5 Forgotten England Games | Issue 5

Nearly six months after it last appeared, the 5 Forgotten England Games series has resurfaced, and returns for the fifth time. Looking at the 20 games to have already featured in this series, big gaps appeared in the timeline of the England national team. Many of those previously ignored eras feature here. Starting under Fabio Capello and ending 40 years earlier, this is Issue 5.

Back Foot: Paul Robinson waits and watches anxiously, as a German shot goes flying over his crossbar
[photo: whoateallthepies.tv]

England 1-2 Germany, 2007, Friendly

Playing in the brand-spanking-new Wembley Stadium for only the second time, England went down by a goal to Germany in an August friendly. 86,000 people were in attendance for this tie, hoping to see England win at the new National Stadium for the very first time, at just the second attempt.

Those hoping for that result would have agreed it got off to a great start. Micah Richards bombed forward from right-back, cutting inside and putting Frank Lampard in with a classy, subtle slide-pass. The Chelsea man thrashed the ball past Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann for a ninth-minute lead.

The Germans, in red, were desperate to get back on level terms and came mighty close midway through the half when Thomas Hitzlsperger lashed just wide from way out. Ten minutes later, following a Hitzlsperger shot that this time was on target, Germany were level.

The ball was saved by Paul Robinson and came out to then-veteran winger Bernd Schneider. His cross ought to have been dealt with better, but all Robinson could do was flap at it. He thought the cross may have been hurtling into the net so managed to fling it, perhaps dramatically, off the line. He didn’t leave the likes of John Terry with much chance of stopping the encroaching Kevin Kuranyi, who duly planted the equaliser into the net from no more than two yards.

Just a few minutes later, Die Mannschaft were celebrating again – but it wasn’t a fluky goal this time, more like a blistering long-range strike. The goalscorer was debutant Christian Pander. The left-back only went on to play once more for his country, but he had quite the impact on this, his first, international.

England came extremely close to hitting back in the second half and, but for wasted opportunities and brilliant saves from Lehmann, they might have done so. However, just as they had been the last team to beat England at the old Wembley, Germany became the first to see them off at the new Wembley. It ended 1-2.

First Talisman: Vivian Woodward poses in a pre-WWII England jersey
[photo: Getty Images]

Ireland 1-3 England, 1908, British Home Championships

This was the very first match of the 25th British Home Championships edition. It took place in the Solitude Ground in Belfast, the oldest football ground in Northern Ireland and still used by Cliftonville FC today. A then-record attendance for an Irish international was assembled – 22,000.

Right-back Bob Crompton, who would go on to play 41 times for the Three Lions started, as did prolific forwards Vivian Woodward and George Hilsdon, both at the tender stages of their international careers, caps-wise at least – Woodward was already 28.

England won this game 3-1 to claim their 25th victory over United Ireland, but in truth it was a closely-fought contest and with 80 minutes played, the scores still sat tied at 1-1. Both of these earlier goals had been powerful efforts high into the goals, scored by England’s Hilsdon and Ireland’s Denis Hannon, aged 20. But the two finishes that finished Ireland off were less spectacular. The first was a close-range finish by Woodward; the second a solo goal by Hilsdon, who dribbled into the box and tucked home into the bottom corner.

It got even better for England just a month later, following this impressive display up with a six-goal victory over Wales. But a draw with Scotland followed, and the championships of 1908 were shared between Scotland and England.

Long Day’s Work: Spain’s Ricardo Zamora is kept busy by the energetic forward, Dixie Dean
[photo: Press Association Sport]

England 7-1 Spain, 1931, Friendly

These sides were meeting for only the second time – the previous encounter had been a 4-3 Spanish win in Barcelona in 1929. The Spanish side here were largely inexperienced, although their XI did include one of the greatest Spanish goalkeepers ever in Ricardo Zamora, as well as Barcelona’s fifth-highest goalscorer of all time, Josep Samitier. England could boast the likes of left-back Ernest Blenkinsop of Sheffield Wednesday, captain on the day, and also the legendary Everton striker, William “Dixie” Dean.

After eight minutes, England were already two-up. The first had been scored by Jack Smith and owed much to a rare mistake from goalkeeper Zamora, with the second belonging to Tosh Johnson, although it did come from Smith’s goalmouth pass. England scored three in the first-half, the third of which was another well-struck Smith effort, assisted by Dixie Dean.

Sammy Crooks lobbed the by-now humiliated Zamora for the fourth, and then crossed a corner to allow Dean to head in the fifth. If only it was this easy against the Spaniards these days.

A well-worked indirect free-kick between Tom Cooper and Dean brought Johnson his second and their England their sixth goal, before Crooks took advantage of more questionable defending to make it a resounding 7-0.

There was time for Guillermo Gorostiza to score the first of his two international goals late on. The man they nicknamed ‘Red Bullet’ in Spain lived up to his name with a low, stinging drive that just eluded the reach of Harry Hibbs in the England goal.

But all that did was take a layer of paint off an already gleaming England performance. Neither team has since been able to put together a victory over the other quite as comprehensive as this one.

Referee Peco Bauwens blew his whistle, ending truly rampant proceedings at Highbury in London.

Skipper: England’s captain against Romania, Bryan Robson
[photo: whitesideone.com]

Romania 0-0 England, 1985, World Cup qualifier

England faced Romania in Bucharest in what was their fourth of eight 1986 World Cup qualifiers. They had already made a storming start to the group, mauling Finland 5-0 and Turkey 8-0, as well as winning decisively in Northern Ireland. This was the first match they failed to win, playing out a second successive goalless stalemate with Romania, in the sides’ seventh meeting.

Apart from a 35-year-old Peter Shilton, it was a largely youthful England team. But that didn’t tell the whole story; many of the players were already vastly capped and had some tournament experience behind them. There was a 50th cap for fullback Kenny Sansom.

England dominated the match, but perhaps a draw wasn’t the worst result. The Romanian FA actually halted the league season because they regarded this match to hold such crucial importance to their hopes of qualification. The Romanian players had therefore been preparing for this game in a Bucharest camp for all of nine days.

Looking at it now, this was a star-studded Starting XI for England. Terry Butcher, John Barnes and Bryan Robson were amongst those entrusted with holding down one of those starting berths. László Bölöni, Rodion Cămătaru and Gheorghe Hagi were three of the more household names representing the hosts.

It was a majestic Ronaldo-esque leap and header that oh-so-nearly put England ahead in the first-half. Barnes’ cross had met Robson’s jump perfectly.

Paul Mariner and Marcel Coraș wasted the two best opportunities in the second forty-five for their respective sides as this match, which seemed determined to do so, ended 0-0. Mariner didn’t play for England again, Romania didn’t qualify for the World Cup, and England didn’t win it – partly thanks to the Hand of God, but partly because Diego Maradona and Argentina were just that little bit better than everyone else, for one steaming summer at least.

Pressure Tells: England finally grab a late equaliser against the USSR at Wembley
[photo: British Pathé]

England 2-2 USSR, 1967, Friendly

6th December 1967 was the day England were shown how to play football on the snow by an ice hockey player. 93,000 fans watched a thoroughly entertaining friendly, but instead of the world champions claiming a victory over the USSR, they drew a testing game 2-2.

Gordon Banks, Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore all started, but it was Ray Wilson that will remember this game the most, and not necessarily for all the right reasons. The fullback was given a rare run-around by a winger England knew little about. But not cluing themselves up on the talents and trickery of Igor Chislenko was their mistake. The Moscow-born forward had appeared at both the 1962 and 1966 World Cup tournaments.

The opening exchanges were just a competition between Gordon Banks and Yuri Pshenichnikov. They had both started brightly but who would end the match looking like the better goalkeeper? The World Cup winner looked the favourite as England took the lead, benefiting from a fumble from Pakhtakor Tashkent’s goalkeeper. Pshenichnikov couldn’t manage to hold Martin Peters’ shot. Alan Ball pounced, putting a winter Wembley into delirium.

The USSR were desperate for a response on their big night in England. Just when they needed a hero, Chislenko assumed that position, first arrowing the ball low across Banks and in, and then into that very same corner again a couple of minutes later. He had embarrassed Moore on his route to goal number two. The visitors in red had completely turned the tie around and led at the break.

Martin Peters coolly headed home for England in the game’s latter stages. Neither team could find that decisive piece of play to snatch the game. Instead, it ended 2-2. The following year, England would beat the USSR to claim third-place at Euro ’68. But this particular fixture had been very testing indeed.

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