Saturday 7th June 1986
The second week of competition would see the hosts make their appearance again. After their win over Belgium, they were keen to confirm qualification for the knockout by beating Paraguay. But Paraguay had also won their opening match and had the same feeling about the game.
The game of the day (for anyone other than the hosts) was likely to be in Guadalajara as Northern Ireland took on Spain. A repeat of the balmy night in Valencia ’82 when Gerry Armstrong’s goal was the difference against the host nation.
Lastly, after England’s timid performance against Morocco yesterday, the other two nations in the group were in action. With Portugal registering the only victory so far in the group they would be hoping to claim their place in the next round with a win. But Poland were the seeded team in the group, so they wouldn’t be easy to get past.
Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, 114,600.
MEXICO (1) 1 (Flores 3)
PARAGUAY (0) 1 (Romero 85)
MEXICO: Larios; Trejo, Quirarte, Cruz, Servin; Munoz, Boy (Espana), Aguirre; Negrete, Flores (Cruz), Sanchez.
PARAGUAY: Fernãndez; Torales (Hicks), Zabala, Schettina, Delgado; Nunes, Cañete, Romero; Ferreira, Mendoza (Guasch), Cabañas.
After the wonderful atmosphere in the Azteca last Tuesday, Mexico were back there again on day eight. England’s George Courtney was the referee for the clash with Paraguay. Both teams had won their opening matches and both named unchanged sides.
In front of a vociferous crowd, Mexico were soon on the attack down their opponents’ right. A cross was meant for Sanchez, who’d moved towards the near post. Inexplicably, the Mexican talisman fell over and the ball bounced onto Flores. The 23-year old local lad couldn’t believe his luck as he had time, and space to control the ball on his thigh. One bounce and he turned it left-footed in past Fernãndez. 1-0.
The place went nuts. So many World Cup tournaments’ fortunes hinge on the hosts’ performance and this Mexican side were delivering in spades.
Paraguay eventually settled down and had a free-kick from a long way out. Zabala decided he fancied it and launched one but it didn’t come down in time to trouble the keeper. Their best chances came from outside the box as Cañete had a go from 25 yards out, which the keeper made into a tougher chance than it actually looked.
As Paraguay continued to go forward, Mexico hit them on the break. Sanchez was sent clear down the left. As he made it into the area he turned inside the only defender who’d kept up with him. The keeper then came out but Sanchez got to the ball first and Fernãndez brought him down. Unbelievably, George Courtney waved away the protests. VAR these days would have had no hesitation in overturning that one, you feel.
In the second half, Paraguay continued to press for the equaliser. They brought on Guasch for Mendoza and he almost created it. Some keepy-uppys in the area lead to a rather desperate lunge from one of the Mexican defenders which almost turned it into his own net. They made their second change as Hicks came on for Torales and he too almost made the difference. A cross from the left by Romero was headed against the post and out for a goal-kick from Hicks.
By now the hosts were visibly tiring in the midday heat. The pressure the Paraguayans had exerted finally told five minutes from time. Cañete curled a ball into the area and Romero headed it beyond the reach of Larios for the equaliser. It seemed particularly harsh on Mexico. 1-1.
They immediately launched a ball downfield and a flick-on was enough for Sanchez to run onto. He was bundled over and at last, Mexico had a penalty. Replays showed it was close as to whether the challenge was in or out of the area. But the home fans felt it was justice for the earlier one not given.
Their hero, Sanchez, stepped up with a chance of putting them into the next round. But Fernãndez guessed correctly, pushing the ball onto the post and away to safety. It was the final act of the game and the Paraguayans were ecstatic in having come back to earn a point. Mexico were left to rue missed chances and of course, a penalty which wasn’t given. But Paraguay never gave up and the two were locked on three points at the top of the group.
Estadio Tres de Marzo, Guadalajara, 28,000.
NORTHERN IRELAND (0) 1 (Clarke 46)
SPAIN (1) 2 (Butragueno 1, Salinas 18)
NORTHERN IRELAND: Jennings; Nicholl, McDonald, J O’Neill, Donaghy; McIlroy, Penney (Stewart), McCreery, Worthington (Hamilton); Clarke, Whiteside.
SPAIN: Zubizarreta; Tomas, Camacho, Victor, Goikoetxea, Gallego; Michel, Francisco, Gordillo (Caldere); Salinas (Senor), Butragueño.
Only Camacho and Gordillo survived from the Spanish side who lost to the Irish four years before. Gallego would make it three when he came off the bench. Whereas the Irish contained six from that night, Jennings, Nicholl, Donaghy, McIlroy, McCreery and Whiteside. Billy Hamilton would make it seven when he came off the bench.
Valencia ’82 was one of the most famous nights in Irish football history, and there was much anticipation as to whether they could pull off another miracle. Spain were a different prospect this time round, if only for not having the shackles of host nation which clearly hampered them then. The Irish probably should’ve beaten Algeria last Tuesday but at least hadn’t lost. That was something the Spanish couldn’t avoid against Brazil on day two.
Right from the kick-off, Spain attacked. After most of the play was down the left, eventually the ball was played back into the Spanish half. Michel played a lovely through-ball in between Jimmy Nicholl and Alan McDonald for Butragueño to run onto. The man they called ‘the Vulture’, produced a finish fitting of the man who gave him his senior debut at Real Madrid, Alfredo Di Stefano. He curled it past Jennings’ outstretched left hand and it was a nightmare start for Northern Ireland. 1-0.
Victor went close with a header just wide from another Michel cross. Then Whiteside was almost in after Clarke headed on a kick from Jennings. Clarke, then playing his football with Third Division Bournemouth, had a chance himself. He turned his man and shot straight at Zubizarreta.
Then in the 18th minute, Spain doubled their lead. The Irish contributed with a couple of defensive errors. Skipper Sammy McIlroy gave the ball away on the edge of his own area and Salinas was first to pounce firing a left-foot shot into the net with Jennings stranded. 2-0.
Northern Ireland came out determined in the second half. Whiteside’s header from a corner was frantically cleared on the far post. Whiteside was then involved in the move which got them back into the game, in the most comical manner. Coming deep to receive the ball he played it back to McIlroy, who then played a lovely ball ahead of the defence for Clarke to run onto.
But it had a little too much juice on it and Zubizarreta came out of his area and got there first. As if to sum up the rather complacent air about the Spanish by now, the Bilbao keeper sliced his clearance horribly. It went high up in the air. Gallego, who’d given up tracking Clarke back as he believed his keeper had it covered, then calmly headed it back to him. But ‘Zubi’ wasn’t finished with the entertainment. He slipped, allowing Clarke to nip in and head it into the empty net. It was an astonishing mistake from the Spanish keeper. Salinas making it 2-0 inside 20 minutes had calmed Spanish nerves. But within 60 seconds of the second half, Zubizarreta had summoned them back again. In 1982 the much admired, Luis Arconada, made an error which handed Gerry Armstrong the chance which ultimately beat them. Had his replacement just done the same four years later? 2-1.
The Irish were now well and truly back in the game. A corner from Stewart caused further mayhem in the Spanish defence, and one shot hit Victor’s arm. But he knew little about it and therefore hardly surprising the Austrian referee waved away the protests.
Then with just minutes to go, Spain attacked. Michel played the ball into the area where Butragueno was completely unmarked. He steadied himself like an assassin with his prey in his sights, but his shot was well charged down by Jennings.
Eventually the final whistle went and Northern Ireland’s spirited second-half performance was all for nowt. Spain had won, although they were far from convincing. The Irish had shown their defence to be vulnerable when under pressure. What the result did prove is how the Irish should’ve taken their chances against Algeria, as they now had to take on Brazil possibly needing to win.
Estadio Universitario, Monterrey, 19,915.
POLAND (0) 1 (Smolarek 68)
PORTUGAL (0) 0
POLAND: Mlynarczyk; Ostrowski, Wójcicki, Majewski, Pawlak; Dziekanowski, Komornicki (Karas), Matysik; Boniek, Urban, Smolarek (Zgutczynski).
PORTUGAL: Damas; Álvaro, Oliveira, Frederico, Inácio; Carlos Manuel, Sousa, André (Magalhaes), Pacheco; Gomes (Futre), Diamantino.
Portugal won their opening match of the group against England. But what the world didn’t know was behind the scenes they were a mess. They were a mess right from the time they changed managers too close to the start of the tournament. They had one of their players fail (later proved to be incorrect) a drugs test. Now in Mexico, they suffered from abysmally poor training facilities and a squad which was rather too keen to sample the local hostelries and female companionship. So much so that they don’t even know how they beat the English. But they were three points to the good and a draw in this one would, in all likelihood, put them through.
Poland couldn’t beat Morocco. A shock at the time, but the Africans’ performance against England yesterday gave us some of the reasons why.
Poland’s star man, Zbigniew Boniek had the best chance early on. Dziekanowski and Smolarek were both involved as the ball bounced around the Portuguese area. Eventually it fell to Boniek who hit it first time but Damas was equal to it.
Portugal came more into the game but seemed to believe the only way to beat Mlynarczyk was from about 35 yards out. Then with 15 minutes of the first half remaining Poland should’ve taken the lead. A ball into the box was dealt with poorly by the Portuguese defence. One player fell over another, and Damas’ indecision allowed Smolarek to get to it first, but his shot went wide.
Boniek then headed over from the edge of the area after he’d initially played Urban in down the left.
Paulo Futre, Portugal’s wonderkid, had again started on the bench. But he was thrown on in the second half and immediately caused problems. One chance saw him run clear of the defence and appeared to be brought down by the Polish keeper as he knocked it past him. Another example of something which would be a penalty today, being overlooked by the officials back then.
Portugal were really testing the Polish by now. Sousa was again involved in two chances which required Mlynarczyk to be at his most alert.
But they were to regret not taking those chances as Poland themselves came back into it. Boniek was again involved, as Dziekanowski floated it beyond the defence to the far post where Smolarek was unmarked. He managed to clip the ball past Damas for the opening goal. 1-0.
After Carlos Manuel fired a shot just over, Portugal had a free-kick in a dangerous position right of the area. It was floated in and Mlynarczyk came rushing out but got nowhere near it. It bounced off Magalhaes and looked to be going in. Substitute, Karas just got his foot to it to divert it onto the post and back out where it hit the Polish keeper and went out for a corner.
Poland held on for the win, and this meant England’s game against them was make-or-break. Portugal were still in a good position despite the defeat, as they had already won one. But going into the final round of matches in this group, it was still all to play for.
An exciting day bringing plenty of talking points. The hosts looked to be on their way to a second win in the competition. They were denied a penalty, then given one which they missed and ultimately ended in a draw. Northern Ireland came back valiantly against a timid Spanish side, who’d looked in control of the game. Now looks likely they will have to beat Brazil in their final match. England’s fortunes took another kicking as Poland beat Portugal. This now meant they couldn’t really afford anything other than a win against the Poles.
Tomorrow’s matches sees Scotland in action again. They considered themselves unlucky to lose to Denmark but now had to get something from their game against the Germans, who themselves were fortunate to get a draw against Uruguay. Denmark had looked exciting first time out so many were looking forward to seeing them again.
Belgium were taking on Iraq in Mexico’s group, looking to register their first points of the tournament.
Group B: Belgium v Iraq
Group E: West Germany v Scotland, Uruguay v Denmark