FIFA World Cup 1986: England thump Poland while Morocco top Group F – day twelve



Wednesday 11th June 1986

For this World Cup, FIFA had decided the final round of matches in each group would kick-off at the same time. With only two games a day this meant each group had its own focus. But for day 12, they decided to showcase two groups, B & F. This meant for the hosts and England fans that they were fully engaged in the action on this day.

Group B was up first and Mexico and Paraguay were comfortable in the knowledge they were already through to the next stage. Even if one of them finished third in the group they already had more points than any other third-placed team. For the group winners, a tie against the third-best third-place team was the prospect. For the team finishing second in the group, they would be very interested in the action later in the day, as they would meet the runners-up in Group F. Belgium sat in third place in this group, and their goal difference & goals scored saw them as the leading side of the third-place teams.

It was thought Mexico held the advantage as they were up against Iraq. Paraguay and Belgium fought it out in Toluca where many wondered what effort either side would put in. As things stood Belgium were heading for a tie against the Soviet Union in the next round. But if they beat Paraguay they could meet Portugal, assuming there were no shock results in Group F.

Here’s how things stood in Group B at the start of the day


Pos Pld W D L F A GD Pts
1 Mexico 2 1 1 0 3 2 1 3
2 Paraguay 2 1 1 0 2 1 1 3
3 Belgium 2 1 0 1 3 3 0 2
4 Iraq 2 0 0 2 1 3 -2 0


Estadio Nemesio Diez, Toluca, 16,000

PARAGUAY (0) 2  (Cabañas 50, 76)

BELGIUM (1) 2 (Vercauteren 30, Veyt 59)

PARAGUAY: Fernãndez; Torales, Zabala, Delgado; Guasch, Nunes, Cañete, Romero; Ferreira, Mendoza (Hicks), Cabañas

BELGIUM: Pfaff; Grun (Van der Elst L), Broos, Renquin; Demol, Vercauteren, Vervoort, Scifo, Ceulemans; Claesen, Veyt

Belgium began their campaign by losing to the hosts but came back to ease past Iraq. Their manager Guy Thys made five changes to the side which won on day nine. Out went the former captain, Eric Gerets, along with Franky van der Elst, Michel de Wolf, Rene Vandereycken, and Philippe Desmet. In came Georges Grun, Hugo Broos, Patrick Vervoort, Michel Renquin and Daniel Veyt.

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Paraguay had been efficient without being that impressive in their performances so far. Predictably they beat Iraq and needed a late equaliser to gain a draw against the hosts, who themselves missed a late penalty. Manager Cayetano Ré made just one change from the team which lined up against Mexico. Jorge Guasch, who’d come on as a sub in that game, started in place of Vladimiro Schettina.

There had only been one other meeting of the two sides before and it came in the first-ever World Cup in Uruguay in 1930. Paraguay won that game 1-0.

Belgium took the lead in the 31st minute when Ceulemans played in Vercauteren on the left of the area and he curled a lovely left-foot shot over the keeper into the top corner. It was a great finish from a move involving two players who were instrumental in getting Belgium to the Final of Euro ’80. 1-0.

A sparse crowd of just 16,000 didn’t see any further goals until early in the second half. A long kick from the keeper Roberto Fernández was flicked on just outside the Belgian area and Cabañas beat the offside trap to score from close range. 1-1.

It seemed Belgium were keen to try and win this one as they came back within ten minutes. A good move starting from the centre circle, involving Ceulemans and Claesen, found 19-year-old Daniel Veyt. He clipped it past the keeper from the edge of the area. It was his first-ever World Cup match and his first-ever goal in a Belgian shirt, and had restored their lead.

Belgium then went further ahead when Enzo Scifo scored directly from a free-kick. Or so they thought. The referee had indicated he’d awarded an indirect kick and so Scifo’s fine effort was ruled out.

Then as the game moved into the final quarter of an hour, Cabañas was given far too much time and space in the area. He flicked the ball over a weak challenge from Broos and once again, as Pfaff came out, he hooked the ball in from six yards for his second of the game to make it 2-2.

The game ended in a draw. It suited both teams although it meant they’d remain in second and third unless there was a huge shock in the other game.

Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, 103,763

IRAQ (0) 0

MEXICO (0) 1 (Quirarte 54)

IRAQ: Fatah Nsaief; Maad Ibrahim, Khalil Allawi, Nadhim Shaker, Natiq Hashim (Rahim Hameed), Ghanim Oraibi; Ali Hussein Shih, Anad Abid (Shaker Mahmoud), Basim Qasim; Karim Saddam, Ahmed Radhi

MEXICO: Larios; Amador (Dominguez), Quirarte, Cruz, Servin; de los Cobos (Cruz), Espana, Boy, Aguirre; Negrete, Flores

In contrast to the disappointing attendance in Toluca, another full stadium was what welcomed the hosts as they took on World Cup debutants, Iraq.

Mexico was still reeling from what went on late in the game against Paraguay on day eight. They should have been looking at confirmed group winners going into this, but that was still in the balance unless they won this one.

Manager Bora Milutinovic made three changes from the Paraguay game. Out went Mario Trejo, Carlos Muñoz and their talisman, Hugo Sanchez. In came Rafael Amador, Carlos de los Cobos and Miguel España.

Sanchez was being rested, according to his boss, and not suffering the effects of missing the penalty against Paraguay. The fall-out from that match had revealed the Paraguayan keeper, Roberto Ferñandez said he knew which way Sanchez was going to place his kick. There’d been a cheese commercial on tv before the tournament which starred Sanchez scoring a penalty. Ferñandez said he’d seen it 100 times and so was fully prepared.

Iraq manager, Evaristo, made four changes from the team which had lost to Belgium. Goalkeeper and captain Raad Hammoudi was out. As was, defender Samir Shaker and midfielders, Haris Mohammed and Basil Gorgis. Fatah Nsaief replaced Hammoudi in goal and also took the captain’s armband. Anad Abid, Basim Qasim, and Maad Ibrahim came in for their first World Cup appearances. This took the total of players Evaristo used in these three matches to 18. Iraq had a very slim chance of going through but would need to win by plenty to overhaul Belgium. Even then they’d need Paraguay to win in the other game for this to happen.

The first half was dominated by Mexico. Skipper Tomás Boy took a free-kick on the left of midfield about 30 yards out. It beat the wall, and almost beat the keeper who spilled it for a corner. It was almost a horrible moment for Fatah Nsaief, whose error was almost replicated by Scott Carson against Croatia 21 years later.

The keeper was a little more assured with his handling when Luis Flores turned and volleyed a shot straight at him a few minutes later.

It was all Mexico and Flores as the hosts pressed for the opening goal. Boy played him in and his shot thundered off the underside of the bar and back out after one flowing move.

Goalless at half-time, there was no doubting the hosts were missing their Real Madrid star. For all their possession and chances, they just couldn’t convert any of them.

Quirarte had a good chance early in the second period when, from about 30 yards out, he shot through a group of players and had the keeper scrambling it away for a corner. Then nine minutes after the break the hosts finally made the breakthrough. A free kick near the centre circle was floated into the far post. It looked like Flores was fouled but the game went on and Quirarte found himself unmarked wide on the right of the area.

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He steadied himself, waited for the keeper to move to anticipate a cross, and fired in from close range. The relief around the stadium was palpable. The Mexicans celebrated like they’d won the World Cup rather than beat one of the weakest sides to ever take part in the competition.

The game ended 1-0 to Mexico. They were rarely threatened yet struggled to get the win. It meant they’d won the group but they would need to be more clinical in the knockout stages and badly missed Sanchez.

The results meant there was no change in the overall places with Mexico topping the group and Paraguay second. Belgium consolidated their position as best third-place team.


Pos Pld W D L F A GD Pts
1 Mexico 3 2 1 0 4 2 2 5
2 Paraguay 3 1 2 0 4 3 1 4
3 Belgium 3 1 1 1 5 5 0 3
4 Iraq 3 0 0 3 1 4 -3 0



Pos Pld W D L F A GD Pts
1 Belgium 3 1 1 1 5 5 0 3
2 Morocco 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 2
3 Bulgaria 3 0 2 1 2 4 -2 2
4 Hungary 3 1 0 2 2 9 -7 2
5 Northern Ireland 2 0 1 1 2 3 -1 1
6 Uruguay 2 0 1 1 2 7 -5 1


Attention then turned to Group F. This was one of the closest groups with all four teams in with a chance of going through and any one of them could conceivably win the group. Poland were taking on England, with Portugal meeting Morocco.


Pos Pld W D L F A GD Pts
1 Poland 2 1 1 0 1 0 1 3
2 Portugal 2 1 0 1 1 1 0 2
3 Morocco 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 2
4 England 2 0 1 1 0 1 -1 1


Estadio Universitario, Monterrey, 22,700

ENGLAND (3) 3 (Lineker 9, 14, 34)

POLAND (0) 0

ENGLAND: Shilton; Gary M Stevens, Fenwick, Butcher, Sansom; Steven, Hoddle, Reid, Hodge; Lineker (Dixon), Beardsley (Waddle)

POLAND: Mlynarczyk; Ostrowski, Majewski, Wójcicki , Pawlak; Boniek, Komornicki (Karaś), Matysik (Buncol); Urban, Dziekanowski, Smolarek

This was the most important match in English football for years. It was simply a must-not-lose game. They could still go through with a draw, as long as Portugal beat Morocco by two goals. It was 13 years since England had suffered the disappointment of missing out on qualifying for the 1974 tournament, at the hands of Poland. The Poles came to Wembley and walked away with a 1-1 draw which saw them progress to West Germany, at England’s expense. It also saw the end for Alf Ramsey as England boss. This was the first meeting between the two countries since then.

For the England manager, Bobby Robson, his mind had been occupied, not only with how to get their campaign back on track, but how to do it without two of his most experienced players. Skipper Bryan Robson had injured his shoulder against Morocco and had gone home. Ray Wilkins was sent-off in that game and would therefore miss the next two.

England had been poor against Portugal and devoid of ideas against Morocco. How was he going to turn this around? Well, there had been plenty of comments about how a midfield of Robson, Wilkins and Hoddle just couldn’t function effectively. And with change forced upon him, the look of the midfield he put out in this match looked far more balanced.

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Two of the Everton side which finished second to Liverpool in both the league and FA Cup in the season just gone, Peter Reid and Trevor Steven were brought in. With Garys Lineker and Stevens in the team, this brought the Everton contingent up to four. Aston Villa’s Steve Hodge also came into midfield with Waddle dropping to the bench. Up front, Robson chose to partner Lineker with Newcastle’s Peter Beardsley, in place of Mark Hatelely. Hateley had kept scoring goals, making him hard to leave out, but Beardsley had impressed in a pre-tournament friendly and was considered more mobile.

Poland had moved to the top of the group when they beat Portugal and Antoni Piechniczek named an unchanged side. A win here would see them line up against the runner-up from West Germany’s group. A tie against Paraguay would be the prize awaiting whichever side finished second in the group. The third-place team were also likely to go through, with Morocco occupying that place.

It was a nervous England team that kicked off the match, and a whole country back home was equally on edge. With Reid expected to add some much-needed bite in midfield, it was a surprise to see Hoddle win the first challenge there. It lead to a free-kick downfield which Fenwick headed wide.

Beardsley was soon able to show what he offered by combining with midfield more than Hateley had ever done. But England’s frailties were soon in evidence as a stray pass from Fenwick allowed the Poles to attack at pace. Smolarek found Boniek and his pace took him clear of Stevens. Once in the area, he tried to shoot across the goal but Shilton got a hand to it. The ball almost fell into Smolarek’s path but crucially Butcher got a foot in to play it back to his keeper.

Shilton was the only survivor from the 1973 meeting between these two, and had said of that game he’d been trying to forget it ever since.

Poland were starting to knock the ball around with comfort, but from a defensive position, England were finally able to counter with some pace and purpose. The ball was cleared down near his own corner flag by Hodge and he found Beardsley in the centre circle. Beardsley immediately found Lineker on the left and England were away. He moved it inside to Steven who then found Stevens overlapping on the right. The ball from the Everton right-back was played into an area he knew Lineker would inhabit, the six-yard box. True to form the England number ten was there to turn it into the net. It was a lovely goal, and for the first time in the tournament, England looked threatening and clinical. Steven, Stevens, and Lineker. A goal made in Goodison, and the relief was measurable. 1-0.

Five minutes later no one could believe they were watching the same England team which had looked so pitiful just five days before. Sansom, wide on the left, picked up the ball from Butcher. He immediately saw Beardsley come short for it. He found him and Beardsley’s touch out to Hodge on the left wing was perfect, and took out two Polish defenders. Hodge was clear down the left wing and when he was level with the area, played a lovely ball towards the penalty spot. The pass had just enough weight to get beyond Wojcicki and Lineker met it first time into the roof of the net. 2-0.

Lineker had not found the net for England in his last six appearances going back to the previous October. Now he was like a new man. He had had a great season for Everton scoring 40 goals but in eight appearances for England that season it was only the second time he’d scored. All of a sudden England seemed unconstrained as if the shackles were off. Who would’ve thought they needed to ditch Robson and Wilkins to get that feeling?

Poland then had a free-kick in a dangerous position just inside the ‘D’. Smolarek hit the shot low through the wall but Shilton got down well to hold on. Suddenly, the shots weren’t being fumbled, the passes weren’t going astray. Where had this England team been hiding?

England then had the ball in the net once again as Gary Stevens played another clever low ball into the six-yard area where Hodge was on the end of it this time. But as they celebrated, the linesman put up his flag and the goal was ruled out for offside.

With ten minutes of the first half remaining the game was over as a contest. Beardsley was again involved, as he played a one-two with Steven taking him into the penalty area. He’d been causing the Poles so many problems they were just relieved to manage to stop him. Matysik slid in and conceded the corner on the left.

Trevor Steven took it right-footed and curled it into the six-yard box. The experienced Polish keeper, Józef Mlynarczyk came to collect it but it slipped through his hands. Lineker was behind him and controlled it on his midriff, swivelled and volleyed it left-footed into the roof of the net. 3-0.

England were in heaven. A game they feared could be the end of the road in Mexico, saw them three goals to the good before half-time. Lineker had the remarkable record of only having scored in two matches for England that season, yet he’d got hat-tricks in both. Years later he’d say that game changed his career. He went into it fearing for his England future and came out of it a hero.

The second half was a case of going through the motions. It was very hot in Monterrey and this affected both teams. It ended 3-0 to England and was their best performance in a World Cup match since they beat the French in Bilbao four years before. It was easily their best performance under Robson, and for the thousands of fans who travelled all the way to Mexico, they could forget any ideas of checking out of their hotels just yet.

England began the day bottom of the group. The margin of victory over the group leaders meant they overtook the Polish in the table. Both teams would have to wait for the result of the other game to find out their fate for the next round.

Estadio Tres de Marzo, Zapopan, 28,000

PORTUGAL (0) 1 (Diamantino 80)

MOROCCO (2) 3 (Khairi 19, 26, Merry Krimau 62)

PORTUGAL: Damas; Álvaro (Águas), Oliveira, Frederico, Inácio; Carlos Manuel, Sousa (Diamantino), Futre, Magalhaes, Pacheco; Gomes

MOROCCO: Zaki; El Biyaz, Lamriss, Bouyahyaoui, Khalifa; Bouderbala, El Haddaoui (Souleimani) Dolmy; Khairi, A Merry, Timoumi

As mentioned after their game against Poland, the Portuguese were a bit of a mess behind the scenes at this World Cup. Various stories of players enjoying the local nightlife far too much had filtered back to the people back home. They’d chosen the wrong camp and the facilities were not conducive to helping the squad prepare for the tournament.

Manager José Torres had a fractured group of players. He finally relented to public pressure and started with Paulo Futre, who’d shown his talent coming off the bench against England and Poland. Jaime Maghalhães also started with Diamantino, the man who’d scored their only goal of the competition, relegated to the bench.

Morocco couldn’t really believe their luck in this group. England had been a mess and Portugal were falling apart. Two goalless draws left them in with a good chance of going through. Manager José Faria made just one change from the one which held England to a draw. Mustafa Merry made way for Mustafa El Haddaoui.

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Morocco sensed their chance from the off. Aziz Bouderabala was especially busy. He had a shot from about 30 yards which fizzed past the post, so close some in the ground thought it had gone in. A few minutes later he had another shot. He played a neat one-two with Abdelkarim Merry, on the edge of the area and his shot was deflected just wide by Frederico.

Portugal then went close when Oliveira headed a free-kick on target but Badou Zaki, the Moroccan keeper, was equal to it.

Then on 19 minutes Jaime Pacheco carelessly gave the ball away about 25 yards out from his own area. Abderrazak Khairi pounced on it, took it onto his left foot, and fired a strong shot which just beat Damas at the near post. It was Morocco’s first goal of this World Cup and they were ecstatic. 1-0.

Seven minutes later they doubled their lead. A long ball from the back found Merry just outside the area. He held the ball up, then played it back to Khalifa, in support. The right-back crossed first time to the far post where Khairi came in and met it full on the volley, giving Damas no chance. 2-0.

News was filtering in that England were also 2-0 up and now the group was being turned upside down.

The best chance for Portugal was when Sousa made room for himself and shot from about 30 yards out. But Zaki was again equal to it as he pushed it round the post. Morocco lead at the break.

In the second half, the Africans were visibly enjoying themselves. They knocked the ball around with comfort and the Portuguese just couldn’t get back into things.

Then on the hour came the goal of the game, and one of the goals of the tournament. Some brilliant close control and movement on the left involving Timoumi, Lamriss, and Merry pulled the Portuguese apart. Timoumi crossed into the edge of the area where Merry arrived unmarked. He took one touch and then bang! The 31-year-old, nicknamed ‘Krimau’, had spent 12 years in France and was then with Le Havre. It was a great finish to a lovely move and they were taking Portugal to the cleaners. 3-0.

With England winning 3-0, Portugal were heading out of a tournament they began with a win, against England. Diamantino got a consolation goal late in the game but it was nothing more than a consolation.

Morocco won 3-1. It shocked many people, but not those who’d been watching the team over the past few years. Having said that, they’d come into the tournament having lost their last three internationals, winning just one of their last seven. But from a group they were expected to finish last in, they’d been unbeaten in all three matches and had taken Portugal apart. It was also their first-ever win in a World Cup match at the sixth attempt.

They also became the first African nation to make it to the second phase of a World Cup.

The last round of matches in this group really had turned things upside down. The bottom two at the start of the day became the top two at the end. Portugal began the day in second and ended fourth and had to arrange their trip home. Poland ended third in the table but their points tally put them alongside Belgium as one of the best third-place teams.


Pos Pld W D L F A GD Pts
1 Morocco 3 1 2 0 3 1 2 4
2 England 3 1 1 1 3 2 1 3
3 Poland 3 1 1 1 1 3 -2 3
4 Portugal 3 1 0 2 2 4 -2 2



Pos Pld W D L F A GD Pts
1 Belgium 3 1 1 1 5 5 0 3
2 Poland 3 1 1 1 1 3 -2 3
3 Bulgaria 3 0 2 1 2 4 -2 2
4 Hungary 3 1 0 2 2 9 -7 2
5 Northern Ireland 2 0 1 1 2 3 -1 1
6 Uruguay 2 0 1 1 2 7 -5 1


After the completion of the two groups, the Second Round was beginning to take shape. We knew two of the ties. England would take on Paraguay. Finishing second in the group put them in Argentina’s half of the draw.

Neither Morocco nor Mexico would discover their opponents until after day 14. Tomorrow sees the conclusion of Group D


Argentina v Third place (4)
England v Paraguay
Group E winner v Group D runner-up
USSR v Third place (1)
Morocco v Group E runner-up
Mexico v Third place (3)
Italy v France
Group D winner v Third place (2)