FIFA World Cup 1986: England find a groove as Spain smash the Danes – day 18

World Cup 1986 Day 18 England Paraguay

Day 18

18th June 1986

I think we’ve said every day that the knockout stages had been a success so far. Some great games, some great drama and we already knew six of the last eight qualifiers. Today would decide the last two places. England were up against Paraguay, hoping to carry on their momentum from their win over Poland. Paraguay had shown in their group matches they were going to be hard to beat. The winners would meet Argentina.

Then we have an all-European tie, Spain against Denmark. Spain had come through Brazil’s group and in Butragueño, had one of the best strikers in Europe. But Denmark had been the revelation of the tournament so far. They tore Uruguay apart before seeing off the West Germans. The names of Michael Laudrup and Preben Elkjaer were on everybody’s lips. The winners were due to take on Belgium in the next round.

It promised to be a fascinating day.

Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, 98,728

ENGLAND (1) 3 (Lineker 31, 73, Beardsley 56)


ENGLAND: Shilton; Gary M Stevens, Martin, Butcher, Sansom; Steven, Reid (Gary A Stevens), Hoddle, Hodge; Beardsley (Hateley), Lineker

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

England had given the most Jekyll & Hyde performance of any of the nations competing in this tournament. Abject against Portugal, clueless against Morocco where two of the players they put most faith in, Robson and Wilkins exited the competition through injury and transgression. Wilkins would be available for the next game, if there was one for England. Then came the ‘last chance saloon’ battle with Poland. This was by far the best performance by Robson’s England. The odds were stacked against them but by luck more than judgement, he found his best team.

Manager, Bobby Robson made just one change from the one which had been brilliant against Poland. Terry Fenwick was suspended at centre-back for too many yellow cards. West Ham’s Alvin Martin came in. Martin had, had a great season at Upton Park and was possibly unlucky not to have been preferred to Fenwick from the start.

Paraguay had beaten Iraq, but only by a goal. Then they drew with Mexico, with the hosts missing a last-minute penalty to win the game. Then came a draw with Belgium. They had not exactly been that impressive but looked well organised and hard to beat. This was their fourth World Cup and the first time they’d ever got beyond the group stage. They made one change. Vladimiro Schettina came back into the defence with Jorge Guasch dropping to the bench. Guasch had made an appearance in every game but only one from the start. They had used the fewest number of players from their squad. This was their fourth game in the tournament yet nine players were still to make an appearance.

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This was the first-ever meeting between the two countries.

Mendoza was the most threatening for the South Americans early on, but the England defence held firm. England then went close after Steve Hodge headed just over from a Trevor Steven cross. Steven looked far more effective on the wing than Waddle had done in the first two games.

Then it was Paraguay’s turn to go close. Cañete latched onto a loose ball out of England’s penalty box and forced Shilton to tip the ball over as he shot from about 20 yards out.

Butcher and Martin seemed to deal with most of Paraguay’s attack but there was a moment of panic when Butcher’s backpass was intercepted by Mendoza. He went round Shilton but it was too tight an angle for the shot. He passed it back to Cañete whose shot was gratefully gathered up by the England keeper.

Then just after the half-hour, Stevens joined an attack. His ball into the area struck Hoddle and came back to him. He headed it on to Hoddle who turned and played the ball across the area. Lineker missed it but Hodge played it back across the six-yard box and Lineker stabbed it into the empty net. 1-0.

Lineker almost added a second soon after. A lovely passing move saw Hoddle play a good ball out to Beardsley, who’d pulled away to the right-wing. The Newcastle man crossed it first time and Lineker met it on the volley. Fernández in the Paraguay goal pulled off a great save to keep the score down to one nil.

From the resulting corner Butcher almost headed it in, but it went just wide. England were on a roll now.

Half-time came with England still a goal up. After a tentative start, they had really kicked into gear as the half went on.

Early in the second half England had another great chance. Beardsley, who was increasingly involved in so much of England’s play, crossed to the far post where Hodge was coming in. Under pressure, he fired his shot over the bar from close range.

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Soon after, they had another great chance from a set-piece. Hoddle took a free-kick on the left wing, a few yards in from the bye-line. He curled it towards the far post where Martin threw himself at the ball but couldn’t put it the right side of the post and it went out for a goal-kick.

It seemed inevitable England would score again. And sure enough ten minutes into the second period they did. Hoddle’s corner from the right found its way to Butcher on the edge of the area. He fired a right-foot shot at goal and the keeper spilled it. Beardsley was on hand to react first and he gleefully turned it in. 2-0.

Beardsley was having the time of his life. He had made such a difference to England’s attack with his clever use of the ball and space. He brought out the best in those around him and England were a totally different prospect with him in the team. He almost scored a second a few minutes later when he picked the ball up in midfield. As he ran towards the Paraguay goal and had options left and right. Sensing the defenders’ uncertainty which option he’d go for, he cleverly knocked it past Schettina and ran round the other side of him. But with just the keeper to beat he put it over.

Paraguay hadn’t offered much in the second half, but they did have a chance when Cañete shot from outside the area. It went just wide.

Robson sent on the other Gary Stevens, the Tottenham version as if just to antagonise the commentators. With 17 minutes to go he was involved in England’s third goal.

As Hoddle received the ball in the inside-right position, Stevens made a run into the area. Hoddle found him and Stevens then squared the ball where Lineker was able to beat the keeper for his second goal of the game, and his fifth in two matches. 3-0.

England were now comfortably in control. The Paraguayans had a couple of half-chances towards the end of the game, but England were resolute throughout.

They ended up winning 3-0 and had been professional and clinical in negotiating a potentially troubling opponent. Paraguay were well beaten. England looked forward to a clash with Argentina, just four years after the two countries had been at war.

Estadio La Corregiroda, Querétaro, 38,500

DENMARK (1) 1 (J Olsen 33 pen)

SPAIN (1) 5 (Butragueño 43, 56, 80, 88 pen, Goikoetxea 68 pen)

DENMARK: Høgh; Busk, M Olsen, Nielsen, Andersen (Eriksen); Bertelsen, J Olsen, Lerby; Berggreen, Laudrup, Elkjaer (Molby)

SPAIN: Zubizarreta; Gallego, Tomás, Camacho, Goikoetxea; Julio Alberto; Calderé, Victor, Michel (Francisco); Salinas (Eloy), Butragueño

We had, had some great matches during the Second Round. This one was certainly expected to add to the quality. Denmark had been outstanding in the group stage. They came top of the so called ‘group of death’, beating West Germany, Scotland and Uruguay. They had played some scintillating football so far.

But they had to adjust to the loss of Frank Arnesen. He’d been part of much of their good play throughout, but stupidly got himself sent off against West Germany and wouldn’t be seen again until the Semis, if Denmark got there.

Sepp Piontek made three changes in all from that side which performed so well against West Germany. Ivan Nielsen, Jens Bertelsen and Klaus Berggreen came back in. They’d all played in the first two matches. Sivebaek, Molby and Arnesen missed out.

Danish fans could be forgiven for wondering how far their team could progress. A win here would see them take on Belgium. They beat them on their way to the Euro ’83 Semis when they came from 0-2 down to win 3-2. Win that then they might be up against England, who they’d beaten to qualify for Euro ’84. However, the prospect of Elkjaer, Laudrup and Arnesen up against Maradona’s Argentina was also a mouth-watering one. But they had to negotiate Spain first.

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Spain had not really set the world alight in the competition so far. They were beaten by Brazil first up, then eased past Algeria. They raced into a two-goal lead against Northern Ireland but had to endure some nervous moments before coming away with a win.

They made just one change from the Northern Ireland match. Julio Alberto returned to the side, having played the opening game against Brazil but sat out the next two. He replaced Francisco, who dropped to the bench having played all three games so far.

This was the first meeting between the two since their exciting Semi-Final tussle at Euro ’84. That game had to be decided on a penalty shootout with Elkjaer missing the kick which put Spain into the final. Denmark had only won one of their previous six meetings against Spain. That was back in 1979 where Elkjaer scored twice in a 3-1 win. Four of the Danes from that team were playing in this game. None of the Spaniards from that night were.

Spain playing in Mexico meant they attracted all the local support, which must’ve almost felt like a home match for them.

The first chance fell to Denmark. Berggreen did well down the right, and his ball across the area was dangerous. Unfortunately, Elkjaer missed it and Laudrup couldn’t convert it at the far post.

Spain then came back with Julio Alberto down the left. He cross-cum-shot had Høgh scrambling to tip it over.

We then had more evidence of Denmark’s ability to attack at pace. The move started deep in their half and ended with Elkjaer having a shot from 30 yards out which the keeper had to turn round the post.

The deadlock was finally broken as the half entered the last 15 minutes. Berggreen found Elkjaer just outside the ‘D’ with his back to go. He turned and played it back to Berggreen, who’d made a good run forward. As he got to the area Gallego slid in and Berggreen went down. The referee pointed to the spot.

Jesper Olsen stepped up, having already scored a penalty against West Germany. Again, he trotted up to the ball and slid it to the opposite side to where the keeper had committed himself. Two things struck me when watching this. Firstly, the ball wasn’t properly on the spot. Secondly, when he struck it there were at least four players in the area with him. 1-0.

Almost immediately Julio Alberto had a golden chance to level things. A cross from the left was missed by Michel and Alberto should’ve done far better at the far post, had he composed himself a little.

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The half appeared to be ending with Denmark still leading, but then a moment of madness from the man who’d put them in front, let Spain back into it. Jesper Olsen came short to receive a goal-kick on the right. He moved forward to take him away from Salinas, then inexplicably tried to either pass it back to his keeper, or to Nielsen. He managed neither and simply succeeded in playing it into the area where Butragueño gratefully slotted it past the stranded Høgh for the equaliser. 1-1.

It was a needless pass from Olsen, and possibly a sign of over confidence. Spain’s star striker made him pay.

Early in the second half, Elkjaer had another surging run where he beat several challenges, and even seem to strong-arm off Gallego. But his shot was straight at Zubizarreta. He had another chance soon after when the Spanish gave him far too much room. From a wide angle he fired over. They’d created plenty of chances but had been quite wasteful in taking them. Would they be made to pay?

10 minutes into the second half and we had our answer. Victor took a corner from the right. Camacho had a free header and nodded it towards the six-yard box where Butragueño, also unmarked, didn’t waste the chance. 1-2.

Denmark had appeared to be in control but they had gifted Spain the two goals. Now they trailed for the first time in the tournament.

Piontek sent on Eriksen for Andersen to give them more attacking options. But what he couldn’t influence was his side’s ability to sabotage their own success. Nielsen gave the ball away to Butragueño in a dangerous position. He played Michel in but the keeper made a good save.

Butragueño was causing the defence all sorts of problems. This was illustrated no better than when Michel sent him away with Busk the only defender able to stay with him. Once in the area the Dane couldn’t resist a push, the Spaniard went to ground and the ref awarded another penalty.

Goikoextea was given the responsibility of taking it and he confidently thumped it into the net. 1-3.

This would take a huge effort for Denmark to get back into this, but individual errors had contributed to their downfall.

With just 10 minutes to go all the attacking by Denmark continued to leave them short at the back. Michel had too much space down the right. He played it into Eloy who squared the ball for Butragueño to complete his hat-trick. It was all too easy for Spain. 1-4.

Then with two minutes to go, Denmark’s misery was complete. Butragueño on the left of the area performed a Cruyff turn which turned Morten Olsen inside out. The Danish captain lunged at him and brought him down. The game had its third penalty, all at the same end.

Butragueño was in no doubt as to who would take it. Him. He sent the keeper the wrong to become only the fourth player in World Cup history to score four goals in one game. 1-5.

This was as incredible a result as you could wish to see. Coming into the game it was difficult to see how Spain could repel the Danish pacey attack. But for four of the goals the Danes were architects of their own downfall. Their dream had ended, and for many neutrals the tournament had taken a disappointing turn. But Spain had been ruthless, It wasn’t their fault Denmark self-combusted like a Spitting Image drummer. In Butragueño they had the quality of finisher who could get them all the way to the Final. They would now be up against Belgium in the Quarter-Finals.

The Quarter-Final draw was now complete.


Brazil V France
Mexico V West Germany
Argentina V England
Belgium V Spain


The first two ties would be played on 21 June.