Lisbon evokes mixture of memories

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From the moment Tom Finney carved his way through an astonished Portuguese defence on his way to four goals in May 1950, these matches have never been quite what they seemed.

From the moment Tom Finney carved his way through an astonished Portuguese defence on his way to four goals in May 1950, these matches have never been quite what they seemed.

The 5-3 victory in the old National Stadium in Lisbon, where Celtic achieved immortality in 1967, was supposedly a fitting prelude to England's first participation in a World Cup finals.

In the event, the five they scored in Lisbon, the four they put past Belgium in Brussels in England's final warm-up game before departing for Brazil, counted for nothing when faced with a team of unknowns, trading under the name of the United States, in Belo Horizonte.

Even the most fondly-remembered match against the Portuguese, the World Cup semi-final of 1966, did not turn out quite as planned. Until financial considerations intervened, it was supposed to have been staged in Liverpool, where Portugal were based.

It was also billed as a tough, desperate affair pitting England, who had just muscled their way past the "animals" of Argentina against a Portuguese side with one of the worst disciplinary records in the competition. In the group stages, they had almost literally kicked Brazil and Pele out of the tournament. Instead, it produced an awesome, breathtaking affair. England, driven forward by Bobby Charlton, displayed a brand of flair that few had thought them capable of. Nobby Stiles, detailed to mark Eusebio out of the game, called it "my best, most controlled match" but it was his last-ditch tackle on Antonio Simoes that prevented Portugal levelling the match at 2-2.

By the time the 1986 World Cup came round, Portugal had reverted to dull, featureless football. The only link with Eusebio's great team was that it was coached by Jose Torres, his strike partner in 1966. Portugal were also in a state of unremitting mutiny, accusing the Portuguese FA of embezzling sponsorship money, failing to provide proper warm-up fixtures or decent win bonuses. Small wonder that Portugal won and it might have been more convincing than 1-0.

Peter Shilton conceded his first goal in a World Cup finals in five games, Bryan Robson broke down, while after a second dreadful display against Morocco, Bobby Robson, rather than Torres, was faced with mutiny. His players won a change of personnel and tactics for the final match in the dreadfully dull "Group of Sleep". Gary Lineker scored three times against Poland in the opening 35 minutes and England were through. Portugal, who lost 3-1 to Morocco, were out.

The last competitive meeting between these sides, in Eindhoven during Euro 2000, was as dramatic as any. Two-nil up after 18 minutes in the Philips Stadion, England were losing 3-2 at the end. David Beckham endured relentless abuse as he walked off, and few condemned him for the one-fingered salute aimed at his own so-called supporters. The England fans were supposed to have been calmed down with below-strength beer served in the Dutch city, but it was the team that looked watered down.


14 May 1950: Lisbon

Won 5-3

With an attack featuring Tom Finney, who scored four, Stan Mortensen, Wilf Mannion and Jackie Milburn, England's win seemed to pave the way for a glorious World Cup in Brazil the following month. Lisbon proved a false dawn; the tournament was a disaster.

26 July 1966: Wembley

Won 2-1

This World Cup semi-final was switched from Goodison Park to Wembley, where 96,924 paid to watch. The match was a classic. Bobby Charlton scored twice, Nobby Stiles was outstanding but some of Portugal's football was breathtaking. Arguably, better than the final.

3 April 1974: Lisbon

Drew 0-0

It was England's final match under Sir Alf Ramsey. Right at the death, Ramsey, having failed to qualify for the World Cup in West Germany, threw caution to the wind. Phil Parkes, Mike Pejic, Martin Dobson, Dave Watson, Stan Bowles and Trevor Brooking all made their debuts. Ramsey was sacked a fortnight later.

3 June 1986: Monterrey

World Cup group game Lost 0-1

England became lost in the long grass of the University Stadium. With Bryan Robson obviously not fit, England stuttered and stumbled through their opening group game in the Mexico World Cup. They might actually have been beaten more heavily but lost to a fittingly absurd goal, the product of individual errors by Kenny Sansom, Terry Butcher and Gary Stevens.

12 June 2000: Eindhoven

Euro 2000 group game

Lost 2-3

Kevin Keegan liked to refer to his side as "Club England" but the club they most resembled was the Newcastle United side he himself managed. England marked the first game of Euro 2000 by charging into a two-goal lead, courtesy of Paul Scholes and Steve McManaman, before Luis Figo and Joao Pinto levelled before half time. On the hour, Nuno Gomes struck the winner and, incredibly, England had lost.