The day Gary Lineker saved England

Gary Lineker last goal for England 1992

England’s Qatar 2022 World Cup clash with Senegal evokes memories of their 1990 World Cup quarter-final meeting with Cameroon, a day when England needed ice-cool nerves from striker Gary Lineker to get the job done.

The Three Lions couldn’t lose to Cameroon

England has never played Senegal before, but like with Cameroon in 1990, the Three Lions are expected to win. In the England v Senegal odds to win the match, Gareth Southgate’s team is -200 to be victorious. England would have had similar odds to defeat Cameroon back in the day. 1990 was a different era, though. Back then, African football wasn’t treated with the respect it should have been.

Had England lost to Cameroon, the fallout would have been unprecedented for an English team, especially with the match being the quarter-final of a World Cup. England started the match sprightly, going into the lead after 26 minutes courtesy of David Platt’s header from a Stuart Pearce cross. After that, the match looked like it would just be a routine win for England. It was just a question of whether England would win 1-0, or if they would get the second to seal a more comfortable victory.

At half-time Cameroon introduced the legendary Roger Milla, and boy did the then 38-year-old have an impact. Out of nowhere, Cameroon got a penalty, after Paul Gascoigne brought down Milla, with Emmanuel Kunde firing in the equalizer from the resulting spot kick on 61 minutes. This wasn’t in the script, but England still had roughly 30 minutes to find the winner.

Then, before England had even got over the shock of being level, they found themselves 2-1 behind. Eugene Ekeke slotted home in the 65th minute after latching on to a fine through ball from Milla. England was really in the firing line at this point, there was nowhere to hide. Going out of the World Cup to a team who started the competition at 500/1 wasn’t in the script.

Up steps England’s hero, Gary Lineker

Then up stepped Gary Lineker to save England. You know the one, that bloke who presents Match of the Day. Cameroon had chances to make it 3-1 and finish England off, and England had chances to make it 2-2. Both wasted their opportunities.

Then with Cameroon less than ten minutes away from a World Cup semi-final, Lineker latched onto a loose ball in the penalty area, and turned towards the Cameroon goal, he was brought down by a clumsy tackle – the result, a penalty to England. Up stepped Lineker to take the penalty, and he made no mistake.

That made it 2-2 and took the match to extra time. Then on the stroke of half-time in extra-time, Lineker ran onto a slide rule pass and was brought down by the Cameroon keeper. Up stepped Lineker to fire home his second penalty of the match. England hung on to win the match 3-2.

England eventually lost in the semi-finals to West Germany, but they went home to a hero’s welcome. Had they lost to Cameroon, it most certainly would have been a different welcome awaiting them.