England v Brazil: How Gary Lineker beat the Samba boys

The last Englishman to score the winner against Brazil tells Sam Wallace what it takes to defeat them

It has been 23 years and nine games across three different continents since England last beat Brazil, the team whose presence at Wembley tomorrow night will give the February friendly rather more prestige than it usually commands. They are not the five-times world champions for nothing, and the last time they lost to England they were the victims of a handball scandal as blatant as that involving Diego Maradona four years earlier.

The England team that beat Brazil 1-0 at Wembley on 28 March 1990 were arguably the best since the 1966 generation and three months later would reach the semi-finals of the World Cup. They had the prolific Gary Lineker in attack, Paul Gascoigne − a substitute that night − was about to embark on the run of form that would carry him into the team, while John Barnes and Chris Waddle were on the wings.

Even so, England still required a moment of what could most charitably be described as cunning, by the current Under-21s coach Stuart Pearce, who clearly handled the ball on the line after the substitute Müller had beaten goalkeeper Chris Woods and shot at goal. It provoked a great deal of anger among the Brazilians, who surrounded the German referee Klaus Perchel and refused to stay on the pitch at the end of the game for a Football Association presentation.

The Brazil team included the famous left-back Branco, who would briefly join Middlesbrough six years later, and distinguished himself on the night by shooting at goal from just about anywhere. In commentary, John Motson described Branco's run-up for free-kicks as "like Devon Malcolm's". Also in the side was Dunga, the 1994 World Cup-winning captain, Bebeto, Careca and the goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel.

Marking Lineker was the uncompromising centre-half Carlos Mozer, who helped Marseilles reach the European Cup final the following season but could not prevent England's second-highest goalscorer of all time from notching his 30th of 48 international goals. This one was a diving header in the 37th minute after Barnes had flicked on Peter Beardsley's corner, but what stands out in Lineker's memory were the boots he was wearing.

"One of my Quasar boots had split before the match and the only person who had a spare pair − and had the same size feet as me − was Bobby Robson," Lineker told The Independent. "If you look at the footage from the game, I have got a different boot on either foot. One was Quasar and the other one was, I think, Adidas.

"These days some players wear a different pair of boots in either half of a game but back then you would generally take one pair of screw-in studs and one pair of moulded studs to a match and those boots would last you a while. I was very superstitious. If I scored in a pair, I would keep them for ever."

What also sticks out in Lineker's mind about that night was the fact that, for once, England were playing in front of a full Wembley, given that the previous England international at Wembley, against Yugoslavia in December 1989, had drawn a crowd of less than 35,000, that is unsurprising. Even Wembley gates against Italy and Scotland that year failed to break 70,000.

"I don't know why friendlies changed," Lineker said. "It may be because there are lots more substitutions. It was always a big game and huge to play Brazil. If you go back to the 1980s, England did not sell out every game. It was very rare to play in front of a full house. I remember playing in front of crowds of 20,000 to 30,000 at Wembley."

Since that night at Wembley, England have played Brazil eight times, drawing four and losing four, including the 2-1 defeat in the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup. Lineker remains the last Englishman to score a winning goal against Brazil, although John Terry was close to taking that honour in June 2007, having scored the only goal of the game until Diego nicked an injury-time equaliser against Steve McClaren's team.

"We were a good side around that period," Lineker said. "In 1988 it didn't happen for us at the Euros for a number of reasons. We were a more flexible side with the systems we could play. We had very skilful players like Waddle, Barnes, Gazza and Bryan Robson driving us on. We defended well with Terry Butcher and Des Walker.

"Peter Beardsley could open things up. He wasn't an archetypal English centre-forward. He was the first of the kind who would drop off and leave the penalty area to me."

The night was Peter Shilton's 114th cap for England, but he came off after 11 minutes, having collided with Walker. Woods replaced him and kept a clean sheet − albeit with some help from Pearce − and the result meant England extended their unbeaten run to 15 games. They went 17 games unbeaten eventually, before losing to Uruguay in a friendly in May at Wembley before they left for Italia '90.

That World Cup, in which Brazil went out to Argentina in the last 16, proved to be a high-point for Lineker's generation of players. Brazil, however, have won the World Cup twice since then. "They are similar to us insomuch as they cannot afford not to take even friendly games seriously," Lineker said. Twenty-three years is a long time and seven different managers since Bobby Robson have failed to break the hex. If his side do not win tomorrow, at least Roy Hodgson will get a second chance in Rio de Janeiro in June.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea