made the foul but then points for a goal kick to take place. Uproar. Cries of 'Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!' can be heard from the England end of the ground who feel that the referee has made a foolish mistake of not giving England the penalty, not to mention that they perhaps deserve it after the way England have dominated the game. From the bench, Sir Alf Ramsay's fears about Sweden are going to be proven right unless something can happen late on.

    However despite the Swedes not being able to find the back of the net, the game eventually ends 1-0 to Sweden and the English walk off feeling dejected knowing that things now seem impossible for making the final though there is a great deal of anger among many that they might have been cheated from getting a result of some kind just to get them off the mark. To make matters worse for them to add to the pressure, Scotland lie in wait who in turn are needing a win to do anything in this World Cup. In conclusion, it has been a bad day for the British teams as it's not gone all well though the next game would be well documented though not in the ways anyone would have imagined...

    Oh dear, it's not gone well for either England or Scotland here with both losing 1-0. Next update will be England vs Scotland in West Germany and the question is who will be the one that has the better chance of going through or will they and what do I hint at near the end of this chapter? Until then, find out next time!
    Chapter 27: The Battle Of Frankfurt
  • Chapter 27
    The Battle of Frankfurt

    The Waldstadion in Frankfurt, West Germany - June 30th 1974. A day and football fixture that would be remembered by the supporters or anyone from England and Scotland but not for all the reasons one might think. On that morning all across the UK, there was a great deal of anticipation, excitement and quite a good deal of tension as June 30th would be the day that England and Scotland would play each other, not for the first time, in crucial World Cup match in which both sides badly needed a win in order to keep their hopes of reaching to the final alive. Why was this? Due to the strange way this second group stage had been designed with only the group winner being able to reach the final and with the English and Scots both losing their opening matches, anything other than a victory for either would mark the end of the road for both nations in the tournament.

    The build up to the game was extreme; arguably much more so than when the two nations faced each other in a World Cup final nearly ten years ago, with many pundits calling the game hard to call by and with the game being played on a Sunday, many would be at home from work to watch the game with a kick-off time at four in the afternoon and viewing figures in Britain alone were expected to range some where just under twenty-five million to watch the game live. Though this might have not been the final and in the big picture of things it was just another World Cup fixture in the eyes of the rest of the world, it felt as though there was so much at stake than just the usual bragging rights that came whoever would win these games and many in pubs and living rooms around the country could feel tension grip them as it got closer to kick off. It was a hard feeling to say why other than both needed the victory and defeat or even a draw would pretty much kill of both had to reach the final.

    That all said, all those sitting at home or in pubs preparing to watch the game weren't the only ones though feeling the pressure. Over in Frankfurt where the game was to be played, the traveling support for both sides felt even worse for they could not only feel tension throughout the day but in cases could almost taste it which said everything for how the situation was. With such trepidation in the air it was almost a certainty there would be fights taking place prior before the game even started and the German police had to step in to break out various skirmishes that were happening between English and Scottish supporters and many of the huge crowd going to the game didn't even have a ticket for the match and just seemed there to purely cause trouble, at least as what the local German police thought so.

    There was also another and perhaps more important edge that many officials from both football associations had been fearing that that was a worst kept secret in British football that most politicians didn't know or even wanted to know about and that was a now emerging problem of football hooligans. The stories about hooligans across the United Kingdom have been well documented over the years though the origins of they came about from theories about broken families, mass unemployment that gripped the country in the 1970's and feeling like they were shunned by the rest of British society were all suggested; only thing that was certain is that football hooligans were starting to become more and more frequently at club level since the start of the decade and was only starting to get seen at now international level in which included England and Scotland and the last thing anyone wanted was the whole world to see an almighty football riot to take place at a World Cup with the whole world to see it.


    Some relaxed Scotland fans heading to the game, though they would be rather the minority out of the many thousands there

    Even as the supporters who had tickets were led into the ground, It only seemed to get worse as when the large crowd was packed into the Waldstadion at near capacity as the local police didn't think of segregating the supporters and this not only was a foolish situation in which the local authorities had utterly failed to read the situation and the rivalry between the two supporters, it only helped make the situation into being a very likely to be a powder keg. At one point with just ten minutes to go until kick off, another scuffle broke out between rival supporters, this time in the stadium and although the police quickly stop the fight it did very little to ease the tension and vile chanting that was being heard all around the stadium and several German neutrals in the crowd who simply wanted to see this famous fixture in the flesh all felt trapped and probably wished they'd stayed at home.

    The stadium was turning into a cauldron of hate and the longer it seemed to take until the players would appear then the more likely it was for things to quite literally spill onto the pitch so when the players did arrive to be led onto the pitch by the East German referee they were greeted the with sight of Union and Lion rampart flags being waved across the ground, chanting and an almighty sigh of relief to the police in the ground who could only hope that they wouldn't be needed for anymore and that a crises had been averted. That said when the England and Scotland teams walked out onto the field, they were shocked to see the huge police presence that were lined up around the ground that were facing the supporters; it was unlike anything they had ever seen either at Wembley or Hampden Park and clearly there was a hostile atmosphere in the air that the German police were not wanting to take chances with.

    Finally after what felt like an age from early in the morning that had the whole country on the edge all day, the game would finally start and one German police officer years later would describe the roar that greeted the first kick of the ball as one of the loudest he'd ever heard in not just this World Cup but rather at any football ground he'd been to. Just like the thousands of fans here in Frankfurt, the players all had a point to prove with it most likely being with England due to to the fact that in their last game with Scotland at Hampden Park in May in the Home Championship, they had lost 2-0 in which the Scots had gone on to win the Championship that year. Now with just a month later after that game, here was the great chance to not only get revenge on the Scots, but knock them out of the World Cup with a win.


    Early moments of the game between England and Scotland

    Though Scotland might have won the last tie rather comfortably, everyone knows that in derby games like this, anything can change quickly and it wasn't out of the realms of possibility and a 5-0 hammering from England like what they had inflected upon the Scots a year ago for what was the SFA's centenary celebrations could honestly happen again here in Frankfurt. Nonetheless in the early moments of the most recent game between the two rivals, the game itself wasn't a graceful nor a scrappy affair as both sides seemed to take great care with the ball and the first half alone hadn't really been all the exciting game it had been built up in the press for with the commentators and many watching at home all wondering when things would really kick-off.

    The only thing to note was not relating to the field but rather the actions of the Scotland and England supporters both trying to out chant each other which made for quite a strange yet amusing experience. In the thirteenth minute however, the game finally came to life when England took an advantage on with Martin Peters almost scoring for England but his attempt is saved by David Harvey who knocks it up over the bar to prevent England getting the early lead. The game itself is noticeable for having many of the players for both sides playing for Leeds United with half of the Scottish team alone having Leeds connections and it had been joked that a Leeds civil war was on the cards with the makeup of this tie and no doubt when the players were to return to Leeds Untied after the World Cup, there would no doubt be some interesting questions asked.

    Then in the twenty-third minute of the first half, Scotland are awarded a corner kick and Jimmy Johnstone takes it and it flies over a sea of heads in the box before connecting with that of Joe Jordon who sends the ball thundering downward past the hands of Ray Clemence into the bottom left of the goal and it is a goal that fires Scotland into the lead, their fans in raptures and hopefully maybe a critical goal that keeps Scotland's World Cup hopes alive. The German police look on with nervous expressions at the Tartan Army not knowing what was more dangerous; a drunken Scot celebrating or a drunken and furious Englishman wanting to fight each other. Pretty much any hopes of peaceful game at least of what was happening up on the terraces seemed very much misguided.


    Jordon celebrates his opening goal that puts Scotland in front

    Afterwards, the game starts to come to life though it is quite a brutal affair with both sides tackling and fouling each other with perhaps little consequence that they would be booked or sent off, the latter of which has, amazingly, never happened in the amount of games the two sides have played in. In the twenty-seventh minute, there has been already been three yellow cards for John Blackly, Terry Cooper and Jim Holton respectively and the fourth comes about when Norman Hunter brings down Scotland captain and his fellow Leeds United teammate Billy Bremner and although Hunter is booked, Bremner gets up and starts ranting in perhaps the most Scottish way possible towards Hunter using so many swear words under the sun and crying out that he hates his guts all of this despite being his teammate at club level. The situation of those watching what can be either an argument or a meltdown depending on who you ask is quite amusing in the middle of a this powder keg of a game and it hasn't gotten to the half hour mark, let alone half-time.

    Willie Ormond and Sir Alf Ramsay, The two managers for Scotland and England respectably, stand there on the touchline glancing at each other with Ramsay being the more nervous of the two and for good reason. He had faced a vile reception by the English media following their defeat to Sweden and many were now calling for his head should they lose to Scotland which would surely end their World Cup hopes. To be an England manager and lose your last game in charge would be a terrible thing, but even worse if it was to Scotland and at a World Cup. England do try to push forward but Scotland seem more than happy to hang onto their 1-0 lead and play defensive football. As the first half winds down, the Tartan Army are making most of the noise in the ground with them chanting, 'If you hate the fucking English clap your hands'.

    Despite Scotland holding onto the lead, throughout the final ten minutes of the game, England do look better with them having more of the ball and even some of the Scottish players, either thinking of the first half ending already or perhaps even what might happen next, make some foolish mistakes with one such embarrassing moment coming in the thirty-ninth minute when Jim Holton has the ball but suffers from a slip which has him lose the ball, much to the amusement of the English support and accidently lets the ball roll off the field for an England throw in Nonetheless despite England looking the better team prior the end, they fail to turn their chances into goals in which the first half ends right after Keegan almost scores a great chance that just goes wide of the post and the players walk of with England 1-0 down still.


    In the heart of the action as England try to find the equaliser just before the break

    Yet despite many wanting all things to happen on the field, one would imagine that sooner or later another scuffle would break out in the stands and sadly it does with terrible scenes, thankfully not caught on camera due to this being in the middle of half-time, the two teams are inside their dressing rooms and unaware of what is going on outside in which there is the sorry sight of two bloody faced Scotland and England fans who have gone on at whack a glass beer bottle at each other causing the blood the drip down their clothes. It is not the atmosphere nobody wanted for a family and it is just another example of how huge this game really is for both these teams. As it stood though, England looked liked they were going to be heading home and Scotland would be staying a little longer in West Germany...

    Throughout the interval just before the second half begins, the German security try all they can to try and calm down the two sets of supporters as several fights in random pockets in the ground take place among the huge crowd of nearly fifty-eight thousand packed in the ground. Indeed years later, the head of the German police there had even considered stopping the game should things get more violent though others would blame the poor planning and operations that had seen the rather foolish and dangerous idea of putting both fans together instead of segregating them which honestly seemed to be causing a lot of the problems here. Lord knows if this operation was carried out with a crowd three times this size at either Wembley or Hampden Park..

    Finally, upon with the players returning the field, the second half gets underway and it seems that after quite a big team talk that Ramsay has had with his players, England start to play much better and the Scots' original idea of holding back is seemly ruined as the England forwards all start to bring more chance of a goal for the team and Peters nearly scores in the forty-seventh minute, only for Scotland's David Harvey to make a vital save in the bottom left corner. Despite the save, England fans start to find their voice again after seeing the good play that their team is showing early on in this second half. Willie Ormond then makes a substitution just two minutes later after that chance in which Gordon McQueen goes on for Jim Holton after Ormond fears that the tension from the terraces is starting to get to him after it looks like the tackles he's been performing could see him being sent off.

    Despite England having the better half in terms of possession, they just can't seem to find the goal and it looks like it could be a repeat of the Sweden game in which all Scotland need to do is defend all game. Then in the fifty-six minute of the game, Alan Ball attempts to cross the ball over to Allan Clarke just on the very edge of the box, however Sandy Jardine makes a rotten lunge in on the Englishman to get the ball off him and instead it only causes the Arsenal player to come crashing down right on the edge of the box. It looks like it might be a freekick for England in a rather tempting area, however every Scotsman is shocked when the referee blows his whistle and points to the spot for a penalty to England. The England fans in the ground roar in delight and the Scottish players all start protesting to the East German referee that challenge didn't happen in the box. However despite the fierce protests, it is still going to be a penalty and it'll be down to Kevin Keegan to take it and hopefully get England back level.


    All flying heads during the second half between the two teams
    With little error (as well as perhaps a good deal of praying from many Englishmen), he slots the ball past Harvey right down the middle with great confidence and England are back in the game in which while it has been a goal that the Three Lions have deserved, time is now running out for one of teams to find a winner that will save their World Cup; as it stands a draw for both will be terminal for both sides. The supporters are giving it their all which rubs off the players as in the sixty-first minute, Bremner and Trevor Brooking come together as the as the former tries to get the ball of the Englishman's feet, but they end up being rather tangled up and the fiery Scot finally loses his cool and elbows the England player in the face and sends him crashing to the ground with him covering his face.

    The England players, bench and supporters both in the ground and watching the game back home all cry out for the referee to get involved and sure enough, he does. But to the horror of the Scots, the referee brings out a red card for Bremner. much like regarding the penalty, the Scottish players protest angrily as they surround the referee and their up-close nature is so that Joe Jordon finds himself booked just getting right up into the face of the East German referee. It seems that now half of the Scottish team is booked and any discipline they had has now fallen apart. Despite them trying all they can to reverse the choice, Bremner has to do the walk of shame and the Scotland captain gains the unwanted reputation of being the very first player to be sent off in a England/Scotland match; an award that no one will want to have.

    Things aren't any better with the Tartan Army, now feeling great frustration of how things are now not going their way, try to pick a fight with their English counterparts on the terraces and the police try their best to stop the game turning into a bloodbath though the players and vaguely aware of something going on up in the stands, all they can do is keep their head down and play the game and hope the matter can be solved sooner or later. For any any sporting journalist watching crowd it has become something like that of a bad tempered rock concert that will sooner or later end with a riot and given the reputation of hooligans being here, the worst case scenario looks to be on the cards for all concern. With the Scots now down to ten men, the English seen a good chance to try and use this to their advantage to try and win the game.


    Kevin Keegan, the scorer of England's equaliser, during the second half of the match

    Yet the Scots, with their plans more or less ruined, can only try and play deep trying to keep at bay a rampant English onslaught inside the Scottish defence with the game now turning something like that of the Alamo with the Scots only very occasionally making some chances to get forward, but most the chances seen are English. With just ten minutes to go and despite England now looking like a team up and running, the score for some crazy reason remains 1-1 thanks to some desperate and dogged Scottish defending though as it would stand, England and Scotland would both find themselves crashing out of this World Cup with their last group games being nothing more than glorified friendlies unless one of them can find a winner.

    To add to the mad situation unfolding here in Frankfurt, there has also now has been a total of eight bookings altogether and pretty much shows just what a violent and brutal game it has been that hasn't been a good advert for British football in contrast to the breathless 4-3 both sides played in the last World Cup. The Scots have done themselves good by holding off the furious English assault but it can't last forever as then in the eighty-eighth minute, Allan Clarke finally breaks through the Scottish defence and puts the ball into the back of the net which looks as though as put England in front, saved their World Cup hopes and finally kill of Scotland's World Cup hopes. However his celebrations are short lived when for some reason, the East German referee chalks of the goal and there seemly isn't any sign of offside flag being shown in which confuses both sides. It is pretty much a resemblance of the Sweden game with much like that penalty not being awarded, so too has been what looks like a perfectly good goal for the Three Lions

    The England players now angrily protest not being given the goal and the English supporters cry out, 'Dirty German bastard!' at the referee. However the Scots have been let off the hook, a rather big hook, and yet still have a slim chance to snatch a winner from the jaws of defeat and instead turn the tables on the English. Alas, time is now near it's end. Despite the yelling and chanting become more intense from both supporters as the game enters it's final few moments, both sides throw out any plans they might've had before and Scotland start pushing forward to strike home the final blow. However in the end, neither side can score and before anyone knows it, the whistle is blown to end the game at 1-1 and for both sides hopes in this World Cup. England and Scotland have caused each other to crash out of the tournament, something that one couldn't make up.


    The reaction that says it all at the end of the game

    An almighty roar of booing roars around the ground as at firsts, fans on both sides cry out abuse at their teams before many walk off out of the stadium dejected with their World Cup hopes now all but at an end. While the game itself would be a rather sad affair for both teams, the game itself would not be remembered but sadly for another reason after the game in which why it would become infamous in the history of British football but perhaps in all of the World Cup. An event to be known as 'The Battle of Frankfurt'. With the tension that had been building up at the start of the day, the random fights in an unsegregated stadium, poor police tactics, much alcohol that was latter found to be consumed by both sets of supporters and finally the final result which ended both teams' hopes of reaching the final, it could only end one way.

    Feeling angry and upset at what has happened, the bad police handling saw both fans meeting outside the ground in which given the circumstances of what had happened which like a red rag to a bull and thus from what was a handful of supporters would soon snowball and erupt into a huge street brawl in the city of Frankfurt in which England and Scotland fans decided to let their boiling frustrations at each other in a event that nearly lasted for the next few hours and with the cameras present on seeing this horrible scenes of vandalism and brawling happening, it was the worst case scenario that the FA and SFA had feared would happen and now they could only watch in despair as Britain's dirty little secret of football hooligans was there for all the world to see.

    Though the police would eventually control the situation which saw over six hundred people arrested and many more either deported back to the UK are injured in what can be described as one of the worst scenes of football hooligan violence ever seen. The day itself at that point is said to be the darkest moment of British football in which FIFA and the Frankfurt authorities fine the FA and SFA an undisclosed sum of money, which is rumour to be in the millions though there is no way of confirming this, over the failure to control their supporters and even another from FIFA and UEFA who threaten that they will ban the two nations should something like this should ever happen again. To sum it up for the rest of the world watching on, one German journalist who had been at the Frankfurt game and saw what happened would later write down on the front page of one Germans newspaper saying, 'No football please, we're British' as it showed a picture of the fans fighting each other on the streets.


    Rare news footage of a scene from the 'Battle of Frankfurt'

    The anti-climax would be made more apparent on 3rd July when both teams played their final group games with England losing 1-0 to the hosts and eventually winners West Germany and Scotland losing 2-1 to Sweden who would make it to the third-place game where they'd lose to Argentina. Thankfully there wasn't anymore hooligan action in which a combination of deportation and many supporters who just wanted to go home following the draw though in a classic case of the tabloid twisting the truth around, they went to town on the former in saying about ten thousand supporters had all been deported from West Germany and would be facing lifetime bans though the reality was that the number of those who were was in fact much lower but alas, it seemed like everyone wanting to stick the knife into the football supporters.

    Speaking of which, the fallout from Frankfurt would mark serious changes for the game in the UK going forward. With the whole world having seen the shameful scenes action was needed though the question was in terms of the international game of what to do. The rather brutal answer would be, as suggested by one certain Jock Stein was to end the British Home Championship in which he had felt, at least from a Scottish perspective, that only the England game and beating them seemed to be all the Scottish supporters cared about and that they should think that there was more to world than just playing England, not to mention the huge amount of money the SFA was getting in compared to most games in the Home Championship. It had been an idea he had thought about for a while now and with the thought of nationalism being bred from these games as well as more hooligan action happening, it would be with a heavy heart that the FA and SFA would announce that the 1975 Home Championship would be the final one though both the FAW and IFA were not happy at the news fearing the money they'd lose out all on what they said were a handful of mindless hooligans who had ruined it for everyone and that this tournament had been sacrificed just to please those at the top.

    Many supporters shared the sentiment of the latter two associations but with hindsight and in a ever increasing world, the old Home Championship was looking more dated the more times each of the Home Nations went to the World Cup and the more money that was awarded for those who did make it, many soon began to take on Stein's mindset. The following year in May, the very last Home Championship was played in which ultimately England would win by beating Scotland 5-1 at Wembley and it was a bittersweet outcome in which that championship marked the end of an era. An era in which the Home Nations would no longer play each other, even talks of at least games between England and Scotland could carry on were shot down (likely in the wake of the Frankfurt scenes) and thus a brave new world appeared that was far greater than those games in the British Isles. The Home Championship would be nothing more than memories and while there have been countless talks in the decades since then to bring back the games, they have often come to nothing. The next tournament to see a post-Home Championship world would be Euro 1976 and who, if any, would make it. A strange new world had opened up...

    1974 ALT 4.png

    Final results of England and Scotland's second round games at the 1974 World Cup

    Well then, 1974 ended with a bang though not for all the right reasons. Quite similar to how it all happened in the old TL though the consequences here are far more in which in big twist of history is that the Home Championship is over in 1975 and thus many things such as Wembley 1977 and NI winning it permanently in 1984 are all butterflied away sadly and even more sad from a Scottish perspective is that poor old Stewart Kennedy will be the last thing we'll remember of Scotland in that tournament which in a way makes this both a Dystopian and Utopian TL all at once. Not sure what to think of that.

    Anyway, the idea of getting rid of the Home International much earlier than OTL has more truth to it than you'd think in which Jock Stein did say that it should be stopped but alas it carried on for many years afterwards which did see attendances, other than the Scotland/England games, fall away. This does happen here with perhaps a very good excuse to finally end it which in terms of hooligan action might be a good or bad thing depending on who you ask. So yeah, Euro 1976 is next and this is first big change that never happened in the old TL and if you are Welsh, you might say that an old wrong will be righted...

    Before we go though for those who are interested how the other group went, here it is:

    1974 ALT 5.png

    So there we are, what did you think and what changes to you see coming in either Euro 1976 or beyond? Fair to say a lot of butterflies will all be at work here going forward so I hope you enjoyed and until next time, catch you all later! :)
    Chapter 28: The Dragon's (Violent) Centenary - 1976 European Championship
  • Chapter 28
    The Dragon's (Violent) Centenary


    Just two years after West Germany would lift the World Cup for the second time in their own backyard, it would be time for the fifth European Championship to take place, but for those on the British Isles, it would be a special year for one of the Home Nations. 1976 would mark the centenary of the Football Association of Wales (FAW) from it's formation and the association had wanted to mark this occasion with some big games to celebrate this which included three friendly games against all the other British Home Nations, though it must be said things for the Home Nations had gone all very different following the fallout of the now infamous Battle of Frankfurt (or Frankfurt Riots as some would call it) over the fact that the 1975-76 football season would mark the first time in which the Home International Championship, running since 1884, would not be played and for something that had been part of the British sporting calendar for what felt like generations, it felt like a big hole in the mindset of many. One of the biggest fears about it was that it had helped breed hooligan action in which now the British authorities were now trying to stamp out as best they could and by stopping the Home International was seen as a sign that they were taking great steps to tackle it though many argued that it was used as a scapegoat to throw under the bus and there were much bigger problems in regards to hooligans such as that was being clearly seen at club level; something that the Home Intentional had nothing to do with as just a year later following the World Cup, the European Cup final in Paris with Leeds United and Bayern Munich would be one of great controversy in which a set of rather infamous and quite honestly biased decisions from the referee would see not only Leeds lose in the aftermath saw their fans go on the rampage in Paris to let out their anger. An event well documented and so fierce not only were Leeds were banned for four years from playing in Europe but it had even made some in UEFA seriously consider to abandoning the tournament altogether. Another low in what many on the continent saw of British football hooligans causing chaos.

    That all said it was rather an irony in which the anniversary celebrations would bring the Home Nations together, albeit all in Wales with the first of the anniversary matches being played at Wrexham's Racecourse Ground on March 24th when Scotland were invited to play in a friendly to mark the hundredth anniversary of the first game the Welsh football team had played which just so happened to be Scotland on that occasion which had had been played all the way back on March 25th 1876. It had ended in a 4-0 defeat to Wales on that occasion and it would be a 3-1 defeat suffered on Wales' centenary which might have not been what the FAW had wanted, two more games with Northern Ireland and England in May would all be a mixed bag with a 1-0 victory over the Ulstermen at Swansea's Vetch Field and finally a 1-0 defeat to England at Cardiff's Ninian Park. However those friendlies were sandwiched in between what was perhaps an arguably far more important tie with Yugoslavia which was in fact a two legged play-off Quarter-Final battling it out for a place at Euro 1976. The other Home Nations had mixed fortunes in which England and Northern Ireland just missed out both finishing in second place, Scotland would also make the last eight though they would eventually suffer in a 3-1 aggregate defeat to West Germany. What better way for the Welsh football team to mark it's centenary by not only qualifying for a major tournament, but for being the only Home Nation to do so and end ten long and frustrating years for their supporters of not being able to make it to a major finals?

    That said things weren't easy, in the first leg of the tie in Zagreb they would lose 1-0 which meant they had it all to do it in the second leg in Cardiff. That said the absence of a Home Intentional Championship would in fact despite the sad loss be a blessing in disguise. Without having to worry about those games, it meant that Wales manager Mike Smith could focus all attention on the tie and it would be memorable night in which Wales would win 3-1 thanks to a double from Ian Evans and a penalty from Wales captain Terry Yorath and finally Wales would end a decade away in the football wilderness though what should of been a happy moment for Welsh football, things sadly in that game at Ninian Park would be remember for things off the park and how the Yugoslavs would somehow find a twelve man in the form of the referee. The referee, Rudi Glockner, was a native of East Germany and the FAW would make the horrendous choice of raising the flag of West Germany by mistake, leaving Glockner not too happy to say the least and it was claimed by some of the Welsh players that the referee would not start the game until the East German flag was flown above the stadium. It appeared that the damage to referee’s ego had already been done but that was only the tip of the iceberg that followed.


    Just a scene that says it all during the tie in Cardiff
    The game itself would be infamous for a number of questionable choices by the referee such as penalty that wasn't given to Wales only for not long later award the Yugoslavs a penalty of their own which would put them 2-0 up on aggerated and left the Welsh fans there furious of the feeling they were being robbed; the infamous events of the European Cup Final between Leeds United and Bayern Munich of the previous year would have been felt for Yorath who had been in that game must have felt a sense of lightning striking twice. Though Wales would buckle down and strike back with the goals needed, it seemed that most of the anger of the Welsh fans was directed at the referee. Much of the things that happened such as disallowed goals, Yorath even missing a second penalty in second half and the referee, fearful of the atmosphere in the ground would rush over to Mike Smith on the bench to warn him that if the unruly Welsh fans couldn't settle down then the game was in danger of being abandoned. Thankfully the latter didn't happen though by that point even as what was a great moment for Wales quickly descended into chaos in which many Welsh fans mixed with joy of finally qualifying and much anger fuelled by alcohol and the actions of the East German referee, a pitch invasion followed in which many running over towards the referee to confront him and would he barely get out of there as he made it down the tunnel while avoiding several missiles from the crowd.

    The Yugoslavs didn't cover themselves as humble losers in which the Yugoslavian players were also getting a tirade of verbal abuse thrown their way – so much so that as Jurica Jerkovic entered the players’ tunnel, he walked back out and punching a Welsh fan overhanging the tunnel which did little to calm the situation in what had turned into a near riot. With the memories of British hooligans causing chaos in Frankfurt and in Paris both still fresh in the mind, the violent and horrible scenes of fights in the terraces and the violent pitch invasion that followed were the last thing that anyone wanted and all this did not gone unnoticed by UEFA who quickly acted upon what had had happened and the scenes in Cardiff did jeopardised Wales’ chances of participating in the European Championship but also a ban from qualifying for the 1980 European Championships. UEFA initially banned Wales from entering for Euro 1976 and looked like in truly horrible situation in which their chance to appear at a major tournament after ten years was going to be cruelly yanked away. Much frantic negation and talks happened to try and overturn the ban with the FAW pointing out that all the scenes wouldn't have happened if the referee hadn't played such a poor game in which in turn caused the crowd to turn ugly and also pointed that unlike the English and Scottish supporters, this was a one of for the Welsh that would surely never happen again.

    Amazingly, UEFA did agree with some of the questionable performances that day and thus, the sanction was later reduced to just banning Wales playing fixtures held in Cardiff for the near future. After all that, Wales were now going going to the European Championship though many wary that Wales were very damn well lucky to even going after all what had happened. Still, as the sole British team at the tournament, much attention from the British press was placed on the Welsh football team and there many messages of good luck from various politicians and even one memorable meeting on the day that the Welsh team would fly out from Cardiff Airport they would encounter the Prince of Wales himself, Prince Charles, who wished them all the best and pointed out that after the Welsh rugby team this year had also gone out and won the Grand Slam in the Five Nations that it was a good year for Welsh sport though admitted that if the Welsh were to be victorious out there then he did promise to have a word with Her Majesty to award OBE's and maybe even Knighthoods in the event of a Welsh triumph. All sounded very good though as they flew off for the continent, the location of the tournment? The Netherlands. That said, there were some FAW officials on the plane expressing some regret that for the FAW's centenary that the tournament wasn't being hosted in Wales though in truth, it really could have been a thing.

    1976 ALT 1.png

    Locations of the stadiums used for Euro 1976

    When Wales reached the Quarter-Finals for Euro 1976, the location of the finals hadn't been chosen yet but some in the FAW had been hoping that for this being a special year that UEFA would award Wales the hosting rights for the tournament. Of course, this never happened as the Netherlands were awarded to host the tournament and Welsh hopes to do this were severely undermined by a war of words with UEFA over allowing them to go over the violent scenes in Cardiff in which seemed to kill of any hopes Wales had to host and some even said that the Welsh should've been considered that they were even going to the tournament. However, even without the hooligan action that happened that day, it seemed though that the FAW's hopes of hosting the tournament were over before things had started. The plan would have been that Cardiff's Arms Park and Swansea's Vetch Field would both host the Semis with the former going on to host the final, however there was a third stadium to host the Third-Place match which would be Wrexham's Racecourse Ground. Something that many FAW officials based in the north felt was a must due to it's status as the oldest football ground in Wales and one of the oldest in the UK.

    Of course, such things were casted aside in which while the hooligan action was never mentioned, it did seem that the stadiums did have problems for various reasons it seems. While the Arms Park seemed fine, the other two weren't really up to much in which during those days in Britain in which football stadiums were pretty much crumbling terraces that were filled with hooligans or sometimes ever far-right activists and Vetch Field was given a examination by visiting UEFA chiefs who felt the stadium's condition to be utterly woeful for ever thinking of hosting a finals game there and that seemed another nail in the coffin for Wales to host the tournament and there was no time to spruce up some of the stadiums (something that would be majorly overlooked nine years later at Heysel but that is another story). But then seemed to be another excuse from UEFA in which while they at least supported the idea in principle of Wales hosting Euro 1976, it was felt that with England having hosted the World Cup just ten years before that it was just a bit too early to have another tournament make a return to the British Isles though this seemed like a large contradiction according to the FAW who pointed out that the Netherlands being the hosts for this tournament shouldn't be the case due to the fact that their next door neighbours being Belgium and West Germany had both hosted the last European Championship and World Cup respectably in which in that case the tournament should've gone somewhere else like Czechoslovakia (one of the four nations at this tournament) though strangely this fact was greeted by a rather muted silence from UEFA.

    While the choice of the Netherlands might have not been that bad of choice, some felt that the choice to award it was not only to try and make up for the nation losing in the final of the last World Cup but rather in this new era of football stars being more like celebrities such as half of the Dutch team being household names following their exploits in West Germany and the lure of money making opportunities out in the Netherlands seemed too good to resist for UEFA. Bottom line it seemed that no matter if either of the above hadn't happened such as the Cardiff riot, the poor condition of some of the stadiums or if it felt that enough time had past for there to be a football tournament based in the British isles, it just seemed that UEFA had a number of excuses of why Wales shouldn't host a tournament and thus, the riots of Cardiff was the perfect excuse as to why; it seemed though that the anti-British hooligan problem seemed to be reaching to the highest office.


    The Welsh team (in their yellow away kit) having their portrait picture taken prior before flying out to Euro 1976
    All those thoughts however were the last thing on Mike Smith's mind as the plane rose from Cardiff Airport and he peered down from his window as he saw a fair few Welsh fans dotted around the area that had been there to send them on their way and were easily seen in bright red and he was filled with conflicted thoughts. As much as he had achieved the goal of taking Wales to a major tournament and in this centenary year, the whole build up for it had been a draining one in which at one point it had looked that he and the team might had not been able to go. It seemed that rather that enjoying the hype of going to a major tournament, Wales' first for ten years no less, instead it had been mired in fear and loathing and this must had been perhaps the most hellish build up to any Home Nation heading out to a major tournament and that wasn't even the thought of how well they might be able perform out there.

    Sitting some five rows away from the front, he glanced over at several of the other members of the Welsh team on board the flight all looking rather either excited of going or showing some trepidation as what was to be expected out there. Sitting next to him was Welsh captain Yorath who had pretty much been a shoe-in to lead the team at Euro 1976 and had only recently made a move from Leeds United to Coventry City at the end of the season though he did seem to look rather thoughtfully as if he and Smith were thinking of the same thing. Looking elsewhere on the plane, Smith also saw near the front of the plane and with no connection was another Welshman; a referee known as Clive Thomas who had been chosen by UEFA to be one of the four match officials at the tournament, bizarre considering how relations were at that time between UEFA and the FAW. It seemed that in the FAW's wisdom of wanting to be helpful, they had offered their countryman a place on the flight with the rest of the team to Amsterdam to help save costs of his own, though honestly he might have not been there as not once did he talk with any of the players or staff on the way over and instead kept his head down and was busy reading his book he had brought along to read.

    About twenty minutes into the flight, Smith finally spoke to Yorath. "Well then, what'd you think?"

    "Think what?" Yorath asked in bemusement.

    "That we're here," Smith replied slightly raising a hand, "here as in we're on our way at long last to a major tournament. You wouldn't think that was happening after what we've been through going into this."

    The Welsh captain nodded. "Very true, feels like we've been in the eye of a hurricane since that game with Yugoslavia."

    The Welsh manager then chuckled suddenly.

    "What's so funny?" Yorath asked.

    "It just had to be when you think about it, it just had to be like this for a birthday celebration," Smith replied. "If we're going to celebrate the association's one hundredth birthday then we have to have to include a lot of fireworks to go with it though not in way we'd imagine."

    The two men shared a short laugh and perhaps many years from now they'd be able to look back on all this and laugh but after everything that had happened then one would be forgiven of any of the Welsh contingent to feel weary about the drama that had threaten to ruin Wales' Dutch adventure before it had even started.

    "But there is another thing that is funny regarding you," Yorath added.

    "How so?" Smith asked raising an eyebrow.

    "For being something to celebrate everything good about Welsh football, it just had to be that an Englishman of all people had to lead us to our first tournament in many years, you. Kind of funny, don't you think?"

    Smith nodded slowly. "No, can't deny that. It is rather strange."

    Yes, Mike Smith wasn't even Welsh, he was born in Hendon in London and as a youth, he represented Middlesex at Under-15 and Under-18 levels and was trained at Loughborough College of Education where he decided to become a teacher rather than a professional footballer. For nine years, Smith would coach in Sussex before becoming team manager and coach to the Conference of English Grammar Schools and all this seemed to show that he was a million miles away from anything to do with Wales. Despite this fact though, he would be appointed by the FAW with the responsibility for managing the Welsh amateur and youth international teams and would then be appointed as the first English born person to become the manager of the Welsh football team in 1974.

    Despite his background that wasn't much special, let only the fact that wasn't Welsh, he would end up being the man to be the one to end Wales' wait to appear at a major tournament and the fact he was English in a centenary year for all things Welsh was an irony not lost on anyone. Then again it seemed many Welsh football supporters were more than happy to overlook this fact in which Smith felt that he might have become Wales' favourite Englishman and if he were to walk into a pub in either Cardiff and Swansea he'd be awarded a free pint.

    Smith was then quiet as he looked out of the window as the landscape of South Wales was soon replaced with the sight of the English channel and the real thought that now they were really heading somewhere and a place in which no Welsh team had been before in years. The flight over would be an uneventful one and nothing like the madness way before they had ever step foot on a plane, though Smith would mutter a few words under his breath in which even Yorath next to him didn't hear but nonetheless they were words that really cemented how he was for Wales' cause.

    "Happy centenary, dragons."

    Well then, this is very different from the old TL as Euro 1976 was never covered. I was hoping to cover Wales' first game however this chapter ended up being much bigger than I would have liked and it is more of world building that covers more of the off field stuff rather than yet another football chapter which honestly makes for a nice change, mainly as we will cover Wales here.

    As I said, for many Welsh fans Euro 1976 remains a great 'What If' story which I'm surprised hasn't been covered by anyone else here on AH, oh well, my gain then, haha. Lot of OTL stuff here such as the riots at Cardiff and what happened ITTL for Frankfurt with a mention of Leeds losing the final which is pretty much the same as OTL. Also fun to explore the idea of Wales trying and ultimately failing to hosting a tournament. Now as usual the fixture list coming up and here they are as follows:
    Netherlands vs Czechoslovakia

    Wales vs West Germany
    So who will win and why? Next update will be the latter fixture and see you soon as Wales take on the Germans! :)

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    Chapter 29: Jump In The Deep End
  • Chapter 29
    Jump In The Deep End

    When the Welsh contingent arrived at Amsterdam airport, there were no congratulation ceremonies for the FAW to mark their centenary but rather just a lukewarm reception from the local Dutch and UEFA officials alike whenever they encounter one of them. It was almost as if they were making no secret in showing of how much they weren't comfortable in having a British Home Nation here at Euro 1976 though honestly it wasn't much a surprise over the last three years all when regarding hooligan action. First there were the scenes in Frankfurt of England and Scotland fans having a fight in the city streets that might have been straight out of the times of William Wallace, then a year later there were the scenes in Paris of Leeds fans rioting following their controversial defeat in the European Cup final and now just a couple of months ago in Cardiff when Welsh fans nearly caused a full blown riot and had also scuppered their country's chance to play here in the Netherlands.

    To be fair, it was for good reason why many viewed the travelling Welsh supporters arriving into the country with suspicion over what had happened, even if the former two incidents had nothing to do with the Welsh, but nonetheless it seemed that hardly anyone was willing to take a chance. While the Welsh players would enjoying some good training facilities and the travelling FAW officials would be living quite the high life with other UEFA dignities, the poor Welsh fans really got the short end of the stick anywhere they went as they could only find either crumby campsites or dodgy hotels in Amsterdam's infamous red life distract, the latter would have many crazy stories for any Welsh fan 'lucky' enough who were there. There was also the problem of some rather overzealous police troops who seemed to be hellbent on banging up on any Wales supporter and followed them around like a band stench and finally there was the trouble with getting tickets.

    Though the FAW had warned supporters that there was no guarantee that they would get many tickets for the games due to the hooligan fears, that didn't stop thousands of Welsh fans descending on the Netherlands as then again as many of them wanted to be here. After all, what were they suppose do when their country was about to play in their first major football tournament in a decade? The plea to stay at home had woefully fallen on death ears and in the end, the vast majority wouldn't be able to get a ticket as despite the FAW trying to get a as much as possible, they would only be able to get a measly fifteen hundred tickets for their Semi-Final in Rotterdam with the rest going to local Dutch and the opposing fans. If all of this wasn't hard enough for Wales even before they had kicked a ball, their opponents would be the European and World Champions West Germany.


    Handshakes before kick-off

    On the day of the game, the atmosphere around the ground had been flat for in the previous day in the other Semi-Final, the hosts had lost out to Czechoslovakia in a disastrous period in extra-time and as of a result, most of the Dutch didn't really care about the tournament now. Welsh manager Mike Smith had felt rather sorry for the Dutch as after coming so close two years ago to winning the World Cup with that amazing Dutch team for only to lose it in the final, it had ended in sorry circumstances in the capital city and Smith deep down would have loved to have a chance of playing that team. Too bad that they had perhaps drawn the shortest straw in playing the team they didn't want to face; the Germans. A team that was hoping to make it to another final and defend their European crown and if Wales were going to have to jump in the deep end.

    The De Kuip stadium, which could hold up to nearly seventy thousand spectators was barely half full though given the lack of interest the locals had for the tournament following their own country's elimination so it wasn't a surprise at the poor attendance. Mike Smith speculated that if they had been allowed to have more tickets for the Welsh fans then he had no doubt that they would be able to sell out most of the ground, nonetheless for the few fifteen hundred Welsh fans who were lucky to be here they were doing all they could to help make a lot of noise to help motivate the team. Though the Welsh team had a number of players who played in the English top flight, they were nothing compared to what the Die Mannschaft to offer with all of their talent coming from the West German league and half of them European Cup winners. It would be a brave person to put a bet on the Dragons to win this game.

    With that all said, the Belgian referee blew his whistle to get the game underway and despite what many predicated that the Germans from the off would be on the front foot, the game was actually a lot more open that many expected and the Welsh seemed more than happy to play with most of the players back with the likes of John Toshack and Leighton James would strike out on any chance they had to go on the counter attack and stun the Germans. It would be Wales that would get the first corner of the game in the sixth minute of the game thanks to a rocket of a volley from Toshack in which West German keeper Sepp Maier had to clear away and could only send it over the bar. With the corner kick that followed, Brian Flynn would end up getting his head on the ball and blasted it home into the back of the net in which Maier and the rest of the German team was caught napping and to the shock of everyone, Wales had taken the lead!


    Early moments during the game
    The Germans are stunned and the small traveling Welsh fans erupt with happiness of an unexpected yet welcomed start for the game. For Mike Smith, it is the perfect start he probably didn't in all his wildest dreams had imagined. Alas it was all just a little bit too good to be true as right after that goal, West Germany go in all guns blazing as they were going all out to find a quickfire equaliser, pinning the Welsh back. Ultimately they wouldn't have to wait for long as it would be in the seventeenth minute that from some very poor marking from the Welsh, Uli Hoeneß would rip through the Welsh defence and slam home the leveller to put the champions level. With that, it was also as if reality had hit Wales in the face, the Germans were not going to give up without a fight.

    That goal pretty much settles any German nerves and the men in white start zipping the ball around the field and running circles around the shell-shocked Welsh and things nearly get worse just five minutes later after that goal in which Hoeneß finds himself inside the box and makes an assist to Bernd Hölzenbein for him to strike but it is only thanks to the efforts of Dai Davis standing in for Wales' goalkeeper that he prevents such a goal from happening though it does mean it goes out for a corner kick for West Germany which is thankfully cleared away. By now in Rotterdam, it is the large German support who are making all the noise and are very much liking what they are seeing here; it is becoming clear that it is a case of not if but when they'll take the lead.

    All Wales can do is try and hang onto a draw before half time is here and from the Welsh bench, Mike Smith can be seen with his assistant team sketching out tactics on paper over what should their plan of action will be going forward though the Welsh supporters keeping a close eye on the game will be feeling worried that something bad will happen and in the twenty-seventh minute, the Germans are awarded a free kick thanks to a tackle by Joey Jones on Dietmar Danner. Hölzenbein is the one to take it and he stands over the ball, some twenty yards out from the box and awaits for the referee to blow the whistle. When he hears the shrill blast, he lobs it over the Welsh wall and into the bottom left in which Dai Davis can't stop it despite going the right way and to Wales' despair and perhaps no one's surprise, the Germans have come from behind to lead the plucky underdogs.


    Happy German players celebrate the moment they go 2-1 up
    From the bench, Mike Smith can only feel his heart sink and perhaps many other Welshmen seeing that goal go in and sadly there is a lot of dirty looks directed towards the culprit of giving away the freekick, Joey Jones, but truth be told with given how the game was going, it was only a matter of time before West Germany would've scored to take the lead. The real fear is that now with the talent that is in this German team, there is almost the likely possibility that things can get worse for the Welsh if the Germans can get another goal and if they do that, then it would most certainly look like curtains for the Dragons. The small number of Welsh fans in the ground try to get their team up on their feet again by singing Land of my Fathers; a likely chance to that at least someone in Wales would be doing the same thing directed at their television set.

    A new plan of action for the Welsh made on the spot by trying to go ultra defensive in the hope to prevent the champions from getting another goal and for the most part it does seem to work, though it does not look very attractive football to watch for the neutral. The Germans nearly had Welsh hearts in the mouth in the thirty-fourth minute when Danner lets one rip from thirty yards out which looks like it is going to be going but thankfully for the Welsh, the ball clatters on the crossbar and goes out for a Welsh goal kick and Wales live for another day. That said, the Welsh just can't seem to get forward to have any chance of a possible counterattack let alone try and get a goal and now seem more than settled to hear the half-time whistle.

    Pretty soon the half-time whistle does come and the game has been pretty much a blur in which the Germans have been pretty much the better team here and are deserving of their 2-1 lead though there will be something of a disappointment that they haven't gone further ahead and perhaps hopes for another final on the spin to follow. The men in red trudge off the field looking tried and need some change of plan if they want to try and get back into the game and Mike Smith is the last the leave the field as he waits for the players to go down the tunnel first, he first of all stares up at the heavens and wonders what else could be done. Surely Wales' centenary celebrations can end like this...?

    When the second half does begin, there are few raised eyebrows from the Welsh fans when they team return to the field and see that there are no substitutes made which many feel is badly needed to help them get something in this game. Whatever what the fans might think, it would seem that Mike Smith was willing to keep faith with the same players from that first half and who knows if he might regret such a choice. Much like the start of the first half, the Welsh actually start off the second half quite promising as while they aren't moving up the field to get into a position for goal, they are keeping the ball away from the German players and it becomes clear that the Welsh are planning to play up from the back.

    In the fiftieth minute and after some careful build up play, Wales actually do get their first shot on target for the second half in which Leighton James tries to fire in a goal but because it is a weak shot, the shot is easily saved and a rare moment for Wales comes to nothing. Nonetheless it does show that Wales are far from out of this game there is suddenly a sense of uncertainty among the Germans that perhaps there is a twist in the tale yet to come and this is made more a little bit more uncertain when in the fifty-eighth minute Heinz Flohe, who had been brought on a substitute for West Germany, tries to extend his country's lead but his shot turns out to be a woeful one that skies right over the bar and the more this keeps happening then this will only encourage the Welsh to get back into the game.

    In the fifty-firth minute, West Germany make a brilliant attack in which Flohe rips through to slip the ball up towards Hölzenbein and slams it home into the back of the net and surely given the Germans the third goal they have been craving for but alas, the goal is ruled offside for Hölzenbein being in a offside position and once again, things remain the same and that moment does bring a little bit of confidence for the Welsh for as long as they are only a goal behind then there is always the chance that just maybe they can pull of a miracle.


    Live broadcast footage of the offside goal from West Germany
    For a while nothing seems to happen in the game and West Germany start to look rather worried it must be said that something isn't right and this is reflected by their supporters who have gone rather muted and the small number of Welsh fans in the ground start to find their voice again though the Dutch police are clearly keeping an eye out on them to make sure there is no trouble. Actually, as Mike Smith looks at the Welsh fans from the bench, he can't help but feel that given area that the Welsh fans are in that police forces seem to surround them as if they are keeping wild animals at bay even if these certain supporters have done anything bad in their lives. Clearly the disdain of the British football hooligan is on full show here in Rotterdam.

    Then in the sixty-sixth minute, Leighton James is given a chance to go on the counter by Carl Harries and James gallops down the field towards the box and it is right on the edge of the box and looking like he might let rip is when he is brought down by Bernard Dietz and at first it looks as though it'll be a freekick for Wales...that is until the referee blows his whistle and points to the spot. Penalty for Wales! The Germans players are furious and try to argue that James was outside the box though it must be said it was a very tight call to make that could have gone either way. It is a controversial penalty that can anger many a German looking back on it, though in the moment, it is James again who will step up to take the penalty.

    The tension around Wales as he waits by the spot to take it must be hellish, but when he gets the order to fire, he slams the ball to the low right but the German keeper goes the right way and looks to have saved it but he fails to keep his hands on in and without wasting a chance, James runs in to knock the ball in on the rebound and the shock of many, Wales have clawed themselves back into the game and there is now well and truly a game on. The West Germans will understandably be furious about the penalty but now they have to pick themselves up to try and find a late winner.


    Leighton James, the man who scored from the spot

    There are two more substitutes for the Welsh in the sixty-ninth and seventy-fifth minutes in which Arfon Griffiths and John Roberts replace Carl Harries and David Jones respectably to try and freshen up the the team but other than that, nothing really happens of note in the game though it it turning out to be a more of an open contest as by now Wales do start to smell blood though a resolute German backline is doing all it can to prevent a another Welsh chance causing horror for them. In truth giving how open the contest is and by this point in the game with just ten minutes left with the score still level and extra-time and maybe penalties all a very likely possibility, it is hard to think who is the more happier team here.

    The final ten minutes does some have start moments in which in the eighty-third, Flohe nearly squeezes the ball into the back of the net only for the ball to hit off the post and go out, then for another moment in the other direction in the eighty-seventh minute when Mickey Thomas attempts to find a dramatic late winner but some desperate defending from Franz Beckenbauer prevents any such goal and with that, there are no more big chances to speak of and with that, this Semi-Final that the Germans had thought they are surely in the bag as ended 2-2 and now this game will have to be sorted out in extra-time and maybe even penalties. Either way, it looks like this is going to be a long night...

    After a brief talk with Mike Smith about what the plan is going forward, the Welsh players return and look quite eager to start extra-time perhaps much more than the clearly frustrated West Germans are are fearing that an upset might be on the cards and the start of more play turns out to be quite a cagey affair. Neither side seem wanting to risk anything just yet for with thirty minutes to play, anything can happen though it is the Welsh who are showing some promise as they try out their playing out from the back tactic as they slowly and surely try to get forward...


    Clashing of the heads during the start of Extra-Time

    Then it all happens in a moment that no one will quite forget. In the one hundredth and second minute, Wales have a corner and from it, Mickey Thomas finds his head on the ball and sends it heading goalward but slams on the crossbar before landing on the goal line before Maier rushes in to stop it from going anywhere. However, there is confusion among many in which the Welsh players feel that is crossed the line yet the referee isn't sure and the West Germans just want the game to go on. As of a result, the referee halts the game and rushes over to the linesman who had the better view and get his opinion on if it was a goal or not.

    For some Welshmen, the memory of the wrongly chalked off goal in the 1962 World Cup final was still a painful one for all the fear of lightning striking twice here can be felt among the small pocket of Welsh fans in the corner. It seems to take a long time for a choice to be made until finally it does and the Belgian referee rushes back, blows his whistle and points to the centre circle...goal given! The roar of the Welsh fans is something else and the Dutch police are fearful of some overjoyed Welsh fans are about to invade the pitch and on the field, the German players are furious in first was a dodgy penalty and now a goal that they feel didn't cross the line.

    In truth many years later when video footage of better angle of the goal is seen, it is rather tight, maybe almost if it hadn't crossed the line. Something like that being chalked off in 1962 wouldn't have been much of a shock, though here it is not hard to see why West Germany are not happy of what has happened. Then again considering how fate had screwed the Welsh over from glory all those years ago, maybe this was to make up for that ghost goal? Whatever the reason, Wales are leading 3-2 in extra-time and from then on, the champions pretty much seem to fall apart for they lose their heads at how things have all gone horribly wrong for them for they fail to find the back of the net and when the final whistle is blown, it is a true upset of major proportions in which plucky little Wales have knock out the reigning European Champions out of the tournament.


    Sad looks from the West German players that say it all after the final whistle
    Many of the Welsh players are on cloud nine, some of them like Terry Yorath and John Toshack fall to their knees almost in tears at what they have just pulled off and Mike Smith has more than cemented his place as Wales' favourite Englishman for it all starts to dawn on everyone of them that they reached their second major final. The Welsh fans in Rotterdam celebrate well into the night and across Wales from Cardiff to Caernarvon, a nation celebrates for not only do they reach a major final for the first time in fourteen years after ten years away from playing in any major tournament but all of this being in the FAW's one hundredth anniversary celebrations. If this doesn't make up for the long time away from being seen at a major tournament then who knows what will?

    Next up for Wales will be Czechoslovakia in Amsterdam for the final and there is a little something sweeter for the Welsh supporters as they try to get tickets. From being mistreated and marched all over the place by overzealous Dutch forces then Wales getting to a final will be best revenge that the Welsh can ever hope to get over them and who knows, maybe lifting the cup in the capital might make it all the more better? Whatever the reason, the dragons were back!

    And there we are, bit of a shock, eh? Anyway hope you enjoyed this update for next up, Wales take on the Czechs and can they do or will things go the same as with OTL? Find out next time and hope to hear from all of you soon! :)
    Chapter 30: Daffodils From Amsterdam
  • Chapter 30
    Daffodils From Amsterdam

    Whenever one thinks about the Dutch capital, it can often be about it's cannels or that certain song called Tulips From Amsterdam, the latter itself would instead be adopted by the travelling Welsh hordes in the Netherlands to change the lyrics to 'Daffodils From Amsterdam' in honour of Wales' national flower. All this was down to the joy many in Wales was feeling regarding the country reaching only it's second ever major final on June 20th in Amsterdam. As great as this might've been for the Principality and perhaps the rest of the country who in a time of never ending industrial disputes, high unemployment and loss of much heavy industry, seeing a Home Nation reach a final was a very welcoming bit of good news. That said, not everyone was happy that the Welsh had gotten to the final, those being at UEFA.

    From the moment the draw was made it was quite clear to everyone as to who UEFA wanted to play in the final; the Dutch and the Germans, the hope of a repeat of the 1974 final in what could be a great revenge game for the host nation. With that both had been placed in the different Semi-Finals but in a rather cruel irony, much red faces were left in which neither of those two teams would make it to the final and instead the final would be made up of either Czechoslovakia and Wales, a final that in terms of wanting an underdog to do well was great, not so if those broadcasters wanted a big box office final showdown that was sure to get the whole continent excited about it and a final containing the two last standing teams wasn't exactly going to set the world alight.

    Either way, both nations were more than happy to be back in a final in which Wales hadn't been in one since 1962 while the Czechs hadn't done so since 1934; either way both sides would agree that it was good to be back again. That all said, the hope of a Netherlands vs West Germany match did happen in the form of a Third place play-off game in which the Dutch would win though in truth it was all but mere scant consolation for what might have been and for anyone living in the Netherlands, that might have been the tournament for many and wouldn't care less of who won in the final. This feeling was pretty much felt inside the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam as it was barely half full and the rather subdued atmosphere being nothing like what many had hoped for what was a major final though even without the apathy among much of the Dutch, there were other reasons as to why this was the case.


    The Czech team lining up for the final

    The real problem at least for the Welsh was the fact that they still weren't allowed to have more tickets no matter how hard the FAW tried due to hooligan fears and the hope had been that if Wales had gone out at the Semi-Finals then any fears of hooligan problems would be over thus why the FAW had only been able to get a woeful number of tickets in which UEFA had hoped would decrease the chance of trouble. However, with the fact that Wales had made the final despite everything stack against them, UEFA now found themselves into awkward position about how many tickets should the Welsh get with on one hand trying to prevent trouble from happening in the stands while on the other hand, the sight of a half full stadium for a final would look lacklustre for the viewing public.

    In the end, UEFA would bite the bullet and give the FAW more increase however from just fifteen hundred to twenty-five hundred. Nowhere near for what the Welsh wanted and this was reflected with the scenes of thousands of Welsh fans descending all over the Dutch capital in which despite many coming over the hope of possibly the biggest sporting moment in Welsh history, the vast majority of those fans would be unable to attend the final and this would be a frustrating affair for them and instead and to make do with finding any bar in the city that had a TV broadcasting the game.

    With such numbers, Mike Smith would claim that had they had been able to get more tickets for the final then it would be certain that the Welsh fans would have at least filled out most of the stadium but alas UEFA feeling worried about hooligan problems balked at the suggestion. Something that in hindsight proved to be something of a mistake as despite fears of violence there was very little, if any, trouble among the Welsh supporter out in the Netherlands. Nonetheless, Smith would put together pretty much the same team that had defeated the Germans and there was a feeling among much of the Welsh fans that as the Czechs weren't a Netherlands or German team then surely they had a good chance, it would have seemed that they had made a mistake of underestimating them.


    Live broadcast of the final, note Wales playing in their away yellow kit
    When the game would start, there was a sense of confidence among the Welsh players that had been transferred from the small number of lucky fans up on the terraces trying to cheer their team on and indeed there seemed to be good reason to feel like things were going work in Wales' favour as they were seeing a lot of the ball though any sceptic would notice that they weren't really creating any chances with it. This spell of play would only last for about five minutes in which afterwards the Czechs starting to grow into the game and with that, all of the promise that Wales had shown from the start and seemly all come to nothing and the Welsh fans watching might have felt a sense of fear growing deep inside of them.

    Czechoslovakia kept probing and the Welsh defence was looking rather ropey and all of this would come to ahead in the eighth minute when some pretty bad defending from Wales would see Masný passed to Švehlík on the edge of the penalty box and his initial shot was saved by Dai Davis. The rebound then fell to Nehoda who passed the ball across the goalmouth, which was missed by Ondruš but converted by Švehlík and with that, the Czechs have taken the lead in a short space of time and the Welsh had only themselves to blame on their failure to make the most of the possession that they had earlier.

    It was hardly the start that Wales would've wanted but they now had to try and dig themselves out of a hole they had gotten themselves in and it wouldn't be until the twelve minute of the game when John Toshack would get himself near the box and let rip a shot on target but his shot was saved by Viktor in goal and while it was a start for Wales to start making an effort into the game, it wasn't quite the quickfire response they wanted to get back level. It then went into an end to end battle in which shortly afterwards in the seventeenth minute, Mickey Thomas attempt a volley from thirty yards out but it would end up flying over the bar and just two minutes later, Nehoda would run up the other end to try and double the Czech's advantage though this time Dai Davis would prevent another goal from happening by making a great save.


    One of the actual Welsh football tops used in the 1976 final on display in 2016

    There was a bit of worrying scene just a minute later in which during an attempt near the Welsh penalty box, Švehlík and Yorath attempt to get themselves in a good position to collect a looping ball only for the Welshman in the scramble to elbow the Czech player in the head and required medical treatment, but the Welsh player was not booked for some strange reason. This did not go down well for the Czechs and it might have been worse for them in the twenty-second minute when during a Welsh counter attack, Brain Flynn then passed to James Leighton down the right wing but Viktor would came out to block the opportunity for Wales to score. It was fair to say that even if neither teams had the appeal of the Dutch or Germans, it was proving to be a thrilling final.

    Then not long later in the twenty-fifth minute, Czechoslovakia won a free kick outside the Welsh penalty box thanks to a foul made by Joey Jones in which Masný would be the one who would take the resulting free kick. Many of the Welsh players crowded in the box as they awaited to hear the whistle being blown for the free kick to take place and when it did, the ball was crossed into the box and while it was cleared by Carl Harris, it wasn't far out of the box and in would end up near to Dobiaš who without thinking of anything would strike home half-volley past the outstretch arms of Davis in goals to make it 2–0 for the Czechs and with less than half an hour played, Wales were facing an almighty mountain to climb.

    The small number of Czech supporters in the ground could only be seen enjoying themselves at how well the final had gone for far more than any of them in their wildest dreams might have done while the Welsh players on the field all couldn't help but have the look of flustered and frustrated in how dreadful this start has been; it's a far contrast to how things were going against the Germans. From the bench, Mike Smith has his head in his hands and TV broadcasts would have a camera pointed at him to show his reaction which might have been funny if you wanting the Welsh to lose, not so much if you didn't. The question any of the traveling Welsh fans inside the stadium had was simply now what on earth were they going to do now?

    One Happy Czech player after going 2-0 up
    Already from the moment they went 2-0 down, Mike Smith was already having a small council of war with his assistant team over what they were going to do, however they wouldn't have to wait for Wales to make a response in which just four minutes from that second goal, Wales would strike back fairly quickly in which perhaps from either a lack of concentration from the winning team or a sudden boost of energy from the Welsh, Yoreth would end up making a lucky volley crossing into the box before James Leighton would hammer home the ball into the back of the net and suddenly Wales were back in the game and their supporters now had something to cheer. And people said that a game between these two would be boring...

    The deficit halved, Wales now started coming into their own with a great chance to score another goal happening in the thirty-first minute in which from a corner for the Welsh, Mickey Thomas gets his head on the ball and hammers it home towards goal but he can't get it on target in which the ball instead clatters on the crossbar and thus a chance for Wales to turn the game on its head goes begging. Nonetheless, it was encouraging for the Welsh fans to see their team putting their backs into it, only downside was that all the effort was only starting to happen with them in a losing position.

    Wales were clearly looking to be a better team as the first half was nearing it's end though it didn't mean to say that the Czechs were still a force that had a point to prove in which Masný nearly got a third goal for his side in the thirty-fifth minute thanks to mix up in the Welsh defence and Dai Davis would end up being the man who would have to bail his team out once again and it wouldn't have been surprising if he was starting to feel that this was going to be a long day for him and hoped that they could regroup for the second half. Thankfully for him, the end of the first half would soon arrive though the Welsh were still 2-1 down and for all the promise they had shown following that goal, one did have to wonder if and when they could pull off a comeback in the second half...


    Welsh keeper Dai Davis

    The second half would begin at a rather cagey affair in which it seemed neither side seemed to know what to do as if the Czechs simply wanted to hang on to this lead until the end or if the Welsh were waiting for the golden moment to strike back. Either way, it was a case that whoever scored the next goal might certainly decide the game and anything could happen in the next forty-five minutes. Mike Smith had made a change to his team in which Mickey Thomas would be replaced by Alan Curtis in which was clearly done to help increase Wales' firing power up front and in fairness in nearly paid off in which Curtis curled in a lovely chip in the fifty-second minute towards goal, only for it to be blocked.

    All looks promising for Wales up until the fifty-seventh minute when Nehoda charges into the Welsh box via a counter attack but is brought down by Joey Jones in a challenge that has every Welshman crying out in horror for the fact that he has done this inside the box and when the referee blows his whistle and points to the spot, that can mean only one thing. A penalty. Jones is booked for his foolish challenge and now things look set to get worse for Wales as one certain Antonín Panenka steps up to take it and it is down to Dai Davis to try and prevent this from going in.

    What follows next is a moment in football history that becomes a watershed moment for penalties. Once the referee blows his whistle, Panenka takes a short and stuttering run-up before gently struck the ball in an arcing parabola into the net while Dai Davis had already dived and found himself resting on his knees. He can only lie there looking bewildered and the penalty that he and perhaps everyone else for that matter has just witnessed. It would be a penalty that many a footballer would talk about and attempt for years afterwards but in that moment for the Welsh, they were 3-1 down and surely the game was all but over for them.


    The moment THAT penalty is struck
    It is really a hammer blow for the Welsh in which all that ray of hope they had shown at the start of the second half had ended up being extinguished and deep down among every Welshman, it was a game that was looking to be one that was that Wales had no chance to turn around. Following the goal, the Czechs would end up playing much more freely and with all the confidence of a team that seemed to know that it was going to win the final. One scary thought for any Welshman watching was that with so much of the game left to play, the question was not a case of if the Czechs will win but rather by how much goals still yet to score.

    In the event however, the second half become something of a blur in which despite Czechoslovakia having everything in their favour from the lead, possession, chances and perhaps the better players on the night, they didn't really do anything else to humiliate the Welsh as if they were trying to be sporting about the game even though Wales' performances after that third goal pretty much all but fell off a cliff. From the bench Mike Smith seemed to have to the look of a man who was slowly starting to resign to the fate that he was going to be on the losing side on this evening and part of him felt bad that for the FAW to celebrate their centenary celebrations, a bad loss in a final was perhaps not what they would have wanted.

    Wales didn't do anything to merit to get anything from the game but right near the end, Curtis would end up making the impact the manager had hoped for when he came on in which upon seeing the Czech defence rather open at the back, he would lit rip a volley of a shot in which Viktor would get a hand on the ball but would not be able to prevent the ball from going in and thus Wales had finally gotten a goal back to make it 3-2...only problem was that it was right on the eighty-ninth minute and there was now little to no time Wales had to try and spark an dramatic finish to take the game into extra-time. In the end, the goal would be nothing more than a consolation in which the Czechs held on to win the final and when the final whistle was blown, the Welsh players fell to their knees in despair.

    Youtube video on the UEFA channel that shows highlights of the final, note the thumbnail showing the moment the Czechs win the final
    While the final score line might suggest a thrilling finale, truth be told the late goal from Wales was pretty much a fluke in a game that honestly the winning team had this game in full control for the most part and no one would really deny the Czechs their victory while the Welsh could only look on with regret at what might have been had they had just a little bit more luck but alas, it was not to be. That all said, many in Wales had fond memories of that tournament in which after being away from an international tournament for a decade, it was a wonderful way to mark Wales' return to the big stage.

    The team would return home as heroes at Cardiff and during their open top bus parade, the whole city came out to welcome them home and with such huge crowds, one could imagine it might have been twice the size if they had won the whole thing. From this, there was great confidence that with this team that they would surely qualify for the World Cup in Argentina for 1978. In strange coincidence, Wales would also get some revenge in which in their three team qualifying group, they were also grouped in with Czechoslovakia and the Dragons would get revenge by smashing them 3-0 just a year later from the final in Wrexham.

    With that, one would have thought that they would be making a return to the World Cup...that is if it weren't for the hand of a certain Joe Jordon which to this day would become infamous among Welsh football fans over what might have been. But that is another story as Argentina loomed large for 1978....

    1976 ALT 2.png

    Final results of Euro 1976


    And there we are, Euro 1976 is done and next up is one that you are all waiting for...World Cup 1978! Yes, as you can see, we still get that penalty and Wales still get screwed over by Scotland all like IOTL However I have a shock for you regarding Scotland for 1978. Question is how to not make much of a joke? The answer is Ally MacLeod! Yes, you read that write, a Scotland 1978 TL without that man? Bit of a first but alas, you can start to see how things might work out for Scotland here.

    Oh yeah and another thing, England are here too, not much to say there otherwise we don't get that damn song for better or for worst. Anyway until then, hope to see you all soon as we head off to Argentina!

    Chapter 31: Hanging Together - 1978 World Cup
  • Chapter 31
    Hanging Together


    Two years after Wales nearly managed to take over Europe, the World Cup would return and this time heading to back to South America where it would be hosted in the football mad country of Argentina. Having won the bidding rights as far back as 1966 and with much time to prepare itself for the biggest sporting event on the planet, one would think that Argentina would be more than ready for the task in hand, though if anyone has a basic knowledge of the politics of South America, things never all go according to plan and Argentina were no exception to this fact. In 1976, the country would undergo a military coup and a year after that, it was said that over five thousand people had gone missing.

    With this in mind, there was much serious talk among many if the World Cup be hosted in another country or if any nation should even take part due to the controversy reading the junta government, practically from the Dutch in which the 1974 runners-up might end up being a no show because of it and this was only added due to their star man Johan Cruyff refusing to go. Nonetheless, the Dutch team and many others all did end up heading out to South America to take part in the hope of becoming World Champions though it must be said among all the teams there, there was a great deal of suspicion in the air that everything seemed to be rigged in favour of the hosts winning it but that was just one of the few things that made this World Cup being called by some as one of, if not the most, dirtiest World Cup of all time.

    Among the many that would be making the trip out, the UK would have two representatives being England and Scotland though there was some saddened that Wales couldn't make it considering their run at Euro 1976 might have given thought that they would be going to Argentina too but alas, they had found themselves in a three team group with the Scots and, ironically their fellow finalists winners Czechoslovakia in which while the Welsh would get revenge on them, they came up short against the Scots in a controversial game at Anfield over a handball from Joe Jordon which led to a penalty for the Scots and ultimately victory. Jordon would be a hated figure in Wales for many claiming that he would deny them in place in Argentina. Funnily enough with the Czechoslovakians also failing to make the trip, neither of the Euro 1976 finalists would be going to Argentina that summer.


    Some build up on the Scottish side prior to the World Cup
    Of course the Scots weren't the only ones going as England were also on the way to Argentina though at one point it nearly never did happen over the position of manager Don Revie. The former Leeds United manager might have not been a bad choice for the job following Sir Alf Ramsay stepping down but it would not be a happy time for Revie in which he not only had to deal with a team in transition but his relations with the FA in which many years later stories would come to the surface that there were several in the FA who were actually wanting him to fail. The latter really affected Revie and he would make a shock resignation from the England job where he would end up manging in the Middle East and while the FA and several newspapers called him a traitor though given how bad things had gotten with his relations with the FA, few who knew what was going on could blame him.

    He would leave during the summer of 1977 and England's hopes of reaching Argentina hung in the balance and in the end it would be Ron Greenwood who would be the one to take control of trying to get England to Argentina for 1978. Things were made more harder as despite thinking that they'd be a seeded team, England were placed in a qualifying group with Italy in which the latter looked like a strong favourite to qualify and deny England a place at the World Cup. Many England fans cried out for foul play from FIFA and in truth they weren't half wrong. With the fact that the Frankfurt riots between England and Scotland fans at the last World Cup being still fresh on many people's mind, it seemed England being placed in this qualifying was seemed as some ploy that would deliberately prevent England from going.

    Alas the English wouldn't quite play to the script as despite everything stack against them, England had a team that had experience but also hunger and thus thanks to a 6-0 win over the Luxembourg and a 2-0 victory over the Italians, England would top the group by a goal difference of only one goal and thus Greenwood's men were on their way to Argentina and the Italians would fail to qualify for another World Cup. Many Italians would fear whenever they had a British team in the group as in failing to qualify for 1958, 1966 and now 1978, they had all fallen short at the hands of the Home Nation teams. The say lighting doesn't strike twice which is just happened three times for Italy.


    England during their 2-0 victory over Italy which books them a place in Argentina
    Nonetheless, the supporters of England and Scotland would now have to make the long voyage to South America and while there were not to be the large hordes of fans that had invaded West Germany during the last World Cup, there was still the fear that trouble might happen out there and with the fears of some quite frankly scaremongering stories in the British (red tabloid) press about missing people in Argentina and if hooligans did cause trouble then they might not be seen ever again. Then again bizarrely the response from the public about any football fan going missing was actually positive in which if it meant getting rid of many hooligans from this country then good riddance and to top it off, many football fans would all ignore the fears and head off to Argentina. So much for the power of the press as they say or a 'Springtime For Hitler' moment depending on who you ask.

    Even by the late 1970's in which air travel and especially transatlantic air travel was now more widely available for England and Scotland's working class supporters, a trip to Argentina and for how long they might be out there for was still a hell of a lot of money for most of these supporters to stump up and there would be many stories of fans either leaving their job, selling cars or anything of value just so they can make it to the World Cup. Several newspapers would run competitions for fans to get tickets for the games and oddly, some of the papers doing this were the same that not so long ago were warning fans not to go. A strange change of heart no less and one that might have been done to try and save face following their warning story had instead been liked for all the wrong reasons.

    With many all heading out there, supporters from both sides of the border would have to share hotel accommodation and transportation to get to this World Cup and for some who got there, end up staying with them for the rest of the time in Argentina, which many fans would later describe the tournament of them all hanging together which in some ways became a saying to describe their time in Argentina. It seemed almost strange that there was more than a likely chance that at least one or two of them had ended up fighting each other on the streets in Frankfurt four years ago and were now going together which seemed crazy; but then again being so far away from home and in country that didn't speak English, who did they have else to cope with in this strange new world?


    Some of the Scotland fans who made it out to Argentina

    When it came to the draw, England and Scotland would find themselves placed in groups that while the former might've been happy with their group containing Peru, Iran and the Dutch, the English would find themselves in what could be said to be the group of death as it featured the French, Hungary and the hosts themselves, the latter being the final team they'd play in the group while the former would be the first team they'd play and in addition, the first Home Nation that would play in this World Cup on June 2nd. While there had been much said about how good this England team was, they were an untested unit on the big stage with this World Cup being the first that the majority there would ever play in. Their first match against the French would a good test to see if these claims were valid though despite the French haven't not been seen at a World Cup for twelve years at this point, it is the French who come flying out of the traps from the moment the game starts and England nearly suffer the worst possible start when Lacombe nearly strikes home the ball in just thirty one seconds of the game and only for Clemence to make a save and spare the English early blushes.

    Nonetheless despite a sluggish start, clearly having underestimated the French, England start getting their act together ten minutes later from that moment which all combinates in the twenty-first minute when an assist worked by Brooking and Keegan in which the latter crosses it over into the box for Trevor Francis to thump it home past the hands of Dominique Baratelli and send England in front. After that moment, England played well to keep it at that score line when half time arrived and the game would end as a contest during the second half in which England scored another goal in the fifty-fourth minute, this time by Keegan, which despite France trying all they could to get a goal back, it would all count for nothing as 2-0 to England would end up being the final score of the match.

    With relief of an opening game win, it would be only a few days later in which England would play in their second match with Hungary and unlike the great team of the 1950's, this Hungary team was pretty much a pushover for the English in which what might have been long overdue revenge for England, they would utterly batter the hapless Hungarians 3-0 in which Keegan would score a hattrick in which the final result would pretty much book England's place in the second round but also condemn Hungary to the bottom of the group and thus and early exit from the World Cup. With the hard stuff out of the way, there was the option of Greenwood resting a few players for the final group match with Argentina but instead he decided that would be good if they could win the group. What was to happen next was to be a rather infamous encounter in Buenos Aires.


    England vs Hungary during the second group match

    For only the fourth time, England and Argentina would face each other again though for two of the games they had been fraught with infamous and dirty moments in which in 1966, many in Argentina felt that they had been robbed and four years later, the two would play out in a brutal 1-1 draw in West Germany. Now they were to meet again only this time in the host's backyard though it would be a game that for the English would be a rather controversial one that wasn't restricted to what happened on the pitch. Like with England, Argentina had also won their two opening group games and though both were guaranteed to go through, pride was at stake at who would finish top and Argentina were wanting it and they'd get a rather suspicious helping hand.

    Even before kick-off, the atmosphere in the large stadium was really intimidating with the mostly Argentine crowd would be chanting out words of 'pirates' and 'animals' being of course reference to words exchanged regarding that encounter in 1966 and there was even a few large banners being flown from the terraces in protest of the UK in the Falkland Islands. While everyone knows how much the junta played a hand in making several results work in Argentina's favour, they also had ways of playing into opposing players' head and the fact that they turned a blind eye to these political banners that FIFA would refuse to have seen for a TV audience of millions really said a lot. Despite this fact, the England team kept their head down and would try and play the game though that would be be easier said than done.

    It was during this game that the suspicious of referees being forced to make certain choices was very much alive in this game in which despite England actually starting out well, they seemed to have things against them. In the seventeenth minute, Keegan would get the ball into the back of the net though for some strange reason it was ruled offside by the referee even though there was no indication for this and this was only made worse just before the end of the first half in which Trevor Francis was brought down in the box by Luis Galván in what looked like a stonewall penalty yet despite booking Galván, the referee did not give a penalty. For all their hard work, England would end the first half with nothing to show but some really bad luck and questionable choices from the referee in which didn't need a genius to think that the junta were behind it.


    England vs Argentina in the final group match

    The second half would see a more stronger performance from Argentina though it must be said this might have been down to the fact that England became more frustrated that nothing that they had done seemed to be working for them and ultimately this would play into the hosts' hands. It would be a sixty-seven minute winner from Mario Kempes that would decide the match in which after that, England could do nothing to try and turn the game around which combined with a hostile crowd and how they just couldn't get a lucky break in which Argentina held on to win the game.

    Argentina would win the group with England following behind in second and the game itself to this day remains a controversial one in which the English will say that they were screwed over by the officials and how they felt Argentina cheated their way to victory and a neutral watching the game might feel sympathy for the English though ask an Argentine about the game then they'll say that the game was revenge for 1966 and that if they hear accusations that they cheated then so be it; after all didn't similar things had happened to England in that certain match?

    Whatever side of the fence you are on, it is a game that is one of the more controversial games ever to happen in the World Cup in would only be one of the many things to happen in this intercontinental rivalry. So much of what happened in that game that quite a few forgot that England had qualified for the next round but indeed there would be much for Greenwood to look over his team and make sure that they were more than ready to prepare themselves for what were to be much bigger challenges ahead. Only hope that he did has was that the junta of some shifty officials would be breathing down their backs...

    WC 1978 ALT 2.png

    Final results of England's group stage at the 1978 World Cup

    While most the British press might have been focusing on England, that didn't mean to say that they were the only Home Nation who were out there as Scotland too had their own hopes of doing well though it must be said it did feel like this felt more than just a Scotland team playing in World Cup if one was to focus on what was going in the country. Oil had been found in the North Sea, a vote on devolution for a Scottish parliament would take place the following year, they could boast of having the funniest man in Britain, Billy Connolly, they also had the band 'Bay City Rollers' that was making a lot of attention and tartan was actually becoming cool to wear. The football team was just one of the many things that Scotland were proud of and for good reason.

    With the talent the Scotland team had in their ranks, there were some who felt that on paper that this Scottish team had what it took to become a World Champion; something that any other nation might have laughed considering the other teams at this tournament but then again it was just an example of the self-confidence that the country was oozing out at that time. One person who was trying to keep a lid on things was their manager Willie Ormond who was just wanting to keep his head down and made sure that the team didn't make a fool of themselves. They had come close to qualifying for Euro 1976 but fell in the Quarter-Finals to West Germany and he might have left the job in May 1977 but decided to stick out for at least one more tournament and he would in the end guide Scotland to Argentina.

    Ormond would include a certain Andy Gray for the trip to Argentina and his inclusion would end up being a very important one in hindsight. In their opening match with Peru, Scotland would take the lead by Peru would get a goal back with the score level at the break however Ormond would pull out a masterstroke when he would bring on Andy Gray to replace Joe Jordan in which during the second half, Scotland were awarded a penalty and Gray would be the one to take and helped put Scotland ahead and not long later would get a second to put Scotland 3-1 in front and their World Cup campaign was up and running. Peru would score later on in the game and Scotland defended for their lives as Peru tried to break them down. In the end however, Scotland survived though there was an uncomfortable feeling in the air.


    Scotland's opening match with Peru at the 1978 World Cup

    Following the game, there would the now infamous Willie Johnston drug affair in which after the game, he tested positive for a banned substance and was sent home in disgrace, even though it was a prescription for his hay fever. Such was the controversy around this that all memories of the victory over Peru was forgotten about and this bad feeling of what happened spilled onto the pitch in which in their next game with what were supposed whipping boys Iran, Scotland would falter to an embarrassing 1-1 draw, Scotland's opening goal being an actual own goal from some poor Iranian player and not one Scotland did manage to get a shot on target which threw into question about if the team were even that good.

    Ormond would call out the media who he had pleaded not to build the nation's hopes up but it seemed that it fell on deaf ears with some wanting Ormond out. That said, Scotland still had a chance to go through providing that they managed to get a point against the Dutch in their final group match then they would be through but few had any confidence after what they had seen with Iran. What happened next though is legendary in which despite going a goal behind early in the match, Scotland would buckle down and move on to stun the Netherlands by beating them 3-2 in which one of the goals by a certain Archie Gemmill would be said to be one of, if now, the greatest, World Cup goal ever scored.

    With that, the runners-up in the last World Cup had fallen at the first hurdle and would make a shock early exit on goal difference to Peru and Scotland, despite all the drama behind the scenes, would move on to not only the next round but win the group. Ormond might have felt relief at how things had turned out though there was still a few bruised egos in that Scotland team but all those thoughts would have to be put to one side as now they had more games to follow and it was here that the serious stuff would take place and one wrong move would mean that the team would be out. What they didn't know though was that they would end up in what many will say was the all time greatest group of death at a World Cup; Scotland with Brazil, Poland and England. No words needed for that...

    WC 1978 ALT 1.png

    Final results for Scotland's group at the 1978 World Cup

    And here we are, 1978 without a certain Ally MacLeod running the show for Scotland which yes, you can see how that makes a huge improvement for Scotland's chances for this World Cup though I had to make things much like OTL E.G the Johnston affair and the Iran debacle. Can't be Scotland without something crazy. And yes, England are here in which being slightly better at this point than OTL you'd expect that and I wonder how things back home at a pop culture level might go about?

    Anyway, here the upcoming fixtures for the group:
    Scotland vs Brazil
    England vs Poland

    Scotland vs Poland
    England vs Brazil

    Poland vs Brazil
    England vs Scotland
    So who will make it to the final here? Until then, hope you enjoyed it and see you next time! :)
    Chapter 32: Mixed Results
  • Chapter 32
    Mixed Results

    Much like with the last World Cup, the 1978 World Cup would have a rather strange second round in which wasn't a knockout stage but rather just another group stage. There has always been questions marks raised as to why it wasn't just another straight forward knockout stage like it had been done before though it seems that it had been done as an attempt for making more money from TV revenue in which would mean that the reward of making the second round would be a guaranteed three matches to play and would make getting the World Cup from all around the world much more tempting. The way the second round worked was that the two final groups would see the group winners reach the final though some felt that it might have given certain teams an advantage to get momentum and giving all the suspicion surrounding this World Cup, one could say good reason.

    The second round itself brought with it two very tasty groups in which the hosts' reward of winning their group was one that featured (in order of scheduled to play) being West Germany, Austria and Peru. But it was the other group that raised a few eyebrows of who were in it with these being Brazil, England, Poland and Scotland; a group that many would say was the true group of death. Indeed many years later in a poll conducted just prior to the start of the 2018 World Cup, many would say that Group B of the 1978 tournament would be voted as the greatest group of death of all time and given the talent of these teams had to boast it was clear to see why both then and even now after all these years later.

    With England and Scotland both in the same group much like a repeat of 1974, there was a great deal of excitement and trepidation in which this match was to be the first time the two rivals would face each following the end of the annual Home International Championship in 1975 which had been brought on after the now infamous Frankfurt riots of 1974, speaking of which, that the was the last time the two faced each other at a World Cup. With the memories of what happened then still on the minds of many, there had been hope that the two wouldn't be see each other at all in this World Cup but alas fate had other ideas and the real prospect of the two sets of fans having a punch up in the middle of junta regime was a crazy thought that no many wanted to imagine.


    Scotland manager Willie Ormond sometime in training with the team in Argentina
    For both Home Nations, they'd kick off their games on a 14th June with Scotland starting their second round games with a rematch with Brazil with England then facing Poland, then the second fixtures would be England vs Brazil and Scotland taking on Poland before finally the two old rivals would face each in their final group match in what might be, depending on previous results, a winner takes all decider in which might send one of them through to the final. That all sounded fine and dandy but that final game could also likely be in turn a dead rubber if either side never got off to the best possible start in which neither Brazil or Poland could be said to be a push over and both teams had revenge in mind in which Brazil wanted to get back on Scotland after they humiliated them four years ago while Poland wanted to do the same to England for not letting them qualify for that World Cup.

    The Scots would travel to Mendoza, the same stadium in where they stunned the Dutch and there might have been a few of Tartan Army who might have been hoping that lightning would strike twice if they were to get something from Brazil but alas, the majority felt that this Brazil side had something to prove after what had been so far a lacklustre World Cup for them so far for their standards in which they had only gotten two draws from Spain and Sweden and a tight 1-0 victory over Austria, the latter of which actually topping the group. Either way, many felt that this Brazil team was overdue to put in a performance to rubber stamp their credentials if they were to go on and win the World Cup.

    Scotland manager Willie Ormond had tried to play down the media in saying that he wouldn't expect a performance like in West Germany would happen again but alas, much to his annoyance, it seems the media had not bothered to listen to his pleas with the Scottish newspapers rather happily pointing out how poor Brazil were and that surely now this was the moment in which if Scotland won this game then honestly they would pretty much have one foot in the final. So as a good number of the Tartan Army had taken their place in the stadium and awaited to see what their country would bring to the table, it would be a game that they wouldn't forget though not exactly for all the right reasons it must be said.


    Scotland and Brazil just prior to the kick-off in Mendoza
    With a blast on the whistle from the Romanian referee, the match started off with the Brazilians coming right out of the traps clearly with a point to prove and nearly finding the opening goal after just two minutes by Reinaldo in which Scottish goalkeeper Andy Rough had to quickly come out to prevent the early Brazilian goal from happening. Despite the Brazilians getting the better start of the game, the Scots try pressing forward themselves yet even the Brazilian defence is not giving any chance for Scotland to have any joy in the field; clearly the men in yellow are wanting revenge for their last World Cup exit from the hands of the Scots and are a very different beast to the team Scotland humbled four years ago.

    Then right in the sixth minute, Andy Rough gets the ball and passes it up towards Sandy Jardine, however right before Jardine could get a foot on it, Reinaldo races in to snatch the ball off his feet and fires the ball from a right angle which screams past the hands of Rough before crashing into the right hand wall of the net and Brazil have already gotten an early lead in this game already and it's really the last thing Scotland wanted but nonetheless the best thing that Brazil would have wanted. Ormond looks on with a bewildered look as in he didn't honestly think Brazil would score in this game so soon. Despite this early setback, Scotland try to come back into the game with an equaliser and Dalglish almost gives Scotland hope in the seventh minute as he fires from fifteen yards outside the box, but it is a shot of desperate matters as the ball goes way wide over the crossbar and to say it is a waste of a chance is only putting it nicely.

    Then in the eleven minute, a defensive blunder between Jardine and Kennedy follows as a lack of communication follows between the two men as they crash into each other while trying to get the ball and this only leads for Zico to run to get the ball without any problems before he rushes deep into the Scottish half before he performs the classic 'one-two' move in which he knocks the ball over to Rivellino who volleys the ball past the hapless Andy Rough and sending the Brazilians 2-0 into the lead. If was supposed to be a deliberate comedy moment then it would be comedy gold, alas, it was indeed a farcical moment from Scotland for letting Brazil get further in the game and even now there didn't seem to be any chance for Scotland to get back.


    During one rare moment when Rough had his hands on the ball for once
    Ormond from the bench cries out orders for the team to follow and this means that for the time being, Scotland have to stop any attacking play and pull back to prevent further embarrassment. It takes time but by the half hour mark, the game has somewhat settled down in which Scotland have plugged up their rather ropey defence though they are still two goals behind and still have an almighty mountain to climb if Scotland have any chance of getting a result from this. It is looking not that bad as long as Scotland keeps Brazil back but in the thirty-fifth minute, the Brazilians win a corner and from it, Zico fires in an thunderbolt of a header in and thus, Brazil are now 3-0 up on the hapless Scots. Even you didn't have any knowledge of anything to do with football, it is pretty much clear that Scotland are down and out with not even the first half played. Brazil look certain to reach the final on this game alone and there is no denying to anyone in the know that they have gotten their revenge on Scotland and isn't a truly glorious one for them.

    With this first half already such a rout and the Scotland players looking lost and flustered as to what is there to do in being such a bad position, some Scottish fans who have paid a lot of money to get out to Argentina can't take what they are seeing and an unfortunate incident takes place up in the terraces in which two fans fight each other and one unfortunate Brazilian fan finds themselves caught up in the action which leads to police to lead the two clearly drunken fans out of the stadium. It is a sorry situation that seems to reflect what's happening on the pitch. One could almost feel the whole thing imploding around the Scots and from the bench, Ormond fears for the Scotland fans being taking away by the police and with all the scary stories about people going missing in Argentina, he has to wonder what might happen to them.

    It isn't just the supporters that Ormond has be fearful as it has to apply to the pitch in which that third goal has clearly knocked the wind out of Scotland and Brazil nearly score a fourth goal in the forty-first minute which this time, Rough saves it. Yet despite his efforts, Scotland have still got it all to do if they are to get anything out of this game. The Brazilians don't seem that bothered to add to their already big lead and to rub it in, they start to show off to the crowd with their skills and eventually the first half ends and the Scottish players make a quick getaway down the tunnel to escape their raging fans that some have camped around the mouth of the entrance and one angry fan throws a half empty bottle of whisky that Andy Gray just barely avoids from hitting him.


    The angry Scotland fans in Mendoza with the team down 3-0 at half time to Brazil


    When your team is 3-0 down at the break, what are you suppose to do? For Ormond, he decides to make a change for the second half in which he makes a switch for Hartford to come on for Gemmill in the hope of having an attacking forward of four at front, playing in what seems to be an odd 4-2-4 system which raised a few eyebrows. Either this is a work of genius or perhaps just a real last desperate act of a man who knows he has to risk everything to avoid this being an utter humiliation for Ormond. Despite their handsome lead, the Brazilians go in on the attack again and have pinned the Scots back into their own half so much that Brazil's own keeper has pretty much been forgotten about and just stands idly leaning against the goalpost watching his teammates play the beautiful game and becoming something of a spectator himself.

    Whatever happens now, the performance that many felt Brazil owed everyone has finally turned up and it'll be hard to find someone to criticize this team after what they are seeing. Scotland do seem despite the circumstances to be holding on pretty well during the start of the second half, but alas in the fifty-seventh minute, Rivellino makes a mockery of the hapless and bewitched Scottish defence that try all they can so top the Brazilian player from getting a goal but alas, to no avail. Rivellion shoots on goal and although Rough manages to find his fingers to it, the ball is just nudged upwards where it hits the crossbar and heads downwards and makes the score line read 4-0 for Brazil. Just like that, Scotland are in a tailspin that is hurting for certain doom.

    In all honesty, no one is really suprised by yet another goal from Scotland who have without any question been very poor. To add to all this in classic gallows humour, the Scots start cheering for the Brazilians after that goal is scored as they have nothing to cheer for now and begin chanting over towards the Scotland bench that they want their money back and Ormond and some of those on the bench can't help but feel that they want the ground to open up and swallow them whole. Ormond doesn't care about the result now; it's now a foregone conclusion as is to any World Cup glory fool hardy souls might have might thinking about has crashed and burned. The Scotland manager now fears now of a grilling from a largely hostile Scottish press in which he knows he will feel the wrath of from over seeing this disaster take place.

    Just then, he is brought out of his senses when the Scotland bench all suddenly leap up and cheer over something.

    "Huh? What's goin' on?" Ormand asks and he see's some of the Scotland players celebrating. Believe it or not, Scotland have managed to somehow score in this game right in the sixty-first minute thanks to Gemmill (admittedly nowhere near as good as his goal against Holland) and the score is now 4-1 for Brazil. It seems that the change he did to bring on Gemmill has actually worked and is an epic unlikely comeback on? Of course not.


    Footage from the live broadcast of the game

    No sooner after that sudden goal from Scotland just two minutes later, Jardine brings down Reinaldo and receives a booking and the Brazilians are awarded a free kick from twenty yards outside the box. Rivellion steps up to take it, hoping to get his hat trick and he pulls of a stunning free kick that curls into the top of the net to put Brazil 5-1 further in front and from then, Brazil mercifully don't heap more humiliation on the shell-shocked Scots and instead pass the ball around the field for the entertainment of their traveling fans. In the end, 5-1 is the final result in Scotland's biggest loss at a World Cup and it is a numb but very Scottish feeling for Willie Ormond as the match comes to an end.

    Not only did he oversee a victory over the World Champions four years ago which some could say was one of the greatest moments of the Scotland team, now the very same team that they defeated have turned the tables on the Scots and given Scotland their heaviest defeat ever in a World Cup. It is a set of facts that Ormond will be unsure as to what to think about having those to his name. Despite their Brazilian opponents sharing shirts with the Scots and shaking hands and all that, the Scottish players look mortified at how heavy the defeat was and like a bunch of school boys being caught from doing something awful, they trod off slowly where by the entrance of the tunnel, their fans begin chanting, "What a load of rubbish!" at them.

    It all seems even worse to the treatment they got after the Iran game. Regardless of what happens now in the next games and baring a set of crazy results to favour them, Scotland are pretty much out of this World Cup and now it is just a slow march to the next flight out of Argentina for them.


    On the same day after Scotland were ripped apart by Brazil, England would begin their game with Poland and while a few might have been quite flippant on talking about Poland's chances, that didn't mean to say that they were any pushovers and in this would prove that for good reason. Unlike the other game which had seen goals galore happening, it wasn't quite the same in no goals at all. Twenty-three minutes had been played between England and Poland and although the score line was showing it to be 0-0, the game had been anything but dull with England getting quite a number of chances against a rather stubborn Polish side who had only had two chances on goal in compared to England's nine chances on goal. Despite all this had war, England just couldn't seem to get the opening goal with them either shooting the ball past the posts or perhaps it had only been the divine intervention of the Polish keeper, Jan Tomaszewski, that was the one thing that was keeping the score level.

    England manager Ron Greenwood though sat on the bench looking really unhappy at how things were going. His team should at least three goals up by now with the way they've been playing and it was perhaps a view shared by many of his fellow countrymen watching the game at home. However it seems even from these early exchanges from the game, it looks like it'll be one of those games in which no matter how hard you play, the keeper will have an excellent game that'll be enough to save his team. God how anyone doing all the attacking hated those sort of games in which just couldn't seem to get the goal you need. However at one point, hope nearly griped everyone in England in which during the twenty-sixth minute, Keegan performs a great back pass towards Francis and he looks set to score and at last, the ball flies past the hands of Tomaszewski...

    ...But crashes off the post and out for a goal-kick for Poland. Francis places his hands on his head is disbelief of how he has blown that wonderful chance for England to take what many will say is a very deserving lead and from the reaction up on the terracing, the view is keenly felt among the traveling England fans who are only feeling frustrating only starting to kick in. Then again, it might be worse as they might end up like Scotland and already a few are thinking about what are the going to do when they face Brazil, clearly it'll have to be better than this.


    Keegan during the game with Poland
    Poland might have been fancifying their chances to get the better of England the longer they could prevent the Three Lions from scoring but honestly it has been a frustrating game to watch no matter who you are unless you're Polish and the latter's first chance to take a shock lead happens in the thirty-sixth minute when Lato lets one flies onwards for goal but instead Ray Clemence has to act to knock it clear and out for a corner kick for Poland in which it is taken but alas it comes to nothing and England live to keep up the score remaining at deadlock. But so too are Poland who seemed to be in no mood to make this game any easier for England.

    England have a great chance in the forty-second minute to get the opener from Keegan what aims at goal but much to his own despair, the ball clatters on the crossbar and once again the ball just doesn't seem like it wants to go into the back of the net. With all the strange things happening in this World Cup, there is a thought in the back of the mind of every English and Polish person in which the junta might have rigged the ball in trying to make sure neither score. Sounds crazy? Then again this is a World Cup being hosted in a military dictatorship.

    Finally the whistle for half time is blown by the Swedish referee and there are no goals and, quite honestly, nothing to speak about in all fairness. The two teams trot off at the end of the first half with both wondering just what on earth they have to do to try and win this game. Still, with another forty-five minutes of a second half still yet to play, anything can happen as they always say.

    When the second half starts, it becomes clear that the game doesn't have the same intensity that the English had earlier on in the game but neither too do the Polish who look more than happy to ride this game out for a draw even though it might not be a good idea in the grand scheme of things. Then in the forty-eighth minute after a fairly uneventful opening few minutes, Keegan is given the ball by Trevor Brooking who has threaded the ball up to him and he lobs it up over the keeper and at long last, England have gotten the lead they deserve...or so they think. The linesman nearby has already risen his flag for offside and their is confusing from the England players who feel that they were onside.

    From the England dugout, Greenwood is not happy as he gets up from the bench and looks like he'll be given that linesman a earful as to why that is not offside, but it's only thanks to his assistant coach that holds him back from doing whatever the England manager was planning on doing. The game resumes from a goal kick and the ball and this time the Pole start making some inroads into the England half and Szarmach nearly fires his team in front in the fifty-seventh minute and Clemence has to make a save once gain to prevent a sudden lead being taking by the Germans. It is going to be a long game...


    Clemence leading from the back
    If anyone had hoped for something to happen, then sadly enough, it was to turn out to be something of an anti-climax in which Poland pretty much seemed hellbent on getting a point from the game in contrast to England who are hellbent on trying to get all three points from whatever needs possible. In what can only be described as one of the most stuffiest and frustrating games to play at this World Cup, the final score ends as it started; 0-0 between the two sides.

    It's hard to say who is the more happier or disappointed compared to the two and while perhaps Poland may have not gotten revenge on England for them not qualifying last time, them holding them to a goalless draw might be of something for them to feel happy about in all fairness. However with the fact for England that they have to face Brazil next, everyone knows that they have to play better than that if they want to have any chance of going through to the next round. For both Home Nations, it had been a night of much mixed results.

    And there we are! Not the best update but it has to be real as possible in how things might pan out in which Brazil thrash Scotland and Poland frustrate Poland. Anyway, next update will be England vs Brazil and Scotland taking on Poland, can both do it? Find out next time P.S as of the time of writing, it is my birthday tomorrow so by the time you read this, it will be be my birthday, so yeah. Until then, catch you all later! :)
    Chapter 33: No Room To Hide
  • Chapter 33
    No Room To Hide

    After the lacklustre start for both Home Nations, It was vital that both of them had to simply get a result in their second group games just four days later (June 14th) if they had any hope for wanting to win the group and reach the final. That said it wasn't easy for either as Scotland would first take on Poland while later on, England would take on Brazil in a mouth-watering clash in which many felt that the latter two were the most likely ones that had a chance of reaching the final. Bottom line, there was no no room to hide though it was hard to think who was feeling more pressure.

    The first to play was Scotland who in many ways looked like a team that following their thrashing at the hands of Brazil seemed like a team that was there for the taking for Poland and it was fair to say that the Tartan Army didn't hold up for much hope in their own team's chances themselves if they were being honest. It wasn't helped that much of the British press didn't feel that Scotland had any chance to get something and even most of the Scottish press had given up on the team which no doubt would have rubbed off the players up the wrong way but shockingly even that wasn't the worst of it.

    The aftermath of the defeat to Brazil, their heaviest ever in a World Cup, had gotten a little bit too personal when reports came home from Scotland that members of Willie Ormond's family back home were apparently being suffering from abuse from angry Scottish supporters and news journalists. So bad this was that even England manager Ron Greenwood, upon hearing this, told the press and those who had given hell to Ormond's family to give him a break. A real sporting moment from a man who himself wasn't doing much better from the press following England's frustrating draw with Poland.


    Footage of the interview Greenwood did for ITN calling out those who abused Ormond
    Despite this support in which Ormond was grateful for, he knew that the only way he could silence the critics was by beating the Poles which would get Scotland's World Cup hopes back on track. That all said, Ormond would find it difficult to understand in which how someone like him who had become a public darling in Scotland following that victory over Brazil in the last World Cup only for it all to change so dramatically to treat him as a pariah as the one responsible for making Scotland look like a joke on the world stage even if this Brazil team was a vast improvement on the team Scotland had beaten. Then again, that was perhaps the power of the press as they say.

    So on the 18th June, Scotland faced off Poland in the Estadio Ciudad de Mendoza, the same stadium where they had suffered the high of beating the Dutch and now the absolute low of losing to the Brazilians in this very same stadium. Oddly enough but nonetheless welcoming for the Scotland team, the locals there all felt sorry for what had happened the Scots, helped by the fact that they had been beaten by Argentina's big rival and had decided to cheer them on for the game ahead. It wasn't much but for Ormond and what had happened, he'd gladly take it.

    Soon enough the game began and what was rather worrying for the Tartan Army was that Ormond had decided not to change the team selection and kept ten of the players that had lost to Brazil with the only change being with Graeme Souness being added to help out. Some felt this was not enough and argue that he should've been playing in the Brazil game which Ormond admitted he got that wrong. As the game got underway, the Scotland fans were not holding up any hope that this team would really turn up for the big games and for good reason.

    The Scots found themselves at the mercy of the Polish who pushed them back and was proving to be painful viewing for a Scottish perspective. It only then gets worse in the third minute when Alan Rough, after making a rather comfortable save, made a terrible free-kick right into the path of Andrzej Szarmach who headed the ball into the empty net and Rough looks around feeling very foolish for that attempt and knowing that he might end up as a bigger joke than he fear and that the English will add that howler to the list of Scottish stereotype of goalkeeping blunders.


    Szarmach, the man who opened the scoring for Poland
    Not even five minutes gone and Scotland are already a goal behind and an early exit from the World Cup seems like the only fate that seems to be staring Scotland dead in the face. The camera then shows a rather sorry image of Willie Ormond looking a total shadow of a man with his expression is grim and his eyes are bloodshot from no doubt the lack of sleep he's had lately. Even though he had become a popular joke, many can't help but feel bad for their past actions and everyone else who didn't get involve in the witch hunt just want to give him a hug for comfort. It's going to be a long game.
    After that opening goal, Poland begin pressing for another goal and nearly do so just ten minutes later when Zbigniew Boniek flashes a volley at goal only for the crossbar to stop it going in and save Scotland from further humiliation. It seems for now, the only thing Scotland can do is just keep soaking up the pressure and then when the time was right, strike back. Ormond knew that his team selection was never going to win over the hearts and minds of many but for the one change he had made was more than making an positive impact to the team.

    Graeme Souness proves his worth of what one change can bring to a team and the Liverpool midfielder has been a standout player in this Scottish team as he has performed a number of brilliant tackles to prevent the Poles from scoring with one such moment being in the twenty-second minute when he has to make a well timed sliding tackle to prevent Lato from scoring the second for Poland. Whatever any thought Scotland fans had about how well this game might end up, they could all at least admit that Souness' appointment into the team was very much welcomed.


    Souness during the game with Poland

    By the half hour mark, not only have Scotland prevented any more chances for the Poles but are now starting to press up the field in their attempt to try and find an unlikely goal from somewhere. From the bench, Willie Ormond can actually sit back and relax with his arms crossed with some hope that he knows that the players will deliver for him, it's only just a matter of time that they will deliver for him. Then in the thirty-second minute, Andy Gray manages to thread the ball through the legs of Jerzy Gorgoń, nutmegging him, which gets a big cheer from the crowd and that the ball is linked up with Joe Jordon on the other side who slides the ball into the penalty box in which he back passes it towards Kenny Dalglish who then knocks it over Zygmunt Kukla who can't do nothing about and from out of nowhere, Scotland have gone level with Poland.

    The Scottish supporters in the ground celebrate that after all the hell they went through with the Brazil game, at last they have something to cheer about. Willie Ormond now looks like a man reborn as he looks like the weight of the world is on his shoulders has been lifted knowing that his faith in his players has paid off. Poland though are no push overs and it seems that they are determined to punish the Scots for making them look like fools for losing their lead and almost less than a minute after that goal, Lato nearly strikes back with a goal but his attempt is knocked over the bar by Andy Rough but it does lead to a corner kick.

    The corner kick is well taking and Kazimierz Deyna (the Polish captain) tries to header in a quickfire goal but the plucky Scottish keeper, almost wanting to make up for his embarrassing mistake from earlier in the game, punches the ball over the heads of the players in the box before it lands right at the feet of Boniek who tries to fire it through for a goal, but his effort is too ambitious and the ball heads wide of the post and the Scots have a moment of calm to catch their breath before the goal kick is taken. Thankfully, Scotland keeps Poland at bay throughout the rest of the first half and the two teams leave the pitch with the game tied at 1-1. At last, some hope for Ormond.


    Dalglish celebrates the goal that makes it 1-1

    When it came round for the second half, the message that Ormond had for the players was more or less keeping playing the same as they had done towards the end of the first half as if things carried on the way they did then surely another goal would come to Scotland and hopefully the winner. The start of the second half started of with Scotland looking like a different beast that was a contrast to the rather feeble way they had started and nearly get off to a wonderful start when in the forty-seventh minute when Dalglish nearly scored a second a second when he ran down on towards the edge of the box with a lovely curl but alas he put too much of a bend on it and the ball went wayward over the bar.

    Nonetheless, the only chant that was going on in the stadium in Córdoba was the mostly Argentine crowd chanting, 'Es-co-cia! Es-co-cia! Es-co-cia!' The local crowd and the traveling Tartan Army were cheering on the Scots and the plucky underdogs were given the Poles a run for their money and as each minute went by through this second half so far, Scotland had grown more and more confident as they began to believe that they had nothing to fear now. Poland looked frustrated in trying to contain the Scots and the real feeling by many was that Scotland were going to nick a winner sooner than later. In the fifty-third minute, Ormond brings on John Robertson to replace Andy Gray as a secret weapon to try and sneak said victory.

    Seven minutes later, he has become quite a standout player given it his all and decides to run with the ball into the box and the Polish are looking suspect at the back in which look like it is there for the taken. Robertson however gets too excited thinking that he'll find his name in lights and the ball goes flying over into the disappointed Scotland fans behind the goal up in the terraces. It is a good chance missed but it does show that Scotland look likely to cause an upset but a cynic will point out that they have to make the most of this good play otherwise they might end up kicking themselves.


    Robertson during his introduction
    That certain fear that Scotland might end up shooting themselves in the foot is actually something that is on Ormond's mind and the Scotland manager rather quiet as the watches the game. That all said, he does have that little gleam in his eyes that has not been seen following the Brazil disaster; maybe their World Cup hopes aren't all that dead? His little dream there is nearly shattered in the sixty-sixth minute in rather cruel fashion in which Szarmach goes on the break and with no Scottish player around, looks set to score and many Scottish fans can't help but look away fearing the worse.

    But the Polish didn't expect Souness rushing in to defend like a man possessed by the devil and right on the edge of the penalty box, he pulls of a tackle that could rival any world-class tackle and snatches it off the feet of the stunned Polish player and Souness wastes no time is punting it up the field. It is a move that the crowd applaud for a brilliant effort and it seems like the goodwill of the crowd is egging them on to get something out of this game. Then again as the game now enters the final twenty minute of the game, time is running out to find a winner from either team.

    Another chances happens to fall to Scotland in the seventy-fourth minute when Robertson tries to let one fly at goal but his shot is saved by Kukla who quickly wastes no time in keeping it up the field for the game to keep flowing. Despite what is being said with Scotland looking positive going forward, that isn't meaning to say that Poland weren't creating chances themselves on the other end of the field in which Lato went to fire his shot on target only for Andy Rough to stop it just three minutes later after that chance for Scotland. Honestly, it was hard to tell who would even win the game.


    Some of the Scotland fans during the game with Poland
    In the final ten minutes, the game becomes a lot more tense in which the vibe one can get from both teams is that neither want to lose this match though it is unclear if a draw is good for both team's hopes of reaching the final. It is during this period however is that Scotland start to look rather tired, their work rate in that second half will have caused them to grow tired and now Poland can smell blood in the water as the fear of the Tartan Army, Scotland have slowly started to turn back into the ropey team that had started this match and to lose now would be terminal for their hopes going forward.

    When it does come to injury time with the score still at 1-1 despite the late Polish pressure, for some reason the referee had ordered five minutes of stoppage time. It had been agony for the Scots in the closing stages who despite playing for most of the second half with promise, they have now been reduced to having their backs pressed up against the wall and have been trying everything to halt the Polish advance. Five minutes to go, Ormond is sitting on the bench with his hands over his mouth and praying that his team has to surely get something out of this? Four minutes to go, Lato nearly breaks Scottish hearts as he slides the ball under the legs of the Scottish players and it's only for the hands of Rough that keeps it out. Three minutes to go, The Polish in their battle to find a late winner gets themselves another corner and Boniek gets his head to it but thankful his shot goes over the bar.

    Final minute, Rough kicks the ball as far as he can up the pitch to let the time run out and several of the players run forward to hold the ball and pray no man in white shirt and black short gets anywhere near the ball. Thirty seconds left, surely it should be over now? Ormond checks his watch to make sure the time is up. Then at long last, the referee blows his whistle and Scotland have gained a much deserved point from a tough game and the Poles' hopes of getting to the final are starting to look slim. The crowd celebrate and so do the players for a good result and it is surely vindication for the Scotland manager who feels that with a little bit of luck, they might've pulled off a victory. Alas, he'll take this result and now knows that their final group game will be a crunch match with England. A rematch of the infamous game of 1974...

    A couple of hours later after Scotland's game with Poland, up next would be a match up between the two favourites of the group battling it out for a place in the final; England and Brazil. For a Brazilian point of view, it was a rather simple following their victory over Scotland - all they had to was beat England and they'd surely be more or less in the final would a group game to spare. Not so good for England and their manager Ron Greenwood who knew that after the disappointment of the draw with Poland, they'd have to simply beat Brazil if they had any hope of wanting to make it to the final.

    That being said prior to the second round in which Brazil had looked rather poor in the group stage, those comments about them had gone out of the window following their mauling of Scotland and the England players were very much wanting to avoid such a fate knowing that a loss here would kill any hopes they had. The game would be played in the Estadio Gigante de Arroyito in Rosario and despite a large number of Brazilian fans in there, there would be some Argentines in their actually secretly rooting for England over the fact that they didn't want Brazil to get a victory here. With that though, the game began and right from the get go, both sides weren't really going in for kill but rather seemed wanting to probe each other and this does look frustrating for many who wanted blood and thunder from the start.


    England vs Brazil in the 1978, note England wearing their away colours
    In the build-up, there has been some predictions made that despite it being a tight game that Brazil will in the end come out on top in the end. Despite that, England weren't performing too badly after ten minutes of play and even though neither side had scored, Greenwood's men had gone toe to toe with the Brazilians and knew that they could be beaten if they didn't lose their concentration. Even the crowd are starting to warm up to the English seeing that they might cause an upset on the Brazilians. In the sixteenth minute, Zico tries to cut through the English defence and firing home the ball, but his shot is saved by the hands of Peter Shilton and taking notes from Greenwood of not giving the Brazilians a moment of rest, he quickly kicks the ball up the field towards the middle of the field where Ray Wilkins is waiting for him to get his head onto the ball leaping into the air in which Edinho leaps up to try and stop him but fails.

    It is bang on the twentieth minute when Wilkins then gives the ball towards Trevor Brooking who goes on the run with several Brazilian defenders try to stop him and right before he can be stopped by any of them, he crosses the ball up over towards Keegan who keeps his eye on the ball the whole time as it descends and before it even touches the ground, he fires a rocket of a shot on target and straight past the hands of Leão in which he can only watch the ball try to rip the back of the net and thus, that goal has put the English up 1-0 on Brazil. The small number of English supporters and even parts of the Argentina crowd celebrate seeing the Brazilians finally having someone score against them and that the game is not a foregone conclusion.

    Keegan celebrates with his teammates and he looks over towards the England bench seeing them celebrating too, but Greenwood remains calm and instead gives him a double thumbs up for his efforts. His plan of rattling the Brazilians like that has worked and the men in yellow can't seem to know what to do to get back in this game, it is almost like they weren't expecting to go behind in this game. No sooner just five minutes after that goal, England start pushing back the Brazilians back once again and after a very well worked set of passing from Wilkins, then to Keegan and then over towards Trevor Francis who tucks in a wonderful goal that looks like England have gone 2-0 up. However to his dismay and Brazil's relief, Francis discovers that the goal has been marked offside by the linesman and it's a frustrating one to take.


    A happy moment, England take the lead in the game with Brazil
    It is though a big let off for the Brazilians who are lucky that they haven't been further humiliated and this in turn does finally wake up the Brazilians to get going into the game and at last start pushing the English back and Ron Greenwood stands on the touchline with his arms crossed watching his men pushed back and though he doesn't want to show it, a horrible thought crosses him mind. Have they scored too soon? It is a thought that any team with a lead in a game that no one wants to have and with it still being very early in the game, who is to say that the worst is still yet to happen?

    Any Englishman watching the game might have been thinking the same thing as the sight of yellow shirted Brazilian players start flooding the English half of the pitch with one attempt from Alves in the twenty-sixth minute saw him breaking through the defence and beating Clemence in goal though it is only thanks to the goalpost that helps prevent that goal from Brazil from happening. Five minutes past by and despite Brazil trying all they could for an equaliser, England have kept their 1-0 lead but they are looking rather ropey in which since they had that goal disallowed, England really haven't troubled Brazil since then and thus the South Americans have been enjoying the game despite not getting the goal they feel they deserve.

    The first half end ups being quite a blur with some mad end to end action in which before anyone knows what has happened, it is now half time with England leading the game 1-0. When the players left the field and it seems that Greenwood's tactics were working a treat and if it wasn't for that goal being chalked off, England could've been 2-0 ahead. Still, as it stood, if they won this match then they would be that close to the final. Then again, the England manager would rather not think about that as getting ahead of himself would be a big mistake should Brazil strike back and who knew that this Brazilian team was defiantly a side that could not only come back, but punish you severally.


    The players going off at half time

    As the second half began, Greenwood eyed up a large number of Brazilian fans who were making quite a din and cheering their team to try and get back into the game. Then he looked behind him seeing hordes of Argentina men up on the terraces watching the game with serious looks and for all the talks prior for coming out to Argentina about this junta, the England manager felt a bit sorry for these people being ruled by a dictatorship. He feels that the Argentinian's love for the beautiful game being used for very much unwelcomed reasons that shouldn't be done for he and felt that he wished he could help them somehow. Their game with Argentina in the first round had been a bit of an eye opener for him as their game had all these untrustworthy-looking group of men overlooking the game like a pack of vultures.

    Apparently not only his game, but all of the host nation's games had these caricatures of movie-style gangsters at their matches. Shifty-eyed, fidgety, oily and suspicious types in long overcoats that look so typical of gangster types that it could almost be comical if the whole atmosphere surrounding this tournament wasn't so suspect. His mind drifts away from the game but he soon breaks out of his thoughts when the referee has blown his whistle and looks over to see what has happened. Trevor Cherry has brought down Zico is badly timed tackle in the forty-seventh minute and is given a yellow card from the Hungarian referee and awards Brazil a free kick.

    Reinaldo steps up to take it and despite being quite a fair bit back from the penalty box, he tries his luck and knocks it for quite a big distant and the curls down looking like it might just go in, English hearts going into their mouths. The ball does come down...but only on the top of the net in which the English can take a sigh of relief knowing that their lead is still intact. Greenwood sits back down on the bench and rubs his chin in thought in thinking what to do, he has wanted his players to give it their all here, but he doesn't want to exhaust them out here; 1-0 leads are a very dangerous thing to hold on to. Still a long way to go in this game.


    The action packed game in action during the start of the second half
    Though the score remains 1-0 to England come round by the sixtieth minute, it has been anything but dull. The crowd inside the stadium and watching the game on TV couldn't take their eyes of the game as the two styles of football seemed to have everyone in a trance. Unlike the Polish team, the Brazilians didn't look that flustered despite being behind and pepper potting the English defence with an estimated 17 shots on goal in the second half alone by this point while England had managed just 12 shots on goal. Pretty much anyone could win this game and in a fair world, the game should've been a draw considering how much the two sides were level with each other in terms of play.

    England have done a fairly good job of shutting up shop yet those up the field such as Keegan have been yelling at his teammates to get moving forward so that he and any others alongside him can find another goal from somewhere. Finally then in the sixty-eighth minute, Keegan has the ball but is brought down by Oscar and is given a yellow card for his actions. The ball itself is in a fairly good area being just 30 yards out from the box and Keegan steps up to take it. The referee blows his whistle and rather than Keegan trying to fire the ball over the Brazilian wall of defence, he knocks it to his right towards Francis and the man in question has an open area in which the Brazilians are unguarded and unprepared for this and thus, Francis knocks it right into the right side of the goal and looks set to score.

    However against all the odds and much to relief of his fellow countrymen, Leão comes to the rescue of Brazil who has to make a dramatic save to deny England the chance to increase the lead and, by this point, have a firm grip on winning this tie which is still so finely balanced. That said by the final fifteen minutes of the game, Brazil only now start to panic knowing that letting England win this match would mean that whoever makes it to the final would be blown wide open in terms of being open for anyone to get it. It could have been all so simple if Brazil could just win this game...


    Original footage of the match
    In the eighty-third minute, Rivellino comes close to scoring an equaliser but his shot is saved by Clemence who knocks it out for a corner kick for Brazil, one that the latter fail to make the most of and now with it being so late into the game, it's starting to look like there is little chance that this Brazil team are going to get something from the game. All England have to do now is sit back and just soak up the pressure to snatch those two points.

    More frustrating for the Brazilian supporters there is seeing their team finally come to life after being on the backfoot for so long in an annoying one and wonder how different things might have been had England not scored so soon. Ironically, something that Greenwood had feared that would come back to haunt England when in the end, it seems that that was not going to be the case. No matter what Brazil try to do, it is little too late and England hold on to win 1-0 and the English players on the pitch celebrate wildly their famous victory which means they are now so close to the final.

    Any victory over Brazil will be very much welcomed by the English press and this means that, in theory, they'd only need maybe just a point in their final group game to reach the final though a victory will pretty much confirm this. However, standing in their way from reaching another final is none other than their oldest rival who will be wanting more than most to prevent England from reaching the final...Scotland.

    And here we are! Mixed results there but a good day at the office for England a rather 'meh' one for Scotland. However stay tuned for the dramatic next update in which England and Scotland will play in the final group match in which England will hope to make while Scotland will try all they can to prevent them. Don't miss the next update so until then, catch you all later and I think a certain few of you might like it...

    P.S. Thank you all for the lovely birthday messages from the last update, had a quiet one but nice day all the same. :)
    Chapter 34: One Night in Rosario
  • Chapter 34
    One Night in Rosario

    After everything that had happened before, it all came do this final group game in which for the first time since the ending of the Home International Championship, England and Scotland were to meet once again in a World Cup in what had more riding on it than just bragging rights. On the day of the game on June 21st, Brazil and Poland had played earlier that day in which the Brazilians would defeat the Poles 3-1 that left Brazil sitting on top of the group and looking set to play in the final. However that was not quite all settled as later on in the day would see England and Scotland battle it out in which the former knew that if they were to beat the Scots then they'd leapfrog Brazil and would win the group.

    Even though the game would kick-off at quarter past eleven on a Wednesday night for UK viewers due to the time difference, that wouldn't stop millions of people to tune into ITV that night (STV for Scottish viewers) with many even calling sick to turn up to work the following day in which was estimate to be something around about twenty-one million viewers that night and for good reason mostly if you were English. If they won, then England would be playing in their first final for eight years and no one wanted to miss it. Scotland were up for such a game, well rather any game against the auld enemy, though even if they did win, their own hopes of reaching the final were dead and the best they could do was win by a barrel load of goals to at least get into the third place play-off.

    However what was more apparent for the Scots was the prospect that England might reach the final. It would be bad enough to see England get there and worse if they went on to win the World Cup, but it would all be the more horrifically unbearable if it were Scotland of all teams that had to be the one that was the team England needed to beat to get into the final. Fair to say that many in that Scotland team knew if that nightmarish thought happened then likely most of that squad would never be allowed to set foot in Scotland ever again and the best they could do was to at least prevent England reaching the final which would give the Scots the last laugh. Even without the football aspect, the whole situation both politically and on a culture level prior going into this World Cup has gripped both nations and there is a feeling shared among many that no matter what happens, something about this particular encounter could have major ramifications in the UK though no one knows what.


    One of the two special TV Times front covers that were made for the World Cup; this being for the Scotland and the other made was for England
    This was to be the ninety-sixth of the two teams though only four fifth time they would cross paths at a World Cup and interestingly, this would be the first time the two sides would play each other in South America and the people of Rosario would be presented with the once in a lifetime chance to see this famous fixture being staged in their own backyard with about three thousand English and Scottish supporters joining them in the hope to see their respective side come out on top. While in comparison to the sight of the hordes of supporters from both sides in Frankfurt was not repeated here, the large travelling distance and expensive cost to get out to Argentina was likely a big factor in this, there was still a fear that trouble might happen out here either before or after the game.

    Mercifully there didn't seemed to be any chance of that happening thanks to a suspiciously large number of police troops around the ground that were on the lookout for trouble taking place. Whatever anyone might have felt, when the managers of both teams shook hands just before the anthems were played they both knew that this could be a match that would go in history either as a famous result or something more infamous in which both Greenwood and Ormond will wanting to avoid. Both teams would start with pretty much the same players in either side that had been part of the second group games and it was a sign that both managers were willing to keep faith with those who they knew could help them get something from the game.

    That said, there was a great deal of confidence from the English supporters and for good reason; they had managed to defeat Brazil, one of the favourites no less, and the same team had also utterly destroyed Scotland in that 5-1 hammering so with that all in mind, the English felt that this was all set up to be in their favour. But as there is in every derby, all form goes out of the window and the Scots would put their lives on the line if it meant denying England's moment of glory. Before long with millions tuning in for the late night game and a more than likely chance of at least someone praying for a good result, the French referee blew his whistle to start the game and thus, the two noisy neighbours that they were would begin play.


    Early moment during the game
    It wouldn't be long until the crowd of nearly forty-thousand would see some action as no sooner after that attempt in the seventh minute after a fairly busy period from both sides, Steve Coppell and Peter Barnes work together to make a good shot on target for England, but Alan Rough comes to Scotland's rescue in preventing an early lead for England. Just two minutes later, Keegan attempts to try and score on the left flank, but he is forced out by Stuart Kennedy which leads for a Scottish throw in though it is clear from these early moments of the match that England have started the more positive team with Willie Ormond standing on the touchline shouting out orders for his team to wake up.

    Wherever or not his shouting works to get the players motivated, it isn't until the twelve minute in which Joe Jordon is given the ball up by Andy Gray and the Manchester United player takes it into the English penalty box and looks set to score from out of nowhere after all that pressing from the English. However his shot towards the top left hand corner of the net is somehow saved by Ray Clemence which keeps the game level, nonetheless Scotland are now playing a massively improved performance that has not been seen since the Dutch game; then again Scotland seem always want to do their best against England which does frustrate their supporters over why can't they play like this more often against any other team they play.

    By this point Scotland are the ones putting pressure on English but much like their opponents, they can't seem to find a way through to get the opening goal and it isn't too long until the play drifts back in favour of the English. A waste of time in trying to get something for Scotland and before they know, It all goes from bad to worse. In the twenty-first minute of the game, Keegan breaks the deadlock in which, but some unfortunate bad luck on the part of the Scots, Rough drops a clanger and the English player rushes in to capitalise on this mistake and fires the ball into the top left of the net and put England in front. The Scottish goalkeeper lies face down on the pitch feeling shameful for yet another mistake of his and it's only the help of captain Graeme Souness that has to help him back on his feet and get up and find a way back into the game.


    Keegan helps England take the lead with Andy Rough not wanting to look...
    Willie Ormond and the rest of those on the Scottish bench groan in despair, a terrible thing they and perhaps every Scotland fan watching is that they have only just realised just then was that Scotland had coincided a goal at all of their matches at this World Cup and it was clear that the Scots' ropey leaky defence had been pretty much the problem for much of their ropey performances. Nonetheless, Scotland don't decide to give up so easily and they try all they can to get back into this match and much to the enjoyment of the neutrals in the stadium watching, the game quickly opens up with both sides pressing forward in either half and in all fairness, either side can score. Question is who would it be? Then in the thirty-third minute there is another chance from Jordon as he tries to slip it in but his shot is a wasted on in which Ray Clemence saves it and kicks it up the field for the game to carry on.

    On the English bench, the reaction one can see from Ron Greenwood and much of the England assistant team is one of cautious optimism and knows that a slender 1-0 lead can easily change the longer this goes on. Greenwood's actions are justified as then in the thirty-seventh minute, Scotland are awarded a free kick due to a tackle on Jordon by Phil Neal and Dalglish steps up to take it. He awaits as the referee tries to push back some of the players from getting too close to Dalglish. Finally he is given the call as he fires it over the English wall, but sadly the ball goes wide of the post and a good chance for Scotland goes amiss. The Scottish supporters in the ground look uncomfortable as their fears of England getting into the final because of beating them is now a real possibility, they can't be given up like this now?

    Despite the said slender lead and that freekick that could have gone badly wrong for England, the Three Lions look rather comfortable it must be said as if they are under no pressure despite the gravity of the situation while the Scots seem to cut a frustrated look at how they just can't seem to have any luck falling their way. There is one chance right of the death of the half for Scotland in which Gray makes an utter blunder of it seeing the ball clear over the bar and before they know, the first half ends with England leading Scotland 1-0. It is only as the players are walking off the field that it dawns on them all that should the result remain the same then England is now only just forty-five minutes away from reaching a World Cup Final...


    England and Scotland clashing towards the end of the first half


    After a fairly eventful team talk from both managers over what needed to be done, the teams are back on the pitch and Scotland come out of the traps flying in hoping to find that elusive goal that could help stop England reaching the promised land of a final any many nervous fans across Scotland are feeling really tense about this. For some weird reason though, England look rather lazy and don't seem the need to get into this game, it's like they already feel like they are already in the final, don't they know that Scotland will punish them if they play like this? Greenwood notices this and gives his players an angry yell to concentrate as Scotland start to cause problems for England on their flanks.

    Then in the fifty-fourth minute, Jordon, while running down the right, volleys a shot to Clemence who rather than save the ball, punches towards the left of the field and right in the ball's descending path, there is Dalglish right on a collision course. The Liverpool keeper's eyes widen in horror at what is about to happen as he stumbles back to try and make the save, but the Scottish forward makes the advantage of this and fires a low ball home past the England keeper and finally brings Scotland level in the game. It is major relief for the Scots though for some realise something strange about the situation in which The Liverpool star. Dalglish, has scored against his Liverpool teammate, an irony not lost on the disappointed England fans watching from the terraces who now know that they have a game on their hands.

    it is a wonderful start of the second half for the Scots yet a horrible start for England and In the fifty-ninth minute, Greenwood decides to make a switch in which Greenhoff goes off for Emlyn Hughes in the hopes that the team can freshen up and retake the lead. The game goes along at quite a steady pace and then right in the sixty-third minute, another change is made and this time it is for Scotland with Archie Gemmill going on for Don Masson in the hopes to find another goal and maybe attempt to replicate his wonder goal against the Netherlands. Although England do make a couple of good chances during the second half, the momentum is with the men in dark blue as they are fighting tooth and nail to get the winning goal.


    Dalglish going in for the kill to level the game out
    The next eight minutes of the game proves to be quick a tasty affair with tackles coming in from mostly Souness who is pretty much without question playing for the shirt and leads the charge on England; clearly he wants more than anything to stop England reaching for final in which as it stands, Brazil are going through though only on goal difference. Yet like before, Scotland just can't seem to break down Clemence and that backline and while a draw might be just enough, a draw is never quite just what Scotland want to get out from this game. Either way it is a tense affair for those in the ground and watching on TV across the UK, and surely there is another twist in the tale to follow?

    It is a good game, a damn good game by all accounts, perhaps one of the best England/Scotland games to be seen and is indeed a much more exciting game than that dull tudi affair in the last world cup and that rout at Wembley in 1975. Ormond yells out to his players to switch their formation slightly...or pretty much throw the kitchen sink in and show no fear to ruin England's World Cup hopes. Scotland have now switched to a 4-3-3 shape and make great assistance to each other, Greenwood looks quite nervously and fears the worse might yet fall upon on his team. Then in the seventy-ninth minute, Gemmill replicates his solo move that he did with the Dutch and both Dave Watson and Phil Neal can't seem to stop him, but rather shoot on target, he back passes towards Joe Jordon who only manages to keep the ball out of play and runs with the ball on the left towards the penalty area.

    This time he aims up his shot and without any fear, he thumps home the ball into the back of the net and puts Scotland 2-1 into the lead! At last, the Scots have gotten the goal they wanted and in all fairness, probably deserved and Willie Ormond looks certain to have masterminded victory over England and probably one that might be more important than any other result previously in terms of the situation. There are now looks of dismay among the England bench and there is a sinking feeling among many England fans watching that they might have chucked this game. Could they do something in these final ten minutes?


    Jordon barely keeps out the ball
    With it dawning on the England players about how close they are to are losing the game, the English now seem to wake up and now it's their turn to throw the kitchen sink at Scotland in order to find an equaliser late on into the game. However, in the eighty-fourth minute, Keegan looks certain to score when he get's through a gap in the Scottish defence that leaves the goal open with only Alan Rough there. In fact no, not only is it open, it's gaping. However he panics in the heat of the moment and balloons his shot over the bar and into the dismayed England supporters sitting behind the goal. Cue a sigh of relief from the Scottish contingent in that stadium.

    The tension is building from both. England are desperate to keep pressing while Scotland now find themselves pinned back and are on the defensive while anyone looking not on the pitch will see suddenly a long line of army troops entering the stadium to stand between the pitch and the terracing in what seems like a precaution in fear of violence spilling over or a pitch invasion. It seems that after what happened in Frankfurt and with the reputation of British sporting hooligans, that the Argentine forces are wanting to risk it; either way those sort of scenes are nothing like what you'd see at either Wembley or Hampden Park.

    The last ten minutes are pretty much the most tense anyone watching this famous fixture will remember, so much so that there are stories that many across the UK were having heart attacks from the sheer tension that was happening but by this point, Scotland were still leading 2-1 but they had their backs against the wall. After a mad rush from the English players in the mad chase for a goal, it turns out to be all too late as that certain shrill sound of a referee's whistle is heard by all abd the game is eventually brought to an end as Scotland have signed off from this World Cup on a high with a victory over England and in turn, ending their arch rivals World Cup hopes.


    A look of victory
    The Scottish players and supporters celebrate while the English are crestfallen, some of the players fall to the ground from how just how close they were from reaching a final but alas, the Scots have decided to get the last laugh and in some ways this victory for the latter might be even better than winning the whole tournament. Eventually the two managers go over to shake hands to congratulate each other on a great game. Despite Greenwood's disappointment of not leading England to the final, he can't help but feel happy for his Scottish counterpart who, if rumours he hear are true is his final World Cup and if so then what a way to sign off.

    "Well done chap," Greenwood speaks to Ormond, "deserved win that."

    "Aye, well done too," Ormond replies with a grin. "Good luck for the next game now."

    That indeed is true, even though England may have failed to reach the final, they have though finished in second place and thus will play in a third place play-off game in which Greenwood has to put his disappointment to one side and focus on gaining some pride for England. Shortly after the game, Ormond would make the announcement to the press that he would be leaving the Scotland job and while he didn't get any silverware or reach a final for his country, he would be looked back with fondness by the Tartan Army with that victory over England going down in Scottish football history. With that though, the great South American adventure was over.

    1978 ALT 1.png

    Final results of Group A and B of the 1978 World Cup
    After that thrilling game, England would return to the capital to play West Germany and the game in question would be quite a turgid affair in which a combination of feeling sad for not reaching the final and not wanting to be there, England would win the game 1-0 thanks to a goal from Keegan who while doesn't gone on to win the golden boot, he does get a lot of interest from many clubs across Europe who all want him to sign him though that is all for another story. Speaking of which, it wouldn't be long until England and the Germans would end up crossing paths again much sooner that expected.

    When it came to the final, it would be an all South American affair that perhaps everyone wanted; Argentina vs Brazil. Though it would be something a little bit more than a football game with a lot riding on it mostly for the junta to remain in power. When the players do appear onto the pitch, there is a huge amount of ticker tape raining down onto the field and although there is about 2,000 Brazilian fans who have made the daunting journey to Argentina, they are vastly overwhelmed by their Argentine counterparts. Despite this, the Brazil do have an advantage of surprise right from the very start of the match. The normal thing for all footballers the world over to do when kicking off from the centre circle is for one of the two players standing over the ball to play it backward to a midfield player and play the game from then.

    However, the cunning Brazilians buck the trend and instead of doing this, Rivellino taps the ball to Reinaldo and instead of knocking the ball backwards, he takes it forward, surprising the two Argentina strikers, whom he duly passes them with ease. After then twisting the ball around Osvaldo Ardiles and then Daniel Passarella before threading the ball forward towards the supporting Rivellino as Daniel Bertoni closes in with a killer tackle. Rivellino moves it wide to Zico who gives it back to Dirceu. The midfield player, on the right side of the field, just outside the Argentinian penalty area, notes the Argentines flooding back toward their own goal and then he dinks a beautiful pass over their heads where Reinaldo sprints forward to meet the ball and headers it in past the hands of Fillol, the Argentinian goalkeeper. With just less than a minute played, Brazil are 1-0 up in the final.


    Photo from the final

    It is only the help of Fillol that keeps the score the way it as Brazil prove to be utter ruthless trying to add to their lead, Argentina are utterly rattle and so are members of the junta watching from the VIP box. The first half is nothing sort of painful for the hosts as they struggle to find a way back into the game but to their credit as the first half goes along, the hosts get into the game and do get a couple of chances to find the equaliser. Then with just exactly ten minutes of the first half still remaining, Kempes takes matters into his own hands as he rushes with the ball past many Brazilian defenders and reaches into the penalty area and many spectators rise to their feet expecting the goal. Then it does arrive. From ten yards outside the box he lobs it over the Brazilian keeper and the ball neatly falls into the back of the net. The Buenos Aires crowd, who have been growing restless at this point, leap up in celebration and ticker tape rains down onto the pitch from the higher tier of the stadium. It comes at the right time to end the first half 1-1 and everything still has to be played for. However what would follow next in the second half would be a feeling of how Brazil felt many years ago when the World Cup was in their country and what happened when Uruguay came to spoil the party...

    With each passing minute of the second half with the hosts wasting many chances due to what seems like pressure, the home crowd grows more nervous with each passing minute and in the sixty-eighth minute after Brazil and forced off the field in order for an Argentine throw in. Argentina's manager, Menotti, gets to his feet and runs over to the touchline and, in an effort to get his team back on the rails, he yells out to them crying, "There are only eleven of them and seventy thousand of us, we can't lose this!" Try as he might, it now becomes clear that Argentina have, ever since that very early goal by Brazil, look weak and it does become more clear that they are slowly cracking under the weight of pressure that has been placed on the shoulders of the unfortunate players.

    With the game getting into the eighty-seventh minute, it looks like that despite Brazilian pushing and pressing, the final will go into extra time. However the Brazilians have one more trick up their sleeve as they are awarded a corner and there is a mass of bodies in the Argentine box all scrambling to get into the right position for the kick. The corner kick is taking and the ball doesn't get to the head of any player and instead it becomes a mad scramble to get the ball somewhere. Then from in the middle of this madness, Rivellino finds the ball rolling to his feet and with one slightly over powered shot, he fires it upwards into the roof of the net and puts Brazil 2-1 up in the final. Cue many Argentinians covering their eyes in horror at the nightmare about to unfold.


    One brave Brazilian fan at the final
    The crowd grow more restless again and despite Argentina throwing everything to bring the game into extra time, it is too late, the referee has blown his whistle and in the end, Brazil are world champions for a fourth time, but their victory is greeted with near silence from the stunned crowd who can't make any amount of noise. The Argentinian players on the pitch are still as statues, they are in a state of shock for what has happened while the Brazilian bench gets up and runs onto the field to celebrate their historic victory. Videla waits to carry out his duty of presenting the World Cup, a matter now uncomfortable for him as he can't use the moment for propaganda purposes. Finally, the large crowd finds it's voice and a great roar of furious, bottled up hatred engulfs the stadium.

    It is as if, in the vacuum left by defeat, they recognise how empty a regime-backed victory for Argentina would have been. The stadium has become a tinderbox and this is no longer about football, but a turning of the tables on the men who have tried to use the Argentinian's love of football for their own means. One young man, with a blue and white hat, leaps over the wall separating Videla and his men from the crowd and a solider steps in to stop the man. But rather than shoot him in plain sight, he smashes the butt of his rifle down on the man's face, bloodying the national colours on the man's head. The solder's violence only makes the crowd worse as Videla stands frozen as a dozen more people from the crowd leap forward and, undaunted by a similar fate, rush forward to the VIP box.

    More and more angry fans descend like a swam of wasps onto the box and Videla and his men have no choice but make a hasty retreat down the corridor behind them. But it is unlikely he'll get far at all. On the pitch, thousands of supporters invade the field and security probably wisely withhold their batons and the Brazilian players have retreated to the tunnel fearing what might unfold for them. In a crazy set of circumstances, as horrible as the loss is for Argentina to lose the final at the hands of their arch rivals, it would bring about the end of the junta and Argentina would move into democracy; who would have thought a football match could achieve such a thing?

    1978 ALT 2.png

    Final results of the third place and final of the 1978 World Cup
    With that though, the 1978 World Cup would end in perhaps one of the most explosive and incredible finales ever for a World Cup though not exactly for the reasons one would think. The 1970's were drawing to an end and next time there was to be a tournament would be at the start of the new decade and who knows how well the Home Nations could do in this crazy and ever changing world...?

    And so, here we come to the end of 1978. Pretty much the same as in the old TL though a few tweaks and improvements here. It is strange having no MacLeod here in Argentina for a football TL and it does makes things boring for Scotland though honestly when you think about it, I suspect that whole 'It's shite being Scottish' actually started because of the Argentine disaster. Think about it, notice that after that, every tournament we entered and exited tip toeing and reducing our hopes to such a low level that we not not had bothered to be there all because of the massive hype we had going into 1978.

    Without that, the butterflies on Scottish football and perhaps all culture takes a different path here going forward. Hope that doesn't mean butterflying 'Trainspotting' here, christ above...Anyway hope you loved this update and see you next time for Euro 1980! :)
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    Chapter 35: New Decade, New World - 1980 European Championship
  • Chapter 35
    New Decade, New World


    The 1970's had come to an end; a decade that saw the United Kingdom go through something of a mixed year on a culture and political level and even one for it's Home Nation football teams. When looking back on it, many will likely have rose tinted glasses when looking back on football in the country during the decade in which many teams from both England and Scotland would do well in Europe and even some winning silverware and of course there was the Home Nations qualifying for tournaments. Some would like to point out the good times in which both Wales and Northern Ireland nearly stunned the continent in becoming European Champions or how Scotland beat the World Champions Brazil or how England came within a hairsbreadth away of reaching a final in 1978.

    That said, it wasn't all good for the Home Nations. The infamous Frankfurt riots of 1974 between English and Scottish supporters had brought shame on the country and it's now ever-growing hooligan problem being exposed to the World and both nations barely avoided being banned for the following World Cup. To try and combat this problem, it would lead to the shock news that would ultimately lead for the long running Home International Championship, the world's longest running football tournament since 1884, to come to end the following year in the wake of those shameful scenes in West Germany which was hoped would stop further battles between hooligan supporters from either side of the border. This did not go down well with football associations of Wales and Northern Ireland who felt it was foolish to end it though with hindsight, that loss was made up for the fact both would do well in the European Championship for qualifying so it wasn't so bad.

    Finally with all those things going on, it was all being played to a backdrop to a UK that was seeing miner strikes, black outs, three day weeks, civil, political and social unrest, high unemployment, loss of heavy industries and rampant inflation; one has to wonder if it was all that good during that decade and maybe the British teams both at club and international level would act as a escapism to the unhappy life that seemed to plague the country. That said with a new decade now here there was a feeling that change was in the air and for good reason. In 1979, Scotland would vote in favour of devolution (a similar one in Wales failed) and the following year on May 1st, the first elections of a Scottish assembly took place with a Labour victory and Scotland enter Euro 1980 just a month later after first election and in bizarre twist of fate, England would be there waiting to face them in Turin.


    England manager Ron Greenwood (left) on a plane to Euro 1980 while reading
    Despite rumours that both teams would be kept apart in the draw by UEFA, the two would end up playing each other in their opening game in Turin and there was certainly a lot riding on this. While the Tartan Army might have been going into this game with not just the feel good factor due to devolution but also with the proud memory of denying the English a place in a World Cup final two years ago, the only one of their countrymen who wasn't quite so pleased about this was Jock Stein, the new Scotland manager. Stein's appointment was one that was not only one that many expected but also one that perhaps the vast majority of Scotland fans wanted though he had made no secret on his desire that the Home Internationals should have been scrapped claiming that there was a bigger world out there for Scotland other than wanting to simply beat England at the end of every football season and in many ways his wish did come true with the tournament meeting it's end in 1975, though ironically he would now have to lead his nation against England out here in Italy.

    For most of the Tartan Army, Italy would always be remember for their historic triumph in Rome when they stunned the host nation and the whole continent when Scotland became European Champion in 1968, incidentally the last time the Scots played in the European Championship. More so, there were even some who thought that lightning would strike twice for Scotland and they'd be victorious once again though things had changed since then and this included the format of the tournament which had now expanded from four to eight teams in which there would be two groups of four and, much like with the previous two World Cups, the winner of each group would meet in the final while the runner up would head into the third place match. Not including the English and the Scots being placed in the same group, they also had to face Spain and the host nation, the latter being a heavy favourite to reach the final.

    While some may have laughed at the thought that Scotland could reach the promise land like they had done before despite some impressive talent in the team, there was a great deal of expectancy for England to do well after an impressive showing at the last World Cup though despite being arguably the strongest Home Nation, they had never once qualified for the European Championship before while their three fellow Home Nation had not only got there before they had but had all managed to make a final with the Scots of course being the only one to win something. This was no doubt something a minor embarrassment for England but now they were here and hoped that they could get success out in Italy, after all, if their fellow neighbours could do it then surely they could match it and maybe do far better?


    Scotland and England fans mingling prior to their opening game of the tournament

    Thursday June 12th would have to two face off each other in Turin and many would rush home from work and school to watch the big game which as cliché as it might have sounded being more than a football, off field events certainly gave it an extra edge and that wasn't down to the fact they were playing again in a tournament. Even before the game started however, there was sadly troubled as fights between both sets of fans took place and as sad as this might have been, it wasn't really a surprise in all fairness though thankfully it got nowhere near the levels of the Frankfurt riots though even how there had been little trouble between both fans when out in Argentina, one had naively thought that relations had turned a corner though this might have been down that only a small number had gone out and that they were being heavily watched by some scary looking military police as you'd expect from a junta. This was in contrast to the larger numbers that had swarmed around Turin.

    When the game started, the Scotland fans began chanting and bragging to their English counterparts about their own assembly and that they meant business, this all ended up being nothing more than egg in their face as just after eight minutes, Trevor Brooking scored the opening goal after just eight minutes and this was followed up by a second from Ray Wilkens in the twenty-sixth minute which pretty much ended the game for Scotland before it had even begun and ultimately, that 2-0 result would be in the end result and England would get the last laugh. For what had been Scotland's first game in a tournament since voting for devolution and all the pre-match hype and pride around it, the opening game would be something of an anti-climax though now the bragging rights now lay with England after that defeat to Scotland in Argentina.

    The press in Scotland was savage towards Stein and his team selection in which the Daily Record newspaper would have the infamous headline lamenting the defeat with it saying '1968 again? You're having a laugh, Stein!' This was almost ironic coming from the same newspaper publisher who just prior to the tournament had been one of the few big Scottish media outlets that had been confident of Scotland doing well and when it all went badly wrong, it seemed that lashing out was a way to try and cover their tracks and save face though it would be lying to say that they weren't the only ones who got carried away. A study carried out years later suggested that in the wake of the act of devolution, the country's confidence seemed to hit a major high and it all went south quickly following that game with England though it is debatable if true. What was true was that England were up and running and Scotland had to go back to the drawing board.


    England and Scotland facing each other in the balmy heat of Turin
    For England manager Ron Greenwood, he couldn't have hoped for a better start and knew that another victory in their second group game would put them on course for the final, that said they were to face the Italians in which was said to be the hardest game thanks to the home advantage though things seemed to look good in England's favour as the host nation had stumbled to an opening group game draw with Spain and pressure was on the hosts knowing that a loss to England now would mean an embarrassing early exit for the host nation. The game itself was also said to be the most important of the group as both nations were favourites to go make the final though some reckoned that Italy might just edge out England here.

    What started would be an even contest in which neither side seemed to be able to find a way through to find an opening goal though Ray Kennedy did struck the woodwork for what might have been an opening goal for the Three Lions. England knew that a draw here would be a good result for them while the pressure mounted on the Italians who knew that a draw could be disastrous for them if results all didn't go their way and Kevin Keegan would later say that it was one of those games in which you could feel the tension coming off from the terraces. Finally after eleven minutes from time, the game would be settled when Phil Neal failed to win a tackle against Francesco Graziani who put over an excellent cross for Marco Tardelli to score from close range past Shilton and fire Italy in front and in the end, a 1-0 victory for the host nation and the revival of their hopes going forward.

    On the face of it, it seemed to be a straight shootout between England and Italy, or so people might have thought. Early that day prior to that game in Turin and all the way in Milan, Scotland would face Spain in which both sides badly needed a positive result if they had any hope going further in this tournament and more so for Scotland who in the wake of that bad defeat to England needed a positive response. What followed would be the result that the Tartan Army wanted in which thanks to a goal from John Wark in the seventeenth minute and a penalty scored from John Robertson in the sixty-second minute, Scotland would come out as 2-1 winners which killed of Spanish hopes and suddenly they realised that they had an outside chance of actually doing something special following hearing (and rather enjoying) the news of England's defeat to Italy.


    Italy and England walk out onto the field prior to their second group game

    The final group game for both Home Nations had huge ramifications for both as England would kick off first against Spain in Naples with Scotland playing Italy later on in the day in Rome, funnily enough the exact location in which eight years ago they had stunned the hosts in their own backyard. As it would happen, Spain would suffer another 2-1 defeat, this time to England who now sat on top of the group knowing that as long Italy didn't beat Scotland then England would surely be in the final, though there was the chance that if Scotland somehow managed to beat Italy then they'd go on level points with England and, depending on how many goals they scored, there was the crazy situation in which Scotland might actually snatch the top spot from England and enjoy a return to a final in Rome.

    In many ways, it was a repeat of the group stage shenanigans in Argentina in which in the final group game, England had to beat Scotland to reach the final and the latter had to beat the former just to make sure they didn't. It was a strange situation for all as deep down, the Scots knew that they'd be up against it and even if they did win it might not be enough to reach the final and the English didn't know if they should be supporting Scotland to get a result against Italy. There was even some controversy with rumours that evening going round the Scotland supporters in which in order to prevent England reaching the final that the team would throw the game in order to make sure Italy would win to deny the English a place in the final.

    While some still believe this story, many players have spoke up to claim that this is just a myth with the most vocal being Graeme Souness being rather angry about this story saying that years later after the event that the players were not even thinking of bending over just for what was quite honestly a petty thing to do and knew that a victory could actually put them into a final. What followed would be a nerve shredder of a game for all concern as Italy and Scotland needed the win and England were just hoping that it would be a result that suited them, funnily enough it is said to be the only time in which a large number of the English population would tune in to watch a Scotland game though not in the reasons one might expect.


    Alex McLeish during the group stage
    Italy would have a number of chances to win the game though it would be down to Alan Rough who despite having suffered a great deal of criticism as Scotland goalkeeper over how he had always let Scotland concede at least a goal in all of their games, that wasn't the case here in Rome in which the Scottish goalkeeper would, as he would later describe it, as his greatest game playing for his country as he would help his teams from a bombardment from the Italians who pretty much did nothing but attack all over the Scottish penalty area in the hope for the opening goal in the early moments of the game. Fortunately for Scotland, the game would end up going more open in which Scotland's attacking players began to move up the field.

    Despite how much the odds were stacked against the Scots, they did more than enough to go toe-to-toe with Italy in which they did have a few good chances though it would be a game filled with controversy for the Scots in which at one point in the thirty-eighth minute, Scotland were denied which looked liked a clear penalty and even right at the start of the second half, Scotland would have the bad luck of a goal being ruled offside, though looking back on it, it did look to be onside and the reason why it was not allowed seemed to be the source of great confusion among many of the Scottish supporters. However, there was the dark cloud hanging over the host nation over the infamous events of Totonero that had emerged that March over match fixing in the Italian league and the ban of several players to play for the nation team.

    Given the state of Italian football, it wasn't the most outrageous thought among the Tartan Army in which there was some form of bribes the referee had taken which would explain some of the choices that had gone against Scotland in this game. Despite both teams trying all they could to get the winner, neither could thanks a stubborn Scottish defence and a poor Italian attack, the game would end in a 0-0 stalemate and thus, England would thanks to a better goal difference to Italy would squeeze their way into what was a long awaited final and a cheer from across England might have been heard from over the border in Scotland in which the latter could only feel despair of failing to win but so too were the Italians who would end up failing to reach the final despite not losing a single game.


    Alan Rough, Scotland's goalkeeper of Euro 1980

    In a final but rather cruel twist that was typically Scottish, the whole position of the group finishing was one that was very much like 1978 but unlike the last time in which Scotland prevented England reaching a final, the Scots had now by total accident helped to get England to a first final in ten years. Indeed, in a night in which England celebrated a trip to Rome to face West Germany, something a little bonus had happened which was very rare for England in which the notorious north and south divide between the two had finally been laughing at the Scots 'helping' hand. The outcome had not gone unnoticed for the Tartan Army in which the whole situation felt as thought they had salt poured in an open and hideous wound and as the Scots left Italy, they could only hope that it wouldn't be an English victory in the final.

    That said, it wasn't all doom and gloom for the Scots in which the following year, Joe Jordon would bag himself a return trip to Italy by signing for AC Milan and several more of his countrymen would follow suite. For their manager, Jock Stein would now turn his attention to the World Cup in Spain in two years time and hoped that there would be more promise for his country then...

    1980 ALT1.png

    Final results of England and Scotland's Group at Euro 1980

    And there we are! Euro 1980 is here and things are different in which time I just covered the final while this time I have now not only covered the group stage but also included Scotland into the mix. Apart from the England/Scotland result which is based on the OTL result the two had that same year, England's results are pretty much more of the same like as they were with OTL and Scotland take up Belgium's place albeit without getting to a final (sadly).

    Next update is England vs West Germany in the final and you might remember in the last update of how things ended up then, though with no Brian Clough here, how will England do here? Find out next time! :)
    Chapter 36: Gladiators
  • Chapter 36

    At long last for England after ten years, they were back in a major final though it had been even longer since they actually won anything major. England manager Ron Greenwood was happy that he had been the one to lead his country to a European final for the first time though he was far from the first manager from the British Isles to lead a Home Nation to a European final as the other three had all beaten the Three Lions to have not only qualified but all reached a final at least once and in the case of Scotland, came of with the victory. It was ironic that with the latter that here in Rome inside the exact stadium that twelve years ago the Scots had stunned the Italians to take the glory for themselves and that was still the nation's greatest hour.

    If Greenwood's men were to join the Scots to become part of a exclusive club and add another bit of silverware for the national team, then they have to face not the host nation but instead a well drilled and organised West Germany team who despite the English having gotten the better of in Argentina two years ago in that third place play-off game, the Germans were very much seen as the favourites to win the final and for good reason. Unlike the English who had never played in this tournament before, West Germany did have England's number in terms of experience having reached the final in 1972 and won it against fellow Home Nation, Northern Ireland. If England had any ambition to go out there and cause an upset then they all knew that they'd have to be all at their best.

    However, even before the teams had walked out onto the pitch, never mind kick the ball yet, there was sadly still trouble involving the English fans unfortunately. It was said that following the moment that England made it to the final is that round about ten thousand English fans made the journey to Rome in the hope that they would be there to witness history though in places near the stadium, there had been some unfortunate news of fights that had been taking place with rival fans. Not the best news that Greenwood wanted to hear though he would say that he would blame the English press for whipping the public up into a frenzy and the rather unfortune and even downright xenophobic by certain newspaper outlets in England that beating West Germany would be akin to winning the second World War. Tasteless in any world.


    The captains shake hands prior to kick-off

    With all this, plus add a touch of alcohol to the situation, one could only see that it was all going to lead to trouble but now that the damage had been done, it was time for the team to go out and make amends as best as they could. Even without that though there was still trouble in the stadium as during the anthems, the West German national anthem was booed by the English supporters in the ground and it was something that Greenwood could only shake his head with disappointment. Then again, given the reputation that England fans had been gotten at either club or international level at home and on the continent, what else was he or anyone else for that matter expecting? Nonetheless after that with the referee blowing his whistle, the game began.

    It was here that the experience levels between the two teams became apparent as to say the first nine minutes of the game had been terrible for England would be a massive understatement. Despite the score reading 0-0 the West Germans had been utterly battering the English lines and Peter Shilton has had to act a number of times to keep his country in without losing a goal early on. Over on the bench, Greenwood sits there and ponders as just whatever is the matter with the team. Is it the hype? Pressure? Some weird force of nature or just the lack of experience of playing in a final compared to the Germans? He's unsure and during that time while he's musing on the situation, Bernd Schuster for the West Germans in the eleventh minute rips past through the English defence as he passing the ball up towards Horst Hrubesch who then wastes no time in shooting the ball into the back of the net in which Shilton for all his hard work so far is completely undone by that shot.

    The large scoreboard inside the ground flashes up to show that West Germany is 1-0 up on the English and as much as it is a hard one for the latter to stomach, the truth is that West Germany have deserved this lead and now Ron Greenwood will have to mastermind a great escape to get England back into this game or face the wrath of the English public. The English try to frantically get things back on track but the Germans are not letting anything easy for the English and in the fifteenth minute, Hrubesch nearly scores again but his ball just goes over the bar. Nonetheless it is clear that the West Germans are clearly the ones looking all the more comfortable here with that early lead and with all the backing on them many have them down as winning it, it isn't hard to see why.


    Trying to get the ball during the first half
    "Come on! Start playing!" Greenwood yells out to his players with one idea in mind he then cries out to them. "Get the ball up to Keegan!"

    While that idea might seem like the most logical in which Keegan could do about nearly anything to create magic for England, so far though he has been nowhere to be seen in this game and as of a result, it is far from going well for England. Ron Greenwood could almost be absolutely sure of those English sports journalists all ready to start write up scathing things to say about what has been happening and honestly, who could blame them with what has happened so far. As it stands though, the best England could do was to go on damage control and try everything they could to prevent the Germans from scoring yet again. Another attempt from the West Germans comes about in the eighteenth minute in which Klaus Allofs has a great shot on target on goal to make it a second for West Germany but Shilton helps keep it at 1-0 with a brilliant save.

    The travelling English fans in the ground can only just watch on and can only hope that things can only get better from here. Slowly and surely though after about thirty-five minutes, that hope does seemed to be answered in which England begin to push up the field and although it might've not looked like much, it was a damn better improvement from that miserable start they had at beginning of the match. Then just two minutes later while just some twelve yards away from the penalty box, Keegan is fouled by the West German captain, Bernard Dietz, and the England star comes crashing to the ground. He, along with his players and the many England fans in the ground cry foul wanting a free kick and a booking yet for some reason, the Romanian referee waves play on and the men in white shirts take the ball up into the English half.

    Not surprisingly this hasn't gone down well with any Englishman in the stadium who feel the referee has made an absolute howler of it and Greenwood raises his hands up in frustration that they should've gotten something from it. Speaking of the fans, there is suddenly a rush of police officers heading towards the section where the England fans are situated and at first it looks as if to stop a fight which honestly wouldn't be a surprise to any. It isn't and it seems that in the wake of that bad mistake from the referee, a jumpy Italian police force are not wanting to risk things in making sure such a riot in the stadium won't happen. However, as quickly as this has happened, the ball is quickly knocked out of the field of play and some justice is given as the referee returns to Dietz and shows him a yellow card, much to delight of the England fans who actually cheer for once about something.


    The many England fans out in Rome for the final

    The first half slows down in it's final moments and in the forty-third minute, England actually get a chance to fire a shot on target thanks to Tony Woodcock but his shot is saved comfortably by the hands of the German keeper, Harald Schumacher. To give an idea how dominate the West Germans have been, they have outshot the English on shooting at the goal by eighteen to England's seven and all these stats all being in favour for West Germany don't make for any good reading for England. However despite all that, the first half concludes with the Germans still holding onto that 1-0 lead and their failure to add to their lead does lead to a ray of hope for the English as they trot off to the dressing rooms, but many punters are already saying that the game is all but over and England are only delaying the inevitable. What are they to do now?

    There is a lot of questions raised about the England team in which Greenwood would have to make changes to make sure that they would play better for the second half if they had any desire to win. As the second half starts, England do start off as the better team and as cliché that it might say that it is a different team here, it is really just that as West Germany have underestimated England's renewed spirt and there is a deal of hope for England as they now start pushing forward to find that goal that can give them hope. In the forty-ninth minute, there is a great chance for England as the ball is crossed over to Keegan who gets the ball to loud on his chest before it bounces off and he crosses it up towards Steve Coppell who sends the ball flying past the German keeper, alas, it hits the crossbar and heads skywards.

    It's a miss but nonetheless shows that England are far from out of this game at the way things seem to be going at this moment. There is a chance for Garry Birtles to score for England but his shot instead just clatters on the crossbar and the cry of anguish from the England fans up on the terrace near the goal says it all as to just how close it was for the Three Lions to score there. Still, it is a much more positive performance from England though they have to make it count as they only know too well that the Germans will likely come again and there are moments of this such as in the fifty-fifth minute in which Hrubesch nearly causes terror for England when he tries to hammer home a header from a corner but thankfully it is just past the post.


    A tight affair in Rome
    Then it all happens. On the sixty-second minute, Woodcock goes running inside the box and looks set to score but is brought down by Karlheinz Förster in a really reckless challenge which perhaps to the surprise of no one, the referee blows his whistle and points to the spot; penalty for England. The England fans roar in delight that some luck is finally going their way and to add more to the situation, Förster is booked for his troubles and up to take the spot kick will be Woodcock. He stands over the ball and awaits the orders to take the penalty, the whistle is blown and he runs up and slots it home right down the middle in which the West German keeper, Toni Schumacher is sent diving to the left and thus, England have gotten the goal they wanted.

    There are scenes of great delirium from the terraces as the England fans celebrate wildly that they have something to cheer about and even on the bench, the mild mannered Greenwood can't contain himself as he leaps into the air near the touchline before he and his assistant coach embrace each other with sheer joy rushing through their veins. The West German players have only gotten themselves to blame for this as after all the chances they had to bury this game, England have punished them and now some of the players are wondering if they could now really take the game to their opponents now. For the England fans, the sight of either Union Jack or St George Cross are being flown from where they are situated and they have all now found their voice again.

    That said, it's not all totally smooth sailing for England in which in the sixty-ninth minute, there is a foul by Dave Watson on Allofs in which has the English defender booked, though strangely so does the German player in which in his frustration of being taken down, he tries to have a go and Watson and he finds himself facing a yellow card. It is turning into an exciting game for a neutral though both managers will be hoping that there will be no more stupid challenges being down as the last thing either will want is a player being sent off and with yellow cards starting to get shown from the start of this second half alone, that fear is very much justified and with the score level, anything can still happen.

    It's all hands to deck as the second half starts to wind down with the score still at 1-1

    For Greenwood, his hopes of no more yellow cards are not answered in which in the seventy-third minute, there is a another booking for his team, this time by Ray Wilkins on Karl-Heinz Rummenigge which for course leads to a freekick for West Germany which unfortunately for the Germans adds up to nothing and England can clear it away up the field as they in turn try to make a counter attack on the German defence which for them much like their opponents all adds up to nothing. It is now very much an open game in which either side would win it though it could be a question if the game will be won in either the full ninety or maybe be settled in extra-time? Regardless, pretty soon the time ticks up and now there is only ten minutes of the game left to play. Who will be the hero or villain now?

    England hold on well, though it is clear to many that England seem to have lost a bit of their attacking output from earlier as if they are exhausted already or of if the West Germans had this planned to tire out the English and then go in for the kill as what they seemed to be doing now. There are now clearly worried looks on the England fans with the great fear that maybe all their hard work they've done so far is about to all come to nothing and little do they know that this fear is about to become a reality. From a sudden counter attack by the West Germans in the eighty-sixth minute, Rummenigge is seen during that minute running with the ball on near the centre in which he is chased by some of the English defenders and there as he nears the penalty box, he lobs the ball over towards Hrubesch who headers it in and at long last, he and West Germany score the long awaited second goal.

    The English players are gutted at what has just happened; they have been outdone by just one small moment which surely seems to be the moment in which they have lost the game the deflation would be felt from not just the English supporters on the terraces but also from back home in which the feeling of it all being too good to be true has really hit home with some. Despite this though, Greenwood tries to shout orders at the players to get something in the closing minutes of the game but alas, it is all for nothing. Before any of them know it, West Germany hold on to shut out the English from scoring again and with a blast on the referee's whistle's, West Germany have won the final 2-1 and the England players are devastated of coming so close yet so far.


    The winning team of Euro 1980; West Germany
    While some admitted that right before the game that West Germany were always favourites to win the final, England did give it a good go and who knows, if this England team can keep it up, then there is a likely chance that for the next World Cup in Spain in two years time that glory might await the English out there. Ron Greenwood would at least bask in the glory of being only the second English manager to lead his nation to a final, he though would come away empty handed and wonder how the English supporters would come to view him; he still had one more tournament left in him.

    For some England fans, Euro 1980 would be regarded as something as a footnote for the team in which some even forget about but those who do remember it or where even there, they'll always say that despite losing, this England team fought like gladiators just like the slaves did in ancient Rome. For now though, this was West Germany's moment of happiness while the English players and fans (thankfully without much trouble to report on) all headed home to reflect on what might have been if some things had gone their way in the final and the hopes for the future.

    1980 ALT2.png

    Final results of Euro 1980 last four

    And there we are, Euro 1980 is done and if you remember the old TL it is different here in which England won that one, however that was with the help of a certain Brian Clough in which you put him there and anything is possible, not much so if you have Ron Greenwood there with no disrespect there. Anyway, creates a tad bit more realism here in which shows you that the Home Nations don't always get it their own way in this TL despite being much improved! :p

    Anyway, next update will be the World Cup in Spain and with it will be a few more changes that I won't you to keep an eye on, so until then, catch you all later and tell me what are your hopes of seeing next for this TL and of any questions you might have. Next time is the pain in Spain!

    Chapter 37: The Pain In Spain - 1982 World Cup
  • Chapter 37
    The Pain In Spain


    It's been estimated that thirteen million people from the UK visit Spain alone for the summer season alone and that summer in 1982 would seem like no exception, only for once though this wasn't just mainly to catch the sun in the south of Spain as millions would normally do. In fact, this was the twelve World Cup and for the first time since 1966, all four of the Home Nations had made it and the whole country had been gripped by football fever like never before. Yes, ever since England's victory (and so far only one) in 1966 there had been the other Home Nations reaching finals themselves and the many football clubs across the country had been ripping it up across the country winning European silverware, thankfully not in the sense of hooligan supporters, in which events were very much welcomed throughout the 1970's in a decade that was seen by many in Britain as one of economic malaise. Thankfully, the 1980's looked hopefully for the UK going forward with North Sea Oil being found, devolution in Scotland making some impact with the prospect of the UK going down a more federal road in the future and finally, the mood of the country seemed to be improving and nowhere better than to prove this was seeing the UK's four Home Nations at a World Cup together.

    There was a big difference for this World Cup though and that was the number of countries being seen at this World Cup would rise from sixteen to twenty-four and this was no doubt a major incentive to try and qualify though each of the Home Nations had mixed results to get to Spain. After England's run to the final at Euro 1980, it had been felt that it had been a foregone conclusion that the Three Lions would qualify with ease, though they did nearly blew it by finishing second in their group behind Hungary and just a point head of Romania; not exactly the form of a team looking to be favourites to win the World Cup. Scotland and Northern Ireland ended up being in the same group and both would end up taking the top two spots for themselves with Northern Ireland utterly delighted to be finally back at a World Cup after so long. Then there was the Welsh in which they would get the better of their Euro 1976 nemesis Czechoslovakia thanks to a victory over Iceland in Swansea one fateful night which ultimately booked them for their first World Cup since 1966.

    All in all, a happy set of supporters now all turned their focus to Spain with big confidence that they could all do something and for good reason. It has been said by many historians of British football that individually, the Home Nations in that period were all at their best with the World Class talent they all had in their sides from the likes of Keegan for England, Rush for Wales, Dalglish for Scotland and Jennings for Northern Ireland just to name a few. With all this to boast about for each Home Nation, some have always wondered with such a wide array of talent on display that it might have been better to have put together a UK football team for the World Cup but alas, that is another story...


    Scotland, Northern Irish and England mangers Stein, Bingham and Greenwood respectably at the 1982 World Cup draw. Note Welsh manger Mike England was unable to attend the draw that day.
    Many football fans in the UK would always have a longing for the return of the Home International Championship but the football world had moved on and so too had the Home Nations in what was now a more exciting world, though that said some form of that wish would be answered in the draw when in Group Four, England and Wales would end up being drawn in the same group thought rumours were rife among Spanish authorities who had originally planned each of the Home Nations to be deliberately drawn apart from each other to avoid possible hooligan problems. However, given how infamously shambolic the draw for the 1982 World Cup had been in front of a bemused watching public of millions, one had to wonder than in all the confusion that the plan had gone out of the window. Whatever the reason, it was quite a tough group with France to deal with alongside Kuwait who were considered to be the group whipping boys.

    England would kick off first playing France in a game that many had suspected that those two teams would be progressing to the next round with Wales playing a day later against Kuwait. The Three Lions would end up spanking the French 3-1 in the opening group game which made their credentials to go all the way look plausible while in the other game with the Wales, it was one that the latter nearly embarrassed themselves with Kuwait opened the scoring in that game and it was only thanks to a late brace from Ian Rush that helped the Dragons to win the game, though they hadn't exactly impressed anyone on their long awaited return to the World Cup. Then came the next game in which many had been waiting to see; England vs Wales in Bilbao.

    It had been a while since the two sides had faced each other but that didn't mean to say that both sides felt that they had a point to prove though it was noted that both sides only needed a point to be sure of going through and there were rumours that both sides would enigneer a result to benifit both sides. Both managers called out those rumours as both were out for the win though the idea would come around involving the West German and Austrian teams though that is anther story.. It would turn out to be a really feisty game in which Wales would take the game to England and at one point might not only hang on to snatch a point, but also a victory. Could they stun the English and get the long awaited bragging rights for themselves?


    Wales vs England in Bilbao
    Alas for Wales, it was not to be. An effort from Trevor Francis with about fifteen minutes left to play would prove to be the goal that ultimately won the game for England and surely their place in the next round. Also regarding this match, the fears of hooligan fights between English and Welsh supporters by the police proved to be a storm in a teacup in which while there was some regrettable fights in scuffles after the game, it was nowhere near the levels as what some might have feared. Indeed, the Welsh supporters would end up making a name for themselves bringing in much colour and excitement to the tournament with a question among much of the Spanish locals being as follows; "¿Dónde está Gales?" (Where is Wales?)

    Despite all the goodwill the Welsh had brought upon themselves, Wales still had it all to do and it was not going to be easy as up next were the French, they themselves having battered Kuwait 4-1 and in some ways the French only needed a draw in their final group game with Wales in order to go through thanks to a better goal difference. If Wales had any desire of moving into the next round then they would have to beat a star studded French team that contained the likes of Platini, Soler and Giresse just to name a few. What followed would be one of the biggest upsets of the tournament and perhaps one of Wales' finest hours in which despite being on the backfoot for so long, a stubborn defence from Wales kept France out throughout most of the game which would all come together in which a goal from Ian Rush would stun Les Bleus into a defeat and thus, crashing out of the World Cup.

    With that, Wales would join England into the next round and speaking of which regarding the latter, England would defeat Kuwait in a rather tedious 1-0 victory themselves but honestly it didn't matter considering that they had won the group here. Welsh pride though had hit a new high and with this year being the twentieth anniversary of when Wales made it to a final, there was a feeling that the stars were starting to align for it to all go down well for Wales this time round and after beating a much fancied French team, who was to deny them of dreaming about bigger and better things as this World Cup was now really starting to begin...?

    1982 ALT2.png

    Final results of England and Wales' group at the 1982 World Cup

    When it came to Northern Ireland, it was fair to say that out of all the Home Nations, they were the ones who had the least amount of confidence going into this World Cup never mind trying to qualify, indeed, they were ranked as a hundred and one to one in terms of their World Cup hopes (England priced at twenty to one, Scotland forty to one and Wales at sixty to one to give the comparison). However despite being in a group that featured Sweden and Portugal, Northern Ireland would qualify for their first World Cup since 1974 and it couldn't have come at a more better time. At that time, Northern Ireland was pretty much undergoing 'The Troubles' in which anything coming out of the country was nothing but bombings and just horrendous news in general; qualifying for the World Cup was a much needed welcome boost of happiness that both sides of the religious divide could look forward to.

    That said, Northern Ireland couldn't have gotten a more tougher group that featured the likes of Yugoslavia and host nation Spain in which the latter would be played in Northern Ireland's final group match. There was also Honduras in the group who were expecting to be surely a guaranteed two points for the three European teams in the group. With all that said, it would end up being a much more open group than anything else could have imagined in which both opening group games would all end in draws with Spain being embarrassed by Honduras draw while plucky Northern Ireland held their nerve in a goalless draw with Yugoslavia.

    That didn't matter though for the Green and White Army (the new nickname the Northern Ireland fans had adopted) for as lone as Northern Ireland could beat Honduras in their next group game then they'd surely be through. That unfortunately didn't happen as Northern Ireland would end up letting a lead slip away near the end of the game and that meant that following Yugoslavia's defeat to Spain in their second group game, it all led to a game in Valencia in which Northern Ireland would have to play the host nation in which a victory, not matter how unlikely it looked, would put the Northern Irish team into the next round.


    Northern Ireland vs Yugoslavia in the group stage
    What followed is pretty much well documented in not just Irish, British but perhaps world football in which despite all the odds stacked against them, Northern Ireland would go out there in which a Gerry Armstrong goal in the second half would stun Spain and despite all of their efforts to try and put these upstarts in their place which included a sending off for Mal Donaghy, Northern Ireland held onto what would be for a new generation of Northern Ireland football fans as perhaps their greatest result and one that would fire them to the top of the group and send them onwards for the next round.

    It can't be understated as to just what that result meant for the country and all over the place, many couldn't believe what had just happened and at a time in which Northern Ireland was just known for bombs and religious tension, this really was a positive moment the country that everyone no matter who you were could celebrate together. Tt just shows that when football can be used for a good cause, it really can make a world of difference for a country no matter the situation.

    Spain were humbled and only barely managed to sneak through on second place over Yugoslavia on the tightest goal difference. Indeed, had the Ulstermen scored another on the hosts then it was possible that Spain might have ended up crashing out of the group stage. No matter what though, Northern Ireland had stunned the world and while there were a few who were trying to keep a level head on how far they could go, everyone else though was just happy to enjoy this wonderful moment and who knows just what might happen next for them?

    1982 ALT3.png

    Final results of Northern Ireland's group at the 1982 World Cup

    The final Home Nation to talk about was Scotland though it was fair to say it wasn't quite the easy group that the Tartan Army would have wanted to play in in which it featured a fearsome Soviet Union team and runners-up Argentina who both were out for blood. That all said, Scotland did have the benefit of playing New Zealand who were clearly the whipping boys of the group and Scotland made the most of it by beating them 5-2 though the fact that Scotland had allowed the Kiwis to score two goals like that was a worry regarding the defence Scotland had. Nonetheless, they had the win and up next, Argentina lay in wait in Seville and a team that Scotland manager Jock Stein would say looked to be one of the favourites to win the World Cup.

    Despite many fearing a utter battering from Argentina, Scotland would actually hold the South American team to a 1-1 draw in which Scotland even managed to get the opening goal from David Narey before the lead was cancelled out by a certain player known as Diego Maradona, but more on that gentlemen some other time. What made that game more special for both sides was the connection of a one certain Alexander Watson Hutton; the Scotsman who is said to be the father of Argentine football. Even more so, the game was played on June 15th which was just eight days after of what would be the great man's one hundred and ninth birthday and in some ways it was fitting that it was a draw would have been the result that was would have been one that Hutton would have wanted.

    Interesting at the time, this coincidental event wasn't realised by both sets of fans though in the years following with hindsight, it is a game that is celebrated more for historical value rather than the actual result itself. Nonetheless, Argentina knew victory against New Zealand would put them through and all Scotland needed now in their final group game with the Soviet Union was a draw and that would be enough to take them through though some pointed out that if Scotland were to win a barrel load of goals, they might even win the group though the former was considered the more plausible outcome.


    The Scotland team lining up before their game with Argentina
    What followed in Malaga would be a rather controversial and crazy affair in which Scotland took the lead but where denied a stonewall penalty in which theories ran riot that with the referee being a Romania that he was clearly biased in favour of the Soviets and this would all come to stun Scotland in which during the second half, the Soviets would come back to turn the game on it's head to lead 2-1 with the second goal from the Soviets happening because of an embarrassing mix up involving Alan Hansen and Willie Miller colliding and with that goal happening with just six minutes of the game left, Scotland were on the verge of going out.

    Thankfully, Scotland captain Graeme Souness would come to rescue to salvage the draw that the Scots needed to go through and thus, they were on their way to next round though it is fair to say that they did it by the skin of their own teeth. With Scotland also going through, it meant that for the first time since 1958, all four Home Nations would move into the second round and there was more than a likely chance that there would be a meeting between the Home Nations once again, though for now, it was a time for all four sides to reflect on what had happened. In the end, it all wasn't quite a pain in Spain after all then.

    1982 ALT4.png

    Final results of Scotland's group at the 1982 World Cup

    And here we are, 1982 WC is here! Few changes here with the groups in which Brazil take Argentina's place and vice versa due to being World Champions here, speaking of which, Brazil win that group with Hungary coming in second in case you want to know there. Anyway, Northern Ireland's group is pretty much the same as OTL and the Welsh victory over France actually happened IOTL and had they gone instead of Czechoslovakia then you might have seen Wales taking on England in that group. Oh, if only...anyway, here is the group Brazil are in if you are interested...
    1982 ALT1.png

    Yeah, always felt bad for that Hungarian team not making it to the next round despite that big win over El Salvador and the fact they topped England in their qualifying group but hey, just one of those things that happen in football.

    Scotland's group as you can see is pretty much similar being similar other than the game with Argentina which ends in a draw. So as with always, here are the predictions for the second round group phrase:

    Group A

    Group B
    West Germany

    Group C

    Group D
    Northern Ireland


    So then, who do you think will win those four groups and why? Find out next time and until then, catch you all later! :)
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    Chapter 38: The Many Groups Of Deaths
  • Chapter 38
    The Many Groups Of Death

    Much like with the previous two World Cups, there was to be a second round of group stages though there was to be a difference here and this wasn't down to the fact that all four Home Nations had reached the second round together for the first time since 1958. Unlike two groups of four, there would be now four groups of three teams which meant each team would only play twice and only the group winner would progress to a straightforward knockout last four and it meant that there was now no room for error; one loss and baring some absolute miracle you were pretty much out of the World Cup. If that wasn't enough, the four groups were all eye watering to look at at just how stacked they were in which Group B alone had the likes of England, Spain and West Germany all thrown together while Group C had Argentina, Italy and Hungary placed together. Fair to say it was hard to say who would make the last four.

    With that, the British teams would prepare for what all looked like really daunting tasks in mind. The first Home Nation to start would be Wales in Group D who by chance had fellow Home Nation Northern Ireland in it along with an Austrian team that had become one of the pantomime villains of this World Cup over the now infamous 'Shame of Gijon' in which they are West Germany had engineered a result to deny Algeria, who had finished on four points themselves, a place in the second round for what would have been their first and all of Africa's first too. It was just be a great good fortune that the Welsh were to play the Austrians in their opening game in Madrid and Wales knew that a victory would pretty much put them within a hairsbreadth away of reaching the last four of the World Cup for the first time since 1962.

    According to many bets, it was really hard to call as this group was considered the weakest and most open out of all the second round set of fixtures but there was some thinking that Wales might just nick the win; whatever they might've thought, the good thing was that it was likely that with the backing of their own large travelling supporters who had swamped everywhere Wales had played with Madrid being no different on this day in their match with Austria, it would seem that they had the backing of the locals too, though this was likely over the fact that the Austrians had gained a villain tag due to recent events. Either way the Welsh team would take that backing any day of the week.


    Kevin Ratcliffe lining up during the anthems in the game with Austria
    Despite some hope that Wales would have a good game, it would turn out to be something of a slugfest in which neither side seemed able to break the other day with Wales' attacking strength from Ian Rush and James Leighton seemed to be muffled out from creating any sort of chances. Truth be told, a draw in that game might have been good for both sides but as mentioned, anyone who won the opening group game was more or less set for the last four, all this game needed was someone to break the deadlock. Nothing really happened of note in the first half though it was in the second half in which things began to get feisty in which in the sixth minute, Austria's captain Erich Obermayer would end up getting a yellow card for a tackle and just a few minutes later, Brian Flynn would get a yellow card himself after getting into an altercation with Ernst Baumeister.

    Still, there were no goals and it looked it the breakthrough would never come...that was until the sixty-ninth minute. From a Welsh corner kick, it would be a bullet header in the box from Carl Harris that would not only be the goal everyone had been waiting for but also the winning goal that would decide the game and thus, Wales had taken a major step forward in progressing in the World Cup, all they needed in their final group game was a point to be absolutely sure. The scene that is remembered from that game is not during the game but rather after the final whistle in which frustrations boiled over and the Austrians seemed to have beef with the Welsh team in which can only be described a playground argument between the two sides happened. Not the best image to show from the World Cup.

    Of course, Wales weren't the only Home Nation in the group, also joining them in the group was Northern Ireland who would end playing their first group game a few days later against a Austrian team who simply needed to win to have any shred of chance to go through to the next stage, it was just the fact that they were playing a fired up Northern Ireland team who were still on a high from their first round heroics and looked at this Austrian team as a team to beat and it did look like that this was going to happen when Billy Hamilton scored first in the twenty-seventh minute and all seemed good for the Ulstermen as they led at the end of the first half.


    Goal celebrations when Northern Ireland score first

    Northern Ireland's own hopes of victory did take something of a bad turn in which early in the second half, Austria scored to equaliser after just five minutes played of the second half and to make things worse for the Ulstermen, Austria scored a second minutes later to suddenly lead and now Northern Ireland's World Cup hopes looked to be as good as dead. Thankfully for them though, Hamilton would strike again with just fifteen minutes later to snatch an equaliser of their own which in the end would be the goal needed to snatch a point for Northern Ireland and thus pretty much send Austria out of the World Cup.

    It might have not been a win for the Ulstermen but it didn't matter as they knew that if they could win in their final group match then they would be the team in the Semi-Finals, an incredible thought for a team of their size though some did forget that they had stunned many when they reached the last four in 1958 in that certain World Cup. With all that said, the final group game on July 4th was to be the one for much of the British public to watch as this game would be between Wales and Northern Ireland in what was to be a truly exciting battle of Britain clash which was pretty much a winner takes all game as the victor would be in a Semi-Final.

    Prior to the start of the game, Spanish police had been worried that the two sides would end up having fans fighting each other in the street though thankfully such scenes never did happen as both sets of fans were enjoying mingling with each other and over the fact that one of the two sides would be in the knockout stage. It would be the first time since the two sides had faced each other in the old Home International Championship in 1975 in which on that occasion it was a victory for Northern Ireland that time; how those in green would have loved to have such another moment in the sun like that though one that might be far more greater in more ways than one. With all that though, it was time for perhaps the biggest game either nation had undertaken.


    Wales and Northern Ireland clash in Madrid

    In the end, the game would be something of an anti-climax in which Alan Curtis would open the scoring for Wales in the eighteenth minute and it would remain that way for the rest of the first half as Northern Ireland tried and failed to find a goal in that first half, but little did they and the good number of fans who had travelled out to Madrid knew then that things were about to get worse for them. Northern Ireland's all out attack to find a equaliser in the second half of the game left them wide open at the back which would lead to disastrous consequences for them as goals from Rush and Peter Nicholas would end up killing of the tie and pretty much all of Northern Ireland's World Cup hopes.

    Thus, the game ended 3-0 to Wales and the plucky Welsh were into a World Cup Semi-Final for the first time since 1962 and the country was truly gripped by football fever like never before and for a team that had not graced a World Cup since 1966, it wasn't a bad return for the Welsh in the slightest. Northern Ireland on the other hand weren't home but they were by no means disgraced as they were greeted to a warm welcome back in Belfast and that was quite something for the city in which in their need to find something positive in a sea of bad news regarding The Troubles, the football team had done it's part and for their manager Billy Bingham, his eyes were now on Euro 1984. Could they make it...?

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    Final results of Wales and Northern Ireland's second group stage results


    When Scotland reached the second round, their fans might have hoped that things might get easier but as everyone knows such a thought is laughable as it only gets more harder from here and when the Scots found out who they'd be playing, their hearts sunk. They'd be paired up with, for the third time in a row, the champions Brazil and for the second time, they'd encounter Poland with the latter being a team that the Scots had been frustrated to by a draw in Argentina two years ago. Brazil though was a team that the Scots didn't want to play as following their stunning victory in West Germany over the then World Champions in 1974, the next occasion four years later would end up being the darkest moment for any Scotland team in the World Cup as they would suffer, and still do to this day, is their worst ever defeat being a 5-1 battering which saw Brazil complete their revenge in fine style.

    It didn't help that not only was this Brazil team considered to be one of, if not the best, Brazil team ever to be assembled for a World Cup that had blown all over opponents away so far, but also they would be the team that Scotland had to face in the opening match on July 1st in Barcelona. As the players walked out onto the field of the legendary Nou Camp in Barcelona, the traveling Tartan Army had come in huge numbers yet it would seem the rest of the Spanish (or Catalonian to be more accurate) crowd were all here to see Brazil and for good reason. Everyone loves to see the World Champions and this Brazilian side had played much exciting football with many thinking they were big favourites for the winning the World Cup for a record fifth time and that in this game, the Scots would be nothing more than mere cannon fodder.

    If that wasn't bad enough, the Brazilians had the benefit of having already played Poland a few days before and in doing so had beaten them though it must be said that the Poles did give the Brazilians a scare towards the end as they fought from 3-0 down to claw it back to 3-2 but alas it was too late to snatch a point and Brazil held on to win. That being said though, Scotland manager Jock Stein had noted to his players that this Brazil team wasn't quite what many had been raving about as their defence was quite questionable at times and all the Scots needed to do was to try and score first and see what happens.

    The teams lining up prior before kick-off

    Despite the fears of a Brazilian storm raging over Scotland in which the former did flood the Scottish defence, however the Scots were holding on to their own and even began to thread a few chances of their own but the finishing for both sides was not all that good for the opening period of the game. Then in the eighteenth minute of the game came a moment that turned the whole game on it's head; David Narey would fire Scotland in front and suddenly the group was now wide open though as the Scotland fans celebrated, a fear was creeping into the hearts of the Scottish players in which was that of thinking that by scoring so early on that they might have angered the South Americans and this would turn out to be very much justified.

    Brazil of course would not have long to wait until they hammered in the goal to bring the game level which was thanks to that of a certain Zico in the thirty-third minute. In truth following the opener from Scotland, Brazil had pressed the Scots to high heavens and could've even score a few more had it not been for that Scottish defence but it was only going to be a matter of time until it finally broke. That all said, the first half ended 1-1 and Scotland still had a chance to get something from this game but what they needed was a strong opening to the second half and sadly that was not going to be the case as just a few minutes after the restart, Oscar blasted in Brazil's second to complete the turn around and now Scotland had to press if they wanted to get something from the game.

    Alas, it was to be a doomed affair for them as then in the sixty-third minute, more bad luck for the Scots followed in which Eder scored Brazil's third and the game looked pretty much done and dusted, or so people thought as five minutes later after Eder's goal, Kenny Dalglish, who had only come on as a substitute, would score a goal that came from against the run of play and suddenly Scotland had a lifeline. Sadly it was to be nothing more than a mere consolation to make the score line less embarrassing for Scotland as in the eighty-seventh minute after such hard work for the Scots to find a vital equaliser, Falcão scored Brazil's fourth goal and thus, the Brazilians completed another rout over the Scots winning 4-2 and pretty much killing Scottish hopes of further progression as Brazil would be the one to play in the last four.


    The victorious Brazil team in their game with Scotland
    It was a bitter pill for the Scots to swallow and such was as their game with Poland was now nothing more than a dead rubber to see who would avoid the wooden spoon, many Scottish fans headed for home and there wasn't much of an appetite to play the Poles having just recently played them in the last World Cup in that draw then. There was nothing riding on this game as Poland too had nothing to play for themselves but here was when the Scots did restore some pride in which a Dalglish double would help lead the Scots winning 2-0 to sign off from the 1982 World Cup on a positive.

    Now the focus for the Tartan Army was the hope that a trip for Euro 1984 in two years time and the players too wanted to show that they could do better than what had happened to them in the game with Brazil. For now though, no more Spanish sun for the Tartan Army.

    1982 ALT5.png

    Final results of Scotland's second group game results at the 1982 World Cup

    The final group with a Home Nation in it was England and while their fans had been delighted to see them winning the group in the first round, they would then wish that with hindsight that they had ended up in second place as they were to be placed in a brutal group featuring European champions West Germany and hosts Spain which didn't look like the sort of group that anyone would have wanted to play in. That all said however with the fact that England would have to play the Germans in their opening match, there was still the chance of getting revenge following that final two years previously. After all, if Algeria could beat West Germany then surely England had more than a chance to get a win themselves?

    The game was built up a revenge game in England over that final though they would get an unlikely yet welcome bit of supporter from some of the Spanish locals though this wasn't just because they had become their favourite team or something like that, but rather the stench of the 'Shame of Gijon' hung over the Germans like a bad smell and they were more than willing to back a team that would give West Germany their comeuppance. It would've been any team the locals would have picked; it was just that it just so happened to be England. With that, the match would begin and despite high hopes of an gripping game of football, it would end up being something of a disappointing affair as the Germans would end up trying to suffocate the English attacks.

    This play though would thankfully be broken in the twenty-third minute when Bryan Robson headed in the opener to give England the lead and despite this goal which finally brought the game to life, the rest of the game that followed other than a late chance from the Germans with a shot that rattled the English crossbar just a few minutes before the end, England held on to win the game and complete that revenge tie though to be honest it didn't really feel that satisfying giving how poor the game had been. Nonetheless following this game, West Germany would beat Spain 2-1 in their second game to take them to the top of the group on goal difference which meant that all England had to do was hang on to a draw and they'd be through.


    Robson's header which helps England get victory over West Germany in the opening game

    Indeed in what was yet another rather dull game of football, England held onto a 0-0 draw that they wanted though it might have been better for England had Kevin Keegan, who would for some reason be benched for the start of the game and would come into the game late on as a substitute, scored with a certain header in the second half that would have made the performance look better. With that though one thing was certain, England would be back in the last four a a World Cup for the first time since 1970. With that though, the second round of fixtures came to an end and England manager Ron Greenwood could be happy in the knowledge that he had led England to last four of the World Cup and with the experience made from winning the third place play-off game, maybe this time round they could go one step further.

    Indeed, the scenes that followed that draw with Spain which booked England's place in the last four saw all of England celebrating over what they felt might be their year, though with three other teams that awaited England in the third stage of this World Cup, some felt no fear that their team could really do it this time and that the World Cup would be returning to English shores within a few days at this rate. From four British teams that started in the second round, only two remained and few did know of the collision course that lay in wait...

    1982 ALT6.png

    Final results of England's second group stage results at the 1982 World Cup

    And there we are, 1982 is nearly done here and there are some changes done compared to the old TL in which I had to do this time make a few changes to try and make it all sound a little bit more plausible so that it's not much of a British wank fest like before. I can tell you that 1986 will be one that'll differ greatly from the old TL but that is another story and for those who are interested in Group C, here are the results from that group...

    1982 ALT7.png

    Pretty tight stuff, huh? And as always, here is the last four fixtures as they stand:
    Brazil vs Argentina

    Wales vs England
    So, who is going to win now? Always love to hear from you from not just predicting scores but also I love to hear what you have to say about the TL so far and what are you looking forward to next, Euro 2020(1) will be something to behold when that time comes, hell, a few tournaments I missed out in the old one will have their moment in the sun here.

    Until then, catch you all later and stay safe!
    Chapter 39: Just Like A Set Of Buses
  • Chapter 39
    Just Like A Set Of Buses

    After two group stages, it was something of a relief to some that a straightforward knockout stage in which the last four would battle it out for a place in the final in Madrid. Interestingly enough, both Semi-Finals were to be played on the same day, June 8th, in which in Barcelona, Argentina and Brazil would play first and then after that England and Wales would battle it out to see who would join either side in the final. The first Semi-Final between the two South American giants was a truly epic clash that ended 3-3 and had much controversy, so much so that it requires it's own section to describe what happened on that balmy night in the Nou Camp. In the end though with the score still at 3-3 after extra-time, the match was decided on penalties (the first in World Cup history it must be added) in which Argentina would end up winning 5-4 on spot kicks and thus not only made it to the final but also gained revenge on the now dethroned World Champions for winning the World Cup in their backyard four years ago.

    With such a mad game that had happened, it was always going to be tough for the other Semi to match it though with it being a British derby match between England and Wales, anything was possible for sparks to fly though what made this more interesting was that how after facing each other in the group stage that they just so happened to be facing each other yet again and given how they had never faced each other since the end of the old Home Internationals for a few years now, they had in a matter of a few weeks ended up having the strange fate of being drawn to play each other. It really was like the old joke of a set of buses in which you wait for one then suddenly two come at once; how oddly fitting was it for the English and Welsh in the moment.

    Nonetheless, their game was to be played in Seville and it must be said that the Spanish police had been dreading of yet another meet up with the two in fears of hooligan troubles even though the last meeting of the two had for the most part gone without much incident. Thankfully for all concern, there was no major trouble to speak of that would be likely be exploited in the tabloid press but nonetheless as the swarms of English and Welsh supporters descended on Seville on that hot and humid evening, there was a great deal of tension in the air between both sets knowing that more than just bragging rights at stake, there was the reward of whoever won would be in the final and this made the rivalry have an extra edge here that likely had never really been felt before.


    Some England fans camped out somewhere in Spain prior to their big game with Wales
    The tension was spread to the players and managers on both sides yet both had conflicting thoughts on it. The one with the biggest pressure on their back was England manager Ron Greenwood who knew that this was without question perhaps the best chance that England had on reaching the final and the pain of how close they had come to making the final in 1978 still pained him. The team who had prevented them from reaching the final was none other than Scotland in which a joke among the England players were that there are still Scotland fans still celebrating that victory to this day over the fact they ruined England's chances of reaching a final. Granted Greenwood would make amends by leading England to a European Championship final shortly after in which they fell to West Germany, but 1978 was still something that irked Greenwood after all this time.

    Now in a bizarre twist of fate, England had another chance of reaching the final and all they had to do was simply beat another British neighbouring team, Wales. To England support, it was bad enough losing to the Scots then, but for lightning to strike twice and fall to the Welsh with the latter making it to the final at their own expense...? A nightmare thought that many wanted to avoid. In contrast, Wales' ironically named managed Mike England didn't have as much pressure though the ambition to do well against the English was there. He had only been in the job for the last two years and not only had he ended Wales' long wait to return to a World Cup but had incredibly managed to lead them to the last four and were now only one game away from the final. To say that it had all gone so perfectly for him would be an understatement though he did wonder if their luck was due to run out soon.

    The fact was that this was on the twentieth anniversary of Wales' now legendary run to the final in Chile just game a feeling that the stars were lining up for something major and while they did reach another final not so long ago, the spirt of 1962 and 1958 were still felt strongly among a certain generation of Welsh football fans but nonetheless 1982 had everything in it's favour to top that should they managed to topple the much fancied English team who many felt were fated to play Argentina in the final. Yes, one would say that if tradition would go then surely England would get the better of Wales but the beauty of football was that anything was possible in a World Cup, that was no exception for Welsh hopes of causing an upset.


    Welsh manager Mike England, pictured obviously not in Spain due to the rain and holding an umbrella...
    The game itself was to be played late in the evening in Seville's Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium and for a stadium that held just over sixty-eight thousand, the English and Welsh supporters had no trouble to fill it up, helped by it being such a massive game for both concern. While major hooligan trouble may had been avoided, the rivalry was still felt even though both sides had rarely faced each other as when the anthems were being played, both sets of booed each other's anthems which wasn't exactly what many would have liked by then again given the long history between England and Wales outside of football, what did many expect? With that though, the Dutch referee soon blasted his whistle and the game could begin.

    As many across England and Wales watching on TV with bated breathes over how things might end up, one of the things though people wanted to see was another encounter between the two Liverpool teammates Ian Rush and Phil Neal as those two in the previous group stage game had both had a brilliant game of football and thankfully here for those who were hoping for another great encounter were to get their wish as both players made a right go at trying to show who was best with Neal pulling out all the tricks he knew to stop Rush from getting an early goal in the fifth minute. This great personal battle taking place would nearly come to a head not long later right into the eleventh minute in which after a somewhat bad untimed tackle by Neal brought the Welsh forward down, the two Liverpool players got into a heated argument with some school yard pushing and shoving taking place and both sides and the Dutch referee had to step in to try and calm the situation down.

    One thing was for certain that this so called dull game was now looking to be anything but that and even though it was early days, anything was likely to happen in this game that was for sure. After the arguing was over or at least calmed down, Wales were awarded a free kick from thirty yards outside the box and Rush is up to take it, but even with his ability, he can see it's going to be difficult to try and score from that far out and that's not including the swarm of English players trying to surround him. When the whistle is blown, he lobs the ball over to Leighton James who fails to get a head onto the ball but instead lets the ball lands on his chest before letting the ball fall and then taking an thunderous volley shot that Peter Shilton has to make perfect save to knock the ball away and deny the Welsh and early attempt at goal and thus, the score reamins deadlocked.


    Rush prior to his freekick
    From the early moments of the game, it is clear that the Welsh are the ones more keen to win this game rather than the English who look really poor here as if they have turned up to think that victory is a foregone conclusion. A huge mistake to make as England look unable to find a way to get out of their own half and the England fans watching are all not that happy in compared to their Welsh counterparts who are all loving what they are seeing; all that is missing is a vital opening goal. That said after some lively action from the England dugout from Greenwood yelling at the players to wake up, it is only then in the fifteenth minute that England finally do start threading a few passes together to try and push the plucky Welsh back.

    It seems now that Wales' positive play in the opening ten minutes of the match looks to be rather wasted as England start really piling pressure on Wales and some are now regretting over that missed free kick that Wales had such a chance to take the lead with. Not to be downhearted however, Welsh captain Brian Flynn in the twenty-third minute tries to perform a nutmeg move on Kevin Keegan being the one he decides to pick. Unfortunately what follows next is perhaps one of the great World Cup screw up moments in which he doesn't quite get the whole technique right as right as the ball scuffles off Keegan's legs and does go through his legs, he spares his blushes by making a quick turn and taking the ball with him up the field in the other direction.

    Flynn now looks quite embarrassed that instead of trying to make the England star man look silly, it has backfired and instead has happened to him and thus, he has quite literally given the ball to England. No doubt in that moment, millions of watching Englishman would have laughed and cheered at watching such a sight on TV but all the same there is still a long way to go until then. If that wasn't bad enough, the English start to batter the Welsh like a hurricane when right into the twenty-seventh minute, where the Welsh have been defending desperately for that period of the game, Steve Coppell rips through the Welsh defence by passing the ball straight up to Trevor Francis who makes a great solo effort on goal where he makes no mistake and chips the ball towards the goal, England's first sight of goal for the game, but the hands of Dai Davis end up punching the ball over the bar and, much to the relief of the Welsh fans, the game remains goalless.


    England vs Wales in Seville
    Despite avoiding conceding to the English them, things aren't getting any better for Wales by the time the half hour mark is reached as England keep on pressing the Welsh players around the pitch to try and prove a point as they start looking for the opening goal that if scored before the break would give them a foothold in this fairly mad game. Yet anyone knows that in any British derby is that it is rarely easy to finish off an opponent so easily as despite how much the English are showing what they are made off, Wales are not going to give up so easily; bragging rights and pride are at stake here. Incredibly in the thirty-seventh minute after so much English domination, Ian Rush takes the ball into the penalty box and as he quickly passes the ball towards Mickey Thomas who lets set to score, but to any Welshman's horror, he panics in a brief moment and he and his players can only watch helplessly as the ball balloons over the crossbar and into the bitterly disappointed Welsh fans behind the goal.

    England have dodged a bullet there and it proves that no matter how good you are going forward and your opponent looks like that they can't seem to get out of their own box, they can always hurt you on the counter attacks and that there was one such moment in which England nearly avoided embarrassment after all the hard work they have put in but yet they are still without putting the ball into the back of the net and for some England fans, this would be of a worry as how they have been unable to get an opening goal in this first half alone. It must be said that England's lack of goal scoring has been rather poor as other than that 3-1 thrashing of the French, most of their wins have been 1-0 or 2-0 victories; not quite the sort of team that one would think who could win the World Cup.

    The final five minutes of the first half end up being a rather cagey and somewhat tedious affair as neither side wants to give away a goal right at the death of the first half and when the whistle is blown to end the first half at 0-0, it is greeted by a section of jeers from the crowd mainly for the last few minutes of the game which neither side would want to look back on but in the meantime both managers will have to go over their plans with either team to discuss on what to do for the second half. For everyone who had hoped for an epic clash, it has all just been a little bit of a flat affair, surely it has to get better than this surely?

    More action between the teams in the Semi-Final


    It's unknown as to just what went on between both managers said to their teams, but when the teams did emerge to begin playing for the second half, it turns out that much to the annoyance of the viewing public, not much seems to have changed in whatever game plan there is, it seems as if nothing has changed in which both sides have started off rather cagey with the fear of failure gripping both teams and even so early on in this second half, it isn't a far fetched thought that this game could go to extra-time or even penalties. A rather tedious fate for both sets of supporters. Thankfully for most, something happens in the fifty-sixth minute in which Nigel Stevenson takes down Graham Rix in a challenge that has the England midfielder to be sent tumbling over in which causes the England bench to rise up and yell out for the referee to get involved.

    The referee of course wastes no time in booking Stevenson who doesn't complain about the yellow card as he knows how dangerous the tackle was and that he overdid it. Rix does get up but he does look quite shaken that he could've quite easily broken his neck. He then gives the Welsh defender a cold glare as he hopes they don't cross paths again. That all said, England are awarded a free kick and the kick itself is a pretty bad one that finds no one in particular and goes out of play for a Welsh goal kick. It is a rather strange game that amidst all of the rather poor play going on, there are some random moments of magic or madness as it does seem like a game that is a screaming to burst into life despite some of the actions that has happened.

    For anyone watching, the right thing for England to do is the game reaches into the final thirty minutes and the more it seems certain that whoever scores now will win the game, they give the Welsh no mercy. But oddly, Ron Greenwood makes the strange choice to let the English players to take their foot off the gas and as the game goes along, England start looking very complacent with Wales slowly and surely finding their way forward and the Welsh section of the crowd begin cheering on their team louder by every passing minute. In the seventy-first minute, Brian Flynn prevents Keegan from getting the ball anywhere near the Welsh half and lobs the ball up to Ian Walsh who quickly goes on the counter with several English players taking chase on him.


    A frustrated looking Keegan with the score still 0-0
    He has no chance to make anything from the ball so instead he crosses it over towards a charging Ian Rush who with an absolutely thunderous strike that could break a hole in a brick wall, Rush sends the ball right under the hands Shilton who hits the deck though the brief glance from his gloves that only just causes the ball to be narrowly diverted past the post and let England off the hook once again. Had that gone in, Wales would be heading to the final. Incidentally though, that moment of madness turns to be the catalyst for the Three Lions to take the game by the scruff of the neck and really lay into the Welsh.

    It is then in the, rather ironically numbered, eighty-second minute of game and with little time to go, England are award a freekick thanks to Welsh captain Flynn giving away a freekick for a tackle on Rix and it is placed in a decent area just outside the box and thus, Keegan steps up to take it. It must be said that up until this point, the star England man hasn't really added much to this World Cup in compared to his great performance in the last tournament but nonetheless here was a great moment for him to make amends. He awaits the blast on the referee's whistle and when he hears it, he blasts it over the Welsh wall into the left side with a delicious curl and despite Dai Davis diving the right direction, he can't keep it out as at long last, a goal has arrived and it is England who break the deadlock.

    The English fans are in raptures, the Welsh are in despair and the referee wants the game to get going again. With it being this late in the game, there is nothing else the Welsh can do and now they have to go on damage control to prevent further despair and the English players, mercifully, don't try to make the score line more glossy and instead decide to hold on and not make any stupid mistakes as they are now so close to reaching the final. The Welsh seem to look like a team that has just come out of a doomed love affair and the English players look weary and the gravity of the situation as the game reaches it climax. Finally after what feels like an age, the referee blows his whistle to end the game and thus, England are on their way back to a World Cup final for the first time since 1970.


    Some last minute defending from Wales towards the end as the game neared it's end
    Utter joy is felt by all Englishman as they have done one step better than before and will not suffer heartbreak like before with Scotland though some more rational minds will point out that Wales gave it their all and if things had gone differently then it might have been joy for the Dragons and not the Three Lions. There is though some heart warming scenes of certain players on both sides who know each other at club level handing over jerseys and wishing one and the other well going forward. The Welsh fans, though sad about how they will not be heading to a final, they nonetheless give their players a standing ovation for giving them what has been a really memorable journey around Spain that hardly anyone will forget and honestly, a 1-0 defeat to your nearest rivals is something that could've been worse in all honestly.

    With that though, Wales' World Cup adventure is over, though not before they have to head to Alicante, a day before the final, to face of Brazil in the third place play-off in what would be a repeat of the 1962 final, just twenty years after the event and much like then, it ends in a 2-1 victory for the Brazilians though this time Wales did drag the Seleção to extra-time before finally they got the better of the Welsh then. Nonetheless despite their adventure ending on something of a downer, the Welsh team returned home to Cardiff airport to be greeted by thousands at the airport and that was nothing compared to the homecoming parade the team would encounter scenes not seen since perhaps Beatlemania with an estimated two hundred-thousand people lining the streets or Cardiff to welcome their heroes back, now all hopes were pinned for a quick return for Euro 1984, but until then, it was good to enjoy the moment.

    That said, Wales's run in 1982 had brought much attention on the Welsh both positive and actually negatively that would in terms of the latter ultimately lead to a radical change for the game in Wales, but that in itself would be another story. For now though as Wales time in Spain came to an end, England's though was about to reach it's climax and so, Greenwood and his men were on their way to the Spanish captain to be reunited with Argentina for a tilt at the World Cup. The question was now, could thet do it? Three down, one to go...

    And so we are getting to the end of WC 1982 and a final is to follow. Interestingly little titbit from OTL, with the Falklands War having just finished, Argentina and England were deliberately placed far apart in the draw in which the only way they could meet was if they made it to the final, giving all the drama around the war, that nightmare scenario for FIFA never happened as both ended up going out in the second round. ITTL, there is no Falklands War and thus, no such situation here.

    Another change is that this great Brazil team does home with something and rather nothing as what happened to them IOTL and what will happen with Wales you might ask as what I'm hinting at? Well, I think some of you might know though that'll be covered soon. Until then, look out for the next update which may or may not be out after Christmas but certainly before the new year.

    Until then, catch you later in Madrid in which Argentina and England prepare to lock horns to battle for the World Cup! ;)