Everton players at the World Cup part 3

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - JUNE 22: Argentina player Diego Maradona outjumps England goalkeeper Peter Shilton to score with his 'Hand of God' goal as England defenders Kenny Sansom (top) Gary Stevens (c) and Terry Fenwick look on during the 1986 FIFA World Cup Quarter Final at the Azteca Stadium on June 22, 1986 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Allsport/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - JUNE 22: Argentina player Diego Maradona outjumps England goalkeeper Peter Shilton to score with his 'Hand of God' goal as England defenders Kenny Sansom (top) Gary Stevens (c) and Terry Fenwick look on during the 1986 FIFA World Cup Quarter Final at the Azteca Stadium on June 22, 1986 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Allsport/Getty Images) /

In the next instalment of our World Cup history and Everton’s part in it we look at the 1980’s.

As the eighties began Everton were enduring a miserable time struggling at the wrong end of the First Division while bitter rivals Liverpool were dominating English football.

Not surprisingly then the Blues had very little input into any of the home nations teams in the early years of the decade.

England and Scotland both made it to the World Cup in Spain in 1982 but neither made much impression and both went home early.

England did beat one of the favourites France in convincing fashion in their first group game. That 3-1 win included what was at the time the fastest goal scored in a World Cup by Bryan Robson.

It proved to be a mirage however and England were eventually knocked out following a dull draw against West Germany.

But by 1984 Everton were stirring after years of underachievement and England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland would all benefit from this revival.

At the end of the 1983-84 season the Blues had reached both domestic cup finals losing in the League Cup final to Liverpool after a replay but beating Watford to win the FA Cup.

Of course as every Evertonian knows the following season was a triumph with Everton winning the league championship by a country mile and restoring some long-overdue pride to the Blue half of Merseyside.

That Everton side was filled with quality British talent from a defence featuring Welsh internationals Neville Southall and Kevin Ratcliffe, to the midfield of England players Peter Reid and Trevor Steven and Scottish strikers Graeme Sharp and Andy Gray.

The next World Cup would again be held in Mexico in 1986 and in the run-up to qualification Everton players were important to all the home nations’ efforts.

England’s team for Mexico featured Everton stars Reid, Steven and right-back Gary Stevens as well as Gary Linker after he had joined the Blues in the summer of ’85 and netted 40 times that following season.

Scotland, who also qualified, included Graeme Sharp in their squads although he won fewer caps than he should have.

Wales were built around the Merseyside trio of Southall, Ratcliffe and Liverpool’s Ian Rush, but they failed to qualify.

The Republic of Ireland had some talented players including Everton’s own brilliant left- winger Kevin Sheedy but they also didn’t reach Mexico.

Scotland despite the talent in their ranks with players of the calibre of Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and Sharp, went out after the first round.

England fans were quite optimistic going into these finals. The team had some quality players like Robson, Peter Shilton, Glenn Hoddle, Peter Beardsley and Lineker and there was hope the Three Lions might at last do something in an overseas World Cup.

But as so often pre-tournament hope and expectation were dashed as England made a horrendous start to their campaign.

The opening match was against a distinctly average Portugal team but England slipped to a 1-0 defeat and then followed that up with a lucky 0-0 draw against Morocco.

In that second game England had midfielder Ray Wilkins sent off and had also lost Robson to injury, yet again. It looked like England’s World Cup dreams were shattered.

But this apparently disastrous sequence of events actually opened up an opportunity for a re-shaped midfield in which Everton’s Reid was the lynchpin.

There have always been claims of a dressing-room revolt that forced manager Bobby Robson’s hand and meant he had to adopt a new-look team. Whether that’s true or not the enforced changes certainly worked out.

Reid was always more than just a workhorse in the centre of the park. In fact he was a very good passer of the ball; an example being his pinpoint 50 yard ball between Liverpool’s Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson for Lineker’s goal in the 1986 FA Cup final.

Now he came into the midfield with Everton teammate Steven as well as Steve Hodge and Hoddle of Tottenham. That allowed the talented but enigmatic Hoddle to play further forward in what we would now call a ‘number 10’ role.

Suddenly it all clicked into place and this revamped side then thrashed Poland 3-0 with Lineker scoring a hat-trick, England’s first in the World Cup since Geoff Hurst’s in the ’66 final.

Two more goals for Lineker followed as England beat Paraguay by the same score in the second round. The Three Lions approached their quarter-final with Argentina full of confidence.

That quarter-final would become one of the most infamous World Cup matches ever of course.

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Argentina were not a vintage side although they did have the player widely acknowledged as probably the best in the world in Diego Maradona. He was showing glimpses of his brilliance.

But England were looking fairly comfortable until a ball hooked back by an England player dropped into the penalty area. Keeper Shilton came out to claim the ball but suddenly Maradona had leaped up and knocked it over Shilton’s outstretched arm.

Pandemonium ensured as the England players rushed towards the referee claiming Maradona had handled it. Replays appeared to confirm that was the case but the goal stood.

Just five minutes later as the England players were still coming to terms with what had happened, Maradona picked up the ball in his own half. There seemed no danger but the squat Argentinian spun around and exploded through the England midfield.

He beat one England player then another, then another and suddenly he was bearing down on goal. Instead of taking an early shot he dragged the ball past Shilton and as he was falling, from a very tight angle, slipped it into the net.

It was a stunning solo effort and has gone down as one of the best goals ever scored. England seemed dead and buried.

But on came substitute John Barnes and England came back into the match. Barnes tormented the Argentina defence with his pace and running on the left and started putting in some telling crosses. From one of them Everton’s Lineker darted into the box and scored to make it 1-2.

Then Barnes picked up the ball and again beat his man and it seemed England were about to equalise but somehow Lineker himself and not the ball ended up in the net this time!

So England were out and returned home after another frustrating and controversial World Cup campaign. But Lineker finished as the tournament top-scorer with six goals, the first and only time a home nations player has been top scorer.

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Later that summer of course Lineker was sold by Everton to Barcelona after just one season at Goodison Park. It was always something Evertonians of that time who remember his goal scoring excellence regretted.